As much a household staple as onions or potatoes, celery is valued for its crisp texture and distinctive flavour. It is widely used as an appetiser, a salad ingredient, and an addition to many cooked dishes. A bunch or head of celery is made up of individual stalks or ribs. These ribs are naturally crisp due to the rigidity of the plant's cell walls and the high water content within the cells. In fact, celery is mostly water and therefore exceptionally low in calories, making it a first-rate snack food for people trying to control their weight. Although it is not especially high in nutrients (largely because of its high water content), it does have a respectable amount of potassium.

Light green celery stalks with a glossy surface tend to taste best. (Dark green stalks have slightly more nutrients, but are apt to be stringy.) If not wrapped, celery should be sprinkled with water to prevent wilting. Look first at the bunch, it should be compact and well shaped and then examine the leaves, which should be green and fresh looking. The leaves are a good guide to the celery's overall condition. The stalks and leaf stems should feel firm and crisp, as if they would snap when broken in half, and should be free of cracks or bruises.

Inspect both the outer and inner surfaces of stalks for discoloured spots or bruises, or for patches that appear to be trimmed off-, grocers sometimes slice off bruised or rotting areas, and such stalks won't keep as long as undamaged celery.

Refrigerate celery in a plastic bag in the salad drawer, where it can keep for up to two weeks. Keep the vegetable away from the coldest areas of the refrigerator, the back and the side walls, since celery freezes easily, thus damaging the cell walls. Once thawed, the celery will be limp and watery. Sprinkle the stalks occasionally with water to maintain freshness, since celery dehydrates easily. If the stalks have begun to wilt by the time you want to use them, refresh them by submerging them in ice water for several minutes.

Rinse celery thoroughly to remove sand and dirt. To serve it raw, cut the stalks to the desired length just before serving them. (If you want to cut the celery in advance, let it stand in ice water for up to an hour before serving.) If stalks are stringy, they can be peeled with a vegetable peeler. Trim off the leaves and knobby tops and if you wish, save them to add flavour and texture to salads, broths, soups, and stews.

When added to other dishes, raw or cooked celery is generally cut into smaller pieces—you can slice the ribs diagonally, chop or dice them, or slice them lengthwise.