You have a vegetable stalk-er. Chances are you’ve forgotten all about it from a soup long ago, but it’s lurking in the bottom drawer of your fridge. Celery may be one of the most hated vegetables. But consider this: The unsung staple of the produce aisle has more to it than you think — texture, flavor, health benefits and kitchen versatility far beyond blue cheese dressing and ants-on-a-log.
Celery as a culinary plant produces a root, called celery root or celeriac, which has a nutty, potato-like flavor. It’s usually peeled and mashed. There are also celery seeds, which come from mature celery plants, and are dried and used as a spice, particularly in pickling. Most common are the stalks and leaves — though the leaves are often removed in grocery store bunches. Both are edible in full. The leaves have a ton of flavor but they’re bitter, making them a great addition to soups or chopped fine into salads. The stalks are mild, crisp and herbaceous — in short, the perfect snack.
Those seeking weight loss will love celery’s low-calorie count — there are only 10 calories in a hearty foot-long stalk. (Would you like to burn those 10 calories? Try chewing gum for an hour. Feel the burn!)
The problem with celery is it has an image problem; celery-haters report they don’t like the stringy texture (and that those strings get caught in their teeth). Pish posh! Even if you have regularly avoided celery in the past, try these tricks to cut the string:
- First, peel it: We peel carrots all day, but most home cooks don’t think to peel the back side of celery. This is tremendously helpful in making celery as smooth as a cucumber.
- Trick two: Dice celery into tiny pieces (as you would for tuna salad) or get fancy and slice it thinly on an angle. Both improve its appearance and make the texture less stringy.
- Trick three: Cook it! Think beyond stuffings and soups. Oh! The places it can go! It’s a welcome addition to stir-fry with garlic and soy sauce. Step aside, potatoes. Celery is here to sit alongside that roast chicken and take in all of its succulent flavor. Even without the chicken, browned in butter and braised in broth, celery is a surprising and delicious side dish.
So go on; get stalked. Celery is more delicious than you think!