A wild marshland plant related to both carrots and parsley, celery is cultivated for its crunchy stems and sweet, herbaceous leaves. Its high fiber content and concentration of antioxidants have led to celery enjoying a reputation as the iconic “health food.”
Native to the Mediterranean area, celery has had a prominent role in European, Middle Eastern, and East Asian foodways for thousands of years. Celery leaves were initially used as medicine in ancient Egypt, Rome, and China; they were also woven into victory crowns for athletes. Celery became common as a food source starting in the 1600s, likely with the introduction of Italian cooking techniques to France. Europeans cultivated celery for large, juicy stems, while the Chinese favored a leafier variety known today as “Chinese celery.” Celery was first cultivated in the United States in the mid-1800s in Kalamazoo, Michigan, which has remained a principal producer of celery ever since.
Celery is a good source of vitamins A, C and K, as well as folate, potassium, fiber, and contains 12 different antioxidants.
Wrap unwashed celery in a dry towel, seal in a plastic bag, and store in the refrigerator crisper for up to 2 weeks.
While most often eaten raw in the United States, celery is a foundational ingredient for many traditional European recipes. Diced celery is combined with onions and carrots for a classic mirepoix that serves as the base for soups, stews, casseroles, braised meats, and marinades. Sliced celery can be added to the slaw, pasta salad, or chicken, tuna, or egg salad for extra nutrition and crunchy texture. Celery stems can be sautéed, roasted, or braised on their own with garlic, leeks, or mushrooms, while leaves can be blended into a pesto or chopped as a garnish for potatoes, eggs, risotto, or even cocktails.
Cut celery stalks into 3- to 4-inch pieces. Toss with sesame oil, soy sauce, and furikake seasoning until celery stalks are coated. Chill for 1 hour or more, then cover in toasted black and white sesame seeds. Serve cold.
To avoid the objectionable stringiness of celery, simply peel the outer layer of skin away from the celery stem with a vegetable peeler or paring knife.