Celery is a marshland plant with a long fibrous stalk and leaves at the top. Cultivated since antiquity its seeds have been used as a spice, leaves and stalks eaten raw or cooked, and extracts used in herbal medicine. A member of the Apiaceae family which include carrots and parsley.
Celery is 95 percent water and due to its high water content it has the ability to bring stale bread back to life. Simply place a stalk of celery in a bag with the bread, seal and place in the fridge for a few hours or over night. The bread will have a fresh lease of life, having absorbed the moisture from the celery.
Celery has many health benefits including relieving heartburn and reducing cholesterol. High in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties make it beneficial for arthritis, toothache, insomnia and anxiety. But within seven days of harvest most of the antioxidants will have disappeared. Celery is a fantastic source of vitamin K and fibre.
But unfortunately despite its continued popularity it is not all good news. Celery can induce severe allergic reactions including fatal anaphylactic shock. The seeds and root contain the highest allergens. Cooking does not destroy the allergen and anything that has been in contact with celery can contaminate other foods. The Greek philosopher Socrates chose death by hemlock poisoning when he was forced to publicly deny his humanistic and democratic principles or be sentenced to death; hemlock is in the same family as celery. Consuming large amounts of celery can lead to gastrointestinal problems, goitres and malnutrition. Unless organically grown, celery ranks high on the Environmental Working Groups dirty dozen list of vegetables containing large amounts of pesticide. It also contain psoralens, a chemical which if applied to the skin can induce intense sensitivity to UV light.
Finally a Recipe for Celery Soup
- Olive Oil
- 300g Celery
- 1 Garlic Clove
- 200g Potatoes
- 500ml Vegetable or Chicken stock
- 100ml Milk
- Remove the tough string on the celery stalk and chop into chunks, peel and dice the potatoes and garlic. Heat the oil in a large saucepan on a medium heat and add the vegetables. Coat in the oil and season. Add the stock and bring to the boil, simmer the soup until the potatoes are falling apart and the celery is soft, about 20 minutes.
- Add the stock to the pan and bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 20 mins, until the potatoes are cooked and the celery is soft. Remove the soup from the heat and blend into a puree. Stir in the milk and season. Serve with a good crusty bread.