Today, cultivated celery refers to the young, bright green stalks (petioles) of the celery plant, with wild forms having less of the recognisable thick long stalks and were used for their leaves.
Classically it is finely chopped together with onion and carrot in the creation of a mirepoix, the base for many soups, stews, sauces and stocks in French and Italian cooking. In Creole / Cajun cooking, celery is used together with onion and capsicum and referred to as the holy trinity for most dishes.
It is also commonly eaten raw for its fresh, zesty and earthy flavour in salads or cut into sticks for dipping. The seeds of a celery plant are also a mainstream spice used whole or ground for seasoning. Celery can be sauted, blanched, grilled and baked.
How to prepare
Typically celery is purchased as a whole or half a plant. More recently, with convenience in mind, precut stalks are being made available. It is the stalks that are used most. If intact, cut off the lower broad base of the plant, about 30mm - discard but use in your compost. Trim off leaves (can be used in stocks, but less likely to be eaten raw), and give the stalks a good wash.
Prepare stalks as needed: diced for a fine texture in soups and sauces, sliced to add raw to a salad, trimmed length ways and julienned as dipping sticks or rough chopped to prepare stocks.
- Baked: 10 - 12 minutes
- Sautéed: approx. 6 minutes
- Microwave: 2 - 4 minutes
- Grilled: 5-8 minutes
- Steamed: 12 - 15 minutes
Buyer's and storage guide
Celery is mainly sold in an open plastic bag or sleeve, or even unwrapped. This way, you can easily check if it's fresh. What to look out for is stalks that are firm and sturdy. The product as a whole should have a fresh appearance and be a vibrant green. Any signs of general yellowing, damage or black spotting on the leaves or stalks should be avoided.
Celery should be kept in a cool and dark place, ideally in the vegetable cripser on your refrigerator, with the vent closed to maintain a higher humidty. You should be able to store for a week, using a couple of stalks at a time. If the stalks become limp, cut off the base and stand them in a jug of chilled water to revive.
If you find you have an abundance or don't think you'll use all you have, prepare stalks as desired and blanch by adding to a pot of boiled water for 2-3 minutes, drain pat dry and pack in a sealed bag or container to freeze. For use is soups, stews and stocks these will last for 8-12 months.