Yeah, I said celery – you got a problem with that? If so, you’re just wrong, wrong, wrong, but in all fairness, it might not be all your fault. Answer me this – is the celery you’re familiar with what you get from the supermarket? Do you actually check out what you buy before you buy it? Ever grown your own or got celery from good local CSA or framers market? If you answered YES, NO, NO, NO, then you gotta up your game. Let’s run down that list.
Just look at that stuff in the image above – it’s kind of a shitty picture, but even so, does that look good to you? Look fresh, appealing? No, it doesn’t, and again, if this is what you’re buying, no wonder you dis celery.
If you do buy supermarket celery, do you check it out first? I can’t tell you how many times somebody sees me choosing produce and asks, ‘what are you doing?’ Bloody hell – I’m making sure that what I buy is worth my money! Grab a leaf off that celery stalk, crush it and smell it – does it smell good? Greenish, sharp, a bit peppery? Bend a stalk or three- are they like rubber, or are they firm and resist being bent? If you answer NO and NO, don’t buy it.
Finally, if you’ve never grown your own or bought fresh local celery, then frankly, you got no idea what good celery is – and good celery is well worth your time and energy.
Why is celery worth your while? It’s healthy as all get out for starters – high in fiber, loaded with antioxidants, and high in phthalides which can help regulate blood pressure, and its even got extracts onboard that help cognition and memory.
Yes, good, fresh celery tastes excellent as well – it’s related to carrots and turnips, and has a light but very present flavor profile, a peppery, earthy tang with nods to onion or garlic chive. To me, the flavor is most pronounced in the leaves, which is why I use them a lot – added to hot or cold salad, soup, stew, stir fries, vegetable medleys, pan sauces and salsas, they’re delightful.
We grow celery annually, and it’s always the last to succumb to freezing weather – Our go to is Tall Utah, (what you see in the image above), a hearty and stringless variety with great taste and big leaves that lend themselves beautifully to fresh use and drying.
Giant Red is a cold hearty and gorgeous variety with arguably the strongest flavor profile you’re likely to find – it’s a fave in England, and should be here too – it’s delightful stuff.
Nan Long is a leafy, Chinese variety that produces delicate, thin stalks and pairs wonderfully with Asian cuisines. It’s a quick maturing variety that thrives in climates with a short summer growing season.
Finally there’s celeriac, a variety grown for its hypocotyl -a big, robust rootlike growth. Celeriac is far more popular in Europe than the U.S., which is a shame, because it’s delicious, hearty, and easier to grow than stalk celery. Celeriac is sewn after the last frost and harvested in fall to winter – it stores well, and can be frozen or dried as well. Celeriac tastes like, well… like celery, but with a distinctly nuttier note, stronger presence, and a fantastic crunchy texture.
Whatever you decide to grow or hunt and gather, once you’ve tasted real, fresh celery, you’ll never willingly go back to store bought tubular cardboard – You’ll find celery taking its rightful place alongside all the other veggies you love and eat regularly. As for what to make, I’ll just say this – You’ll find a myriad of things to do with it, and don’t be at all surprised if fresh, braised, sautéed, or roasted celery finds its way into your routine – it’s that good – no, honest!