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Chillies »« Celeriac

Celery

Apium graveolens var dulce


Description

Either loved or hated as a health food, celery gives a zingy crispness to salads, and a distinctive savoury flavour to cooked dishes.

Celery grows in a bunch of long stalks. Generally it’s only the larger stalk that’s eaten, but the leaves are also perfectly fine to use, especially in soups and stocks.

It’s a great way to get vitamin C, which is widely believed to help support the immune system. In Chinese medicine celery is used to reduce high blood pressure, which is believed to be due to compounds that relax arteries and reduce stress hormone levels. It also contains large amounts of fibre, which adds low-calorie bulk, making it such a popular diet food.

Choose celery that looks crisp and undamaged. The stalks should hold together, rather than fall apart. Store in the fridge wrapped in a plastic bag or damp cloth to keep it fresh.

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History

Celery and celeriac are varieties of the same plant – the main difference is that with ordinary celery, the root is smaller – and, as such, they share a history. It was used by the Romans and ancient Greeks as medicine and food, even getting a mention as selinon in Homer’s Odyssey in 800BC.

Celery leaves were even found in the tomb of the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamen, which indicates that the plant has had widespread use for a very long time!

Uses

That savoury flavour makes celery a fantastic addition to soups and stews. If you buy too much of it, don’t waste it – simply slice it up and freeze it in a ziplock bag for later use in a hot dish.

It’s also great raw, but if a bowl of celery sticks conjures up too many images of 1980s fad diets, you can run it through a juicer with other vegetables of your choice for a healthy drink. Children might enjoy celery stuffed with peanut butter, hummus or another dip.

Facts

If you’re prone to food allergies, be careful with celery – it’s one of the most common foods to cause oral allergies. The problem is so common in Europe that the European Union requires pre-packed food that contains or has ingredients containing celery to be labelled.

The Fifth Doctor on BBC show Doctor Who, played by Peter Davison, wore a stalk of celery in his lapel.

In French cooking, celery makes up one third of the mirepoix, an illustrious trio of vegetables used in many traditional dishes (the other two are onions and carrots).



Chillies »« Celeriac

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