People’s relationship with celery is something of a love-hate thing. The common vegetable gets thumbs-up for its low calories and high water content but thumbs-down for its stringy sometimes-bitter taste.
Celery is loaded with helpful enzymes, “any of numerous complex proteins that are produced by living cells and catalyze specific biochemical reactions at body temperatures.” Enzyme proteins are key to a normal metabolism because they control the speed of chemical reactions within the body. Without enzymes, these reactions would occur too slowly to keep animals, including humans, alive.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has set standards for celery grades and standards. The growers’ regulatory agency says that a single piece of celery is called a rib. An entire bunch (or head) of celery ribs is termed a stalk. However, many Americans say “stalk” when they mean “rib” so keep that in mind when cooking from a recipe to avoid adding too much – or too little.
The top-grade for a celery farmer to receive from the USDA is U.S. Extra No. 1 which “consists of stalks of celery of similar varietal characteristics which are well developed, well-formed, clean, well-trimmed, compact, and which are free from blackheart, brown stem, soft rot, doubles and free from damage caused by freezing, growth cracks, horizontal cracks, pithy branches, seed stems, suckers, wilting, blight, other disease, insects or mechanical or other means. Stalks shall be green unless specified as fairly well blanched, or mixed blanch.”
Both the ribs and leaves of the celery plant are edible. To prepare this nutritious veggie:
- With a sharp, wide-bladed vegetable knife, slice off the celery stalk’s entire base or remove as many ribs as needed and slice off their bases. (I also cut off a little of the tips which are usually dried and unappealing.)
- For tough, fibrous ribs, remove the fibrous strings along the outside length of the rib.
- Rinse each celery rib thoroughly in cold water to remove soil. Sure, it’s organic but it might contain harmful pathogens (bad germs).
- Trim the leaves from the celery and reserve them as a garnish or dry them in a lightly sealed paper bag to use as a savory culinary herb.
- Wilted celery can be refreshed by soaking the pieces in ice water for an hour.
- To store celery, wrap it in a paper towel to absorb excess moisture and seal it in a plastic bag or container. (Many vegetables last much longer if you do this.)
- Celery can be frozen and go “freezer to frying pan” without thawing. Chop it before freezing as an easy and delicious cooking ingredient. But be forewarned: once frozen, celery – and many other produce items – will never be the same. Because celery is made mostly of water (up of 95 percent water by weight) and the freezing process bursts the cell walls, limp and squishy suitable for stews and casseroles is to be expected.
Eating foods such as celery that have a high fluid content helps you feel full and satisfied without consuming many calories. One raw celery rib (40g) provides a slimming 6.4 calories with almost no fat: 0.1gm, and zero cholesterol.
Celery is high in antioxidants that fight age-promoting free radicals, essential minerals, and vitamins such as iron (folate), potassium, and vitamins A and C.
The mineral electrolytes potassium and calcium found in celery have an electrical charge and help maintain electrical impulses in the body, regulating fluid balance. Electrolytes balance the amount of water in the body, balance the body’s acid/base (pH) level, move nutrients into the cells, move wastes out of your cells, ensure that the nerves, muscles, heart, and brain function properly.
Getting the recommended daily value (DV) for potassium can promote heart health and stabilizes blood pressure. Calcium is key to forming strong bones and teeth, and it regulates glandular hormone secretions.
With only 1.2 carbohydrates per rib, this low-carb veggie won’t cause blood sugar to spike after eating or drinking as a juice.
Speaking of juice, there is nothing like making your own with a commercial appliance. Some juicers are basic and low-cost but spending more can pay off with nifty features such as an insertion opening wide enough to pulverize more than a single rib at a time.
If you don’t care for the taste of straight-up celery juice, add a quartered (and, optionally, cored) apple or a pear to the mix: yum!
The next time you shop, add celery to your list and stock up on those stalks!