As much a household staple as onions or potatoes, celery is valued for its crisp texture and distinctive flavor. It is widely used as an appetizer, a salad ingredient, and a flavorful addition to many cooked dishes. A bunch or head of celery is made up of individual stalks called ribs. These ribs are naturally crisp due to the rigidity of the plant's cell walls and the high water content within the cells.
Care & Handling
Light green celery stalks with a glossy surface tend to taste best. Dark green stalks have slightly more nutrients, but are apt to be stringy. If not wrapped, celery should be sprinkled with water to prevent wilting. Look first at the bunch--it should be compact and well-shaped--and then examine the leaves, which should be green and fresh-looking. The leaves are a good guide to the celery's overall condition. The stalks and leaf stems should feel firm and crisp, as if they would snap when broken in half, and should be free of cracks or bruises.
Refrigerate celery in a plastic bag in the crisper, where it can keep for up to two weeks. Keep the vegetable away from the coldest areas of the refrigerator--the back and the side walls--since celery freezes easily. Sprinkle the stalks with water occasionally to maintain freshness, since celery dehydrates easily. If the stalks have begun to wilt by the time you want to use them, refresh them by submerging them in ice water for several minutes.
Rinse celery thoroughly to remove dirt. To serve it raw, cut the stalks to the desired length just before serving them. If you want to cut the celery in advance, let it stand in ice water for up to an hour before serving. If stalks are stringy, they can be peeled with a vegetable peeler. Trim off the leaves and knobby tops--and if you wish, save them to add flavor and texture to salads, broths, soups, and stews. When added to other dishes, raw or cooked celery is generally cut into smaller pieces. You can slice the ribs diagonally, chop or dice them, or slice them lengthwise into 1/4"-wide matchsticks.
Nutrition & Health Benefits:
Celery provides an excellent source of vitamin C and fiber and is also a very good source of folic acid, potassium, and vitamins B1 and B6. Celery also offers a good source of vitamin B2 and calcium.