Down & Dirty

Down & Dirty: Celery

By • March 8, 2012 • 13 Comments

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Every week we get Down & Dirty, in which Nozlee Samadzadeh breaks down our favorite seasonal fruits, vegetables, and more by the numbers.

From the hyperseasonal (ramps and strawberries are just around the corner!) to the unusual (ever wondered how cardoons are grown?), to the quotidien (kitchen workhorses like leeks and garlic), we'll be highlighting our favorite fruits and vegetables every week on Feed52. This week, at the request of mrslarkin, it's all about celery! (Have you contributed to our contest yet?)

1. In the Garden: First we head to the garden. For a variety of reasons, celery can be a challenge to grow for the home gardener. To start, the seeds are tiny -- so tiny that planting them directly into your garden will just give you a headache come time to thin your seedlings. Instead, it's best to start them out in soil blocks or small containers with just 2-4 seeds per block. That way, when they poke their heads out of the soil, it'll be easy to keep the strongest seedlings and discard the rest.

Another challenge for celery growers is the conditions they require: without lots and lots of water (after all, it's most of what those crispy stalks are made of), well-draining and compost-rich soil (like Amy's soil tips in this week's City Dirt!), and relatively cool growing conditions, your celery can become stringy and tough. It's a slow-growing plant -- about 4 months from seed to stalk -- and needs depth for its root structure, prohibiting container gardening.

2. In the Kitchen: But hey! Even if it's not the easiest vegetable to grow on your own, around the kitchen it's an essential. Once you finally harvest your celery, every bit of it is useful. Along with carrots and onions, the chopped stalks are a member of the holy triumverate of the mirepoix, the French saute base for soups and stews -- and no Thanksgiving stuffing is complete without those half-moons of stalk. The leaves look festive poking out a pitcher of Bloody Marys, or you can follow the lead of 101 Cookbooks' Heidi Swanson (our Piglet People's Choice Award winner!) and make homemade celery salt. As for the pale and tender inner stalks -- the celery heart -- you can't go wrong with the couscous dish that Amanda's husband made her when they were dating (fans of Cooking for Mr Latte, you know the one I mean).

And dare I forget to mention Ants on a Log, the quintessential playdate snack? (For the uninitiated, a recipe: fill a stalk of celery with peanut butter -- that's the "log" -- and dot it with raisins -- the "ants" -- then serve to happy children.)

There's so much more: the sharper flavor of Chinese celery, celery in homemade green juice, the Italian dish of blanched celery baked in tomato sauce (see the latest Canal House cookbook!)...

How do you cook with celery? Any special plants you'd like to see featured as the Fruit or Vegetable of the Week?

Jump to Comments (13)

Tags: celery, vegetable of the week, farming, gardening, down and dirty, nozlee samadzadeh, special diets

Comments (13)

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over 2 years ago Linda Beitelspacher

I was once served a winter salad in Rome that was simply sliced celery, corn kernels and sliced black olives tossed in a little oil and lemon juice, and topped with shaved parmesan curls. It was colorful, different, and delicious, and I've never forgotten it.

Noz_photo

over 2 years ago nzle

That sounds DELICIOUS! It's not too late to try to replicate the salad and submit it to our Celery contest...:)

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over 2 years ago PistachioDoughnut

Lot of us are not aware the health or medicinal properties of celery seeds , they are very helpful in the form of homemade medicine for gout, arthritis, or muscle cramps and many other problems. I don't like celery seeds as much as the stalks or fresh celery. But, for health reasons do not mind a cup of celery seed tea. Simple and easy....

Nebula_redo_88-88

over 2 years ago orlenda

well i was tauught when it comes to essential oils-the ones that you dont care for the smell of, are the ones you need! maybe its that way with celery seed?

i love naturopathic foods....healing thrlough good nurtition....

Junechamp

over 2 years ago ChefJune

June is a trusted source on General Cooking.

The kidlets I feed occasionally prefer their "ants" to be chocolate chips. I wish I had been the one who thought of that!

I love celery. and I love to introduce my diners to dishes like Essence of Celery Soup and Braised Celery. They are always surprised.

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over 2 years ago Panfusine

love crunching up celery, no reason needed!
as for challenging vegetables..May I dare you to try & get away with showcasing unusual ones like... Bitter Melon?

Noz_photo

over 2 years ago nzle

I'm planning an entire week dedicated to cucurbits in all their forms (melons, cucumbers, summer squash, and more) this summer!

Mrs._larkin_370

over 2 years ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

Thank you, Nozlee, for showcasing this under-appreciated veggie! Admittedly, I'm not a huge fan of celery, but I'm not a hater either.

Have you guys ever tried lovage?? It's sorta kinda related to celery, but different, in more of an herby way. Made a lovage syrup last summer to pour into prosecco. Yummm.

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over 2 years ago nzle

You're right -- I ran out of space to talk about lovage, which is not related to celery but shares its flavor! My favorite thing about lovage is that it's HOLLOW. You can use them as fancy straws for small drinks! Your lovage syrup sounds...wait for it...lovely. (Pun intended!)

Smokin_tokyo

over 2 years ago BoulderGalinTokyo

Mrslarkin, thank you for recommending celery- I love the flavor, color, texture, and even the shape- sliced celery is distinctive!

Miglore

over 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

I love celery salads with briny, relishy things like olives and preserved lemon, and the way that cooked celery soaks up all the flavor of a broth or sauce. But it's true! Celery boats or logs or whatever jammed with peanut butter never worked on me as a kid.

Kandm

over 2 years ago Kristy Mucci

Kristy is an expert at making things pretty and a former Associate Editor of Food52.

I'm pro celery! And have never had a problem with ants on a log.

Noz_photo

over 2 years ago nzle

A discussion just exploded in our offices about who likes and hates celery! I can't stand the stuff, to be honest, but Miranda loves it.

And if you can believe it, Kristen as a child hated Ants on a Log not for the celery, but for the peanut butter!