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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Celery

Celery:

About:

Celery is a plant variety in the family Apiaceae, commonly used as a vegetable.  It is the same family as carrots, parsley, fennel, and caraway. 

Varieties:

In North America commericial production of celery is dominated by the varieties called Pascal celery.  The stalks grow in tight straight parallel bunches and are typically marketed fresh that way, without the roots and just a little green leaf remaining,  Celery hearts are just the inner ribs of celery.  In Europe the most commonly available celery is Celeriac.  It is grown for its hypocotyl forming a large bulb (commonly , but incorrectly called celery root).  Another type is "leafy celery", which looks like parsley but tastes like celery.

Availability:

In the past celery was grown as a vegetable for winter and early spring., it was perceived as a cleansing tonic.  By the 19th century the season for celery had been extended to last from the beginning of September to late in April.  Today celery is available year round.  Harvesting occurs when the average size of the celery in a field is marketable.  Today over 1 billion pounds of celery are produced each year in the U.S.  with California, Michigan, and Florida accounting for 80% of the total. 

Usage:

Celery is used around the world for its crisp petiole (leaf stalk).  The leaves are strongly flavored and are used  less often as either a flavoring in soups and stews or as a dried herb.  On a worldwide basis celery is often served as a "major plate vegetable" rather than an additive to soups and salads.  In temperate countries celery is also grown for its seeds.  Celery, onions, and bell peppers are called the "holy trinity" of Louisiana Creole and Cajun cuisine.  Celery, onions, and carrots make up the French "mirepoix" often used as a base for sauces and soups. 

Health Benefits:

Recent research has increased our knowledge about celery's anti-inflammatory benefits including its protection against inaflammation of the digestive track itself.  Non starch, pectin based polysaccharides found in celery help improve the integrity of the stomach lining, decrease the risk of stomach ulcer, and better control the levels of stomach secretions.  There is evidence that pectin-based polysaccharides in celery decrease the risk of inflammation in the cardiovascular system.

In addition to vitamin C and flavonoids at least a dozen other types of antioxidant nutrients have been identified in celery.  The antioxidant benefits we get from celery are largely due to phenolic nutrients which help protect us against unwanted oxygen damage to our cells, blood vessels, and oxygen systems.  

Here are some Health Benefits from 1 - 2 stalks of celery:
  • Celery is a great choice when watching your weight - only 10 calories to a stalk
  • Celery reduces inflammation 
  • Celery calms you down - minerals in celery, esp. magnesium & essential oil soothe the nervous sys.
  • Celery regulates the body's alkaline balance
  • Celery aids digestion - high water content and insoluble fiber helps ease passage of stool
  • Celery contains "good" salt - organic, natural, and essential for health
  • Celery cares for your eyes - can deliver up to 10% daily need of vitamin A
  • Celery reduces "bad" cholesterol - 2 stalks a day can reduce LDL by up to 7 points
  • Celery lowers blood pressure - raw and whole
  • Celery can improve sex life - 2 pheromones boost arousal levels
  • Celery can combat cancer - a powerful flavonoid in celery can inhibit cancer cell growth

My Story:

Celery is always plentiful at a good price around Thanksgiving.  It would often come in a box ready to be processed.  That is trimmed and bagged.  People use celery in stuffing for their Thanksgiving turkey, so there was always plenty of celery to process.  The smell of celery reminds me of that.

One year we had celery at a particularly good price and it was selling very well.  In fact we were a little short on our order of celery.  When we realized this we put in an order for 50 cases, a large order for us.  Well the next day we had a vist from our districrt manager.  The part timer who closed the night before did not fill the celery display as instructed.  When the district manager arrived the first thing he saw in our department was the empty celery display.  He started to ask a bunch of questions and then called the warehouse and ordered us another 50 cases.  Well, when it arrived we had way too much celery, more than we could sell before it would spoil.  So, a transferred some of it to other stores in our chain in our area, but we still ended up throwing a bunch (no pun intended) of celery away.  It was a costly lesson.

Selecting and Storing:

Choose celery that looks crisp and snaps easily when pulled apart.  It should be relatively light and compact, and not have stalks that splay out.  The leaves should be pale to bright green in color with no yellow or brown patches. 

Celery can be stored in the plastic bag it came in from the store by squeezing out excess air and closing the bag tightly.  Place in the refrigerator for from 5 to 7 days.  Celery that is left at room temperature for longer than a couple of hours will begin to wilt.  Sprinkle it with water and place back in the refrigerator.  

Preparing:

To clean celery cut off the base and leaves, then wash the leaves and stalks under running water.  Cut the stalks to desired length.  If the outside of the celery stalk has fibrous strings, remove them by making a thin cut into one of the stalks, and peeling away athe fibers.  Be sure to use the leaves, which are rich in vitamin C, calcium, and potassium, within a day or two.  

So......... Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.

Simple but Good:

  • Add chopped celery to your tuna fish or chicken salad.
  • Try eating peanut butter or cream cheese & olives on celery stalks.
  • Braised chopped celery, radicchio, and onions and serve with walnuts and you favorite soft cheese.
  • Use celery leaves in salads.
  • \Add celery leaves and sliced celery stalks to soups, stews, casseroles, and stir-fries.

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