Celery – An Ancient Vegetable

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Celery has made its way into our diets in a number of ways. You can enjoy celery stalks, celery root and even celery seeds. It has a very distinct flavor that adds interest to a number of dishes. And because it is extremely low in calories, you’ll find many dieters munching on it throughout the day. However, you might be surprised to learn that this common vegetable is one of the oldest vegetables used for medicinal purposes and for food.

What is it?

Grown from a seed, celery is part of the Apiaceae family, along with carrots and parsley. It’s a biennial vegetable which means it has a lifespan of two years. It grows to be about a foot tall and consists of thick leafy topped stalks. The leaves and the stalks are edible, though most people chop off the leaves and just eat the stalks. You can also eat the seeds and the root of the celery plant.


The celery that we enjoy today is a direct relative of wild celery, which is still found throughout many areas of the world. Wild celery stalks aren’t normally eaten but rather it’s the leaves of the plant that are used for flavoring. It’s an ancient vegetable that was originally used for medicinal purposes. It was used to relieve pain and some studies have shown that it can reduce blood pressure.

The Greeks and Romans used the leaves to decorate and make garlands for the dead and wreaths for the winners of competitions. During the middle ages people began to eat the stalks of the vegetable and it wasn’t introduced into the United States until the 19th century!

Health Benefits

Celery is low in calories, sixteen calories in a full cup of chopped celery. It is also high in vitamin K, vitamin A, and folate. Chinese medicine practitioners believe that it is effective in lowering blood pressure and some studies have shown this to be true. It’s also an effective diuretic, which may be another reason it is so popular amongst dieters, and it has been shown to reduce cholesterol. It also contains compounds that may prevent free radicals from damaging your cells. Anti-oxidants present in celery also help repair cell damage.

Fun Fact

Celery plays an interesting role in our culture. It was referenced in Homer’s The Odyssey and the Fifth Dr. Who was noted for wearing a stalk of celery on his lapel. Celery is also often thrown at soccer games in the UK. One not so fun fact is that many people are extremely allergic to celery. The root and the seeds are more allergenic than the stalks. 

How to Eat

Celery is most commonly eaten raw. The stalks are dipped in hummus or another vegetable dip. You may also enjoy a celery stalk with cheese or peanut butter. “Ants on a log” is a common child’s snack that consists of peanut butter on top of celery stalks. A few raisins are placed on the peanut butter to represent the ants.

The crunch celery stalks provide adds a nice touch to chicken and tuna salads. The leaves themselves can be added to a salad. Celery also makes an appearance in many soups, and in fact, cream of celery soup is quite tasty. Celery is an inexpensive vegetable that is versatile and easy to eat.


Celery Recipes

Celery Crunch Swirls

1 whole bunch celery
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup grated American cheese
1 tablespoon minced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon milk

Separate celery into ribs; trim and wash. Combine cheeses and blend until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and thoroughly blend. Spread mixture in center of each rib. Press 3 ribs together with cheese facing the center. This results in a center of cheese with celery completely surrounding it. Secure bundles with rubber bands. Chill for at least 1 hour.
Remove bands and slice 1/2 inch thick.

Serves 12 to 16.

Salmon Rolls with Raisins and Celery

1/2 lb salmon fillet
4 celery sprigs
2 spoonfuls raisins
2 leeks
1/2 lb milk cream
2 spoonfuls mustard with seeds
1 glass white wine
Salt and pepper to taste

We soak the raisins in the white wine. The celery is cleaned of fibers, cut into short sticks and set in boiling water for ten minutes. The leeks with which the salmon will be wrapped are cleaned and cut into pieces approximately 12 cm long. We make incisions along one side of each piece down to the middle to separate the leaves and then also add them to boiling water for 10 minutes until they soften. We open the salmon fillet and make a thin slice.
In a sheet of aluminum foil we arrange in layers, first the leeks, then the salmon, and then spread the raisins and celery on top. We salt and pepper to taste and wrap tightly into a roll. The rolls are lowered in boiling water for 20 minutes. For the mustard sauce we warm the milk cream and mix in the mustard. We lower the heat and stir regularly until the mix sets. When the rolls have cooled we cut them in slices and serve them with the sauce. This is an appetizer served hot or cold.

Cream of Celery Soup

3 quarts chicken stock
3 pounds celery, coarsely chopped
1/2 pound carrots, julienned
1/2 pound onions, chopped
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
3 quarts hot milk
1 cup margarine

Pour the chicken stock into a large pot, and bring to a boil. Add the celery, carrots and onion to the pot.
Whisk together the flour, salt, pepper, and milk; add to the pot along with the margarine.
Boil for 10 minutes, then strain out the vegetables by pouring through a sieve, or if the vegetables are large enough, a colander may be used.

Stuffed Celery

1 bunch celery
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
20 small green olives
2 tablespoons sour cream

Coarsely chop the olives. Separate and wash celery stalks. Cut stalks into bite sized pieces.
Mix the cream cheese and sour cream together. Stir in the walnuts and chopped olives. Spread filling onto the celery pieces. It's also good on crackers.

Green Beans and Celery

1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed
1 celery rib, chopped
1 (2 ounce) jar diced pimientos, drained
2 tablespoons sunflower kernels
1 tablespoon butter or stick margarine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese

Place beans and celery in a saucepan and cover with water; bring to a boil. Cook, uncovered, for 8-10 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain. Add the pimiento, sunflower kernels, butter, salt and pepper; toss to coat. Garnish with Parmesan cheese.