March is National Celery Month. Celery is a member of the same vegetable family as carrots and parsley. Celery’s stalks can reach a foot in length. Some varieties are forcibly blanched and are white or very pale green throughout. Most commercial celery, however, has green outer stalks and pale green inner stalks furled around a central heart.
Choose celery that looks moist and crisp and does not show signs of limpness or drying. The darker the color, the stronger the flavor. When preparing, rinse with cold water, trim the ends, remove leaves and peel away any tough outer strings. Celery will keep best if stored in a plastic container and not rinsed until you are ready to use it.
The crisp texture of raw celery is appealing in salads and as an hors d’oeuvre. Celery adds texture and flavor to soups, stuffing, and stews. The flavor of celery is important to but not essential to stock making. It is, however, a required ingredient in a classic French Mirepoix, the mixture of diced aromatic root vegetables used to flavor sauces, soups, and stews. Braised celery hearts — the tender, inner most stalks — are a good dish to serve with poultry and pork.
As celery is fibrous and won’t cook tender with a brief sauté, it must be first parboiled to cook partway.
Here is a tasty recipe using celery:
BRAISED CELERY WITH PECANS OR WALNUTS
- 1 head of celery, separated into stalks and washed
- 2 tbsp. butter
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- ½ cup walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped
- zest of one lemon (optional)
- Cut the celery diagonally into 1½ inch pieces.
- In a medium sauce pan, bring to a boil enough salted water to cover the celery; add celery and parboil 5 minutes, drain.
- While the celery is cooking, in a large frying pan melt butter, add the onion and nuts and sauté briefly. Then add the lemon zest and toss to coat the celery.
I also enjoy a celery and pear salad — fresh pears and crunchy celery tossed with a tangy vinaigrette dressing and sharp white cheddar. To find the recipe, visit the Purdue Extension Elkhart County website.