March is known as National Celery Month, don’t forget to celery-brate!

Celery has a long history, and not just as a food. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center “Celery seed has been used as medicine for thousands of years in the Eastern world. During ancient times, Indian Ayurvedic medicine used celery seed to treat colds, flu, water retention, poor digestion, different types of arthritis, and certain diseases of the liver and spleen.

“Today, celery seed is used mostly as a diuretic, meaning it helps your body eliminate water by increasing urine output” (umm.edu).


Celery is a member of the Apiaceae family, as are parsnips, fennel and parsley. / Courtesy Duda Farm

Here are five fun facts about this beneficial vegetable.

Five fun facts about celery

1) Celery played a minor, though highly visible, role in early history. “Celery was used as ancient ‘bouquet of flowers,’ to reward winners of athletic games in Ancient Greece.” People also made garlands from celery leaves to place on the dead. Ancient Romans used celery as aphrodisiac (source: softschools.com).

Celery was even good enough for royalty. When, in 1922, British archaeologist Howard Carter discovered Egyptian King Tut’s tomb, “he found a shroud adorned with garlands of willow and olive leaves, wild celery, lotus petals and cornflowers” (nationalgeographic.com).

2) Celery is one of the very few foods that create confusion about the terminology used to describe them. We all know what a “head” of lettuce is, or a “bunch” of grapes. But note what Kathleen Purvis, a recipe writer for The Seattle Times, says: “By most definitions, a whole head of celery is a ‘stalk,’ and a single ‘stick’ from the stalk is a ‘rib.’ … But if you stopped 10 people on the street, held up a rib of celery and asked what it is, most would say ‘a stalk of celery.’ So after years of using ‘rib,’ I bowed to the majority and switched, so that a head of celery is made up of many stalks.”

3) Many nutritionists and doctors, such as TV’s Dr. Mehmet Oz, consider celery a “negative-calorie-effect food.” Such foods require more calories to digest than they contain. These help to improve “your metabolism and lose weight effectively. These foods are usually plant-derived foods that are high in water content and rich in fiber. … Since your body takes a longer time to burn off fibrous foods, your metabolism continues to stay revved up, giving you a jump-start to your weight loss” (doctoroz.com).

4) One of the largest celery growers in the U.S. is Duda Farm, which produces about one-third of the celery in the country. About 100 years ago, Andrew Duda decided to grow celery because the entire plant can be shipped and used. That’s not true of other crops, such as corn, beans and tomatoes, where “we consume the fruit and throw away the bushes” (dudafresh.com).

5) Celery has been, on at least one occasion, declared an offensive weapon. In 1996, in England, the Gillingham Football (i.e., Soccer) Club banned celery from the stadium. Why? Fans of the Gillingham soccer team were concealing celery in their trousers; then, during the game, they would throw the stalks at their own goalkeeper, 230-pound Jim Stannard, the heaviest goalie in the league at that time (independent.co.uk).

CELERY NUTRITION FACTS
(Source: foodfacts.mercola.com)
Serving size: 3.5 ounces (100 grams), raw
Calories: 16
Total fat: 0 grams
Saturated fat: 0 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 30 mg
Total carbohydrates: 3 g
Dietary fiber: 2 g
Sugar: 2 g
Protein: 1 g

* For a complete breakdown, visit Food-A-Pedia

Recipe: Celery, Apple & Peanut Salad

 

GARDENER’S TIPS

Celery is a long-season crop that is known to be difficult, or rather “tricky” for a home garden. You can start planting August through February in North Florida, September through March in Central Florida , and October through March in South Florida. Celery is ready for harvest 75-90 days after seed is laid.

Utah strains are the recommended variety. Other varieties might produce well also; suggestions are based on availability, performance and pest resistance (source: UF/IFAS).

When planting allow 6-12 inches for growth, and simply place the seed on the ground surface. Celery requires very high soil moisture in both the seeding and seedling stages. This crop takes 3 months to mature. The National Gardening Association recommends soaking seeds in warm water overnight to reduce germination time. It is important to note that celery can not tolerate drought of any kind, and does not like hot weather.

Pests & Diseases to look out for: cutworms, aphids, whiteflies, bolting, mosiac virus, fusarium wilt. Be on the look out for slugs and snails.

To have a successful garden, remember to rotate plant families. Avoid successively planting vegetables from the same family in the same area of the garden. Celery is in the Apiaceae family; other family members include the carrot.

Not ready to grow your own? Celery can typically be found in your local farmers markets from December through May.

Harvesting

Both stalks and leaves are edible. Celery can be harvested when stalks are about 8 inches tall, if you want to harvest celery hearts, cut high (1-2 inches from ground).

BUYING & STORAGE TIPS

Look for bright green leaves and crisp stalks. Avoid candidates that show signs of brown spots, yellowing, or wilting.  The discoloration previously mentioned can indicate age and the start of rot.

Celery can keep in the fridge for 2 weeks in the crisper. New recommendations suggest wrapping celery in aluminum foil helps keep the vegetable for even longer periods by allowing the ethylene it produces to escape. (To prevent unnecessary food waste, please note that storage times are suggestions that are based on freshness, not on expiration.)