Celery really seems like it wouldn’t be very interesting at first, but look beyond the simple green stalks and you’ll find a world of fascinating information! For starters, celery is a member of the Umbelliferae family of vegetables that also includes carrots, parsley, dill, fennel, parsnip, caraway, and cumin. There are three main types of celery: traditionally
bought stalk celery (which will be our focus), celeriac or root celery (which is the “ugly duckling” of the vegetable world), and leafy celery which looks similar to parsley, but definitely tastes like celery. The most popular type of celery worldwide is root celery/celeriac, but the most common type in U.S. supermarkets is the Pascal
variety of stalk celery which features wide stalks and a light green color. Here at LotfotL, we grow the Tango variety of stalk celery (for the first time in four years!), which features thinner stalks and a slightly darker green color; you may have also noticed that this variety is more fibrous than the Pascal variety you’re used to buying. Other varieties of stalk celery include Matador, Red Stalk, and Sonora; other colors vary from sheer white to gold to red to deep green! About one billion pounds of celery are produced annually in the U.S. (with 80% coming from CA, MI, and FL), though 200 million pounds of that total is exported to Canada each year; most of the celery sold in the U.S. is grown in Mexico (there’s a head scratcher for you!).
There’s a surprising amount of health benefits to eating celery. It contains lots of phytonutrients and anti-oxidants including phenolic acids, flavones, and flavonoids – all of which are shown to decrease oxidative damage in the body from free-radicals. There are benefits for the digestive tract as well, including improved integrity of the stomach lining which aids in better digestion. Celery also contains a compound that acts as a diuretic to lower blood-pressure. The leaves of the plant contain the majority of Vitamin C, calcium, and potassium available in celery, so use them first, as this degrades quickly!
Avoid bunches with seed stems, which are round stems in the center of the bunch in place of smaller, more tender stalks, as this is a sign of bitterness in your celery bunch. Also be sure to check for “blackheart,” which is damage caused by insects, by separating the stalks and looking for brown or black discoloration in the center. Store your celery in a plastic bag with the extra air squeezed out and be sure to use within five to seven days as some nutrients decay quickly. Avoid freezing celery as it will wilt when it’s too cold. It is also recommended to purchase only organic celery as it’s on the “Dirty Dozen” list of foods containing the highest levels of pesticide residue.