Hello, my bunch and I would like to welcome you to our place. This is a real cool site to hang out in. You see we’re really very sociable – that’s why you’ll always find a bunch of us – we hate being alone. We’re fun-loving veges and enjoy nothing better than being at a party, or barbecue or picnic – put us near a dip and we’re anybody’s! Let me tell you a little more about us.
Sometimes called bunch celery (for obvious reasons) we consist of a group of pale green, succulent stems with thick, white bases which are joined at the bottom of the stalks to a crown at ground level. Each of our stick-like stems (which are crisp, crunchy and juicy) has branches at the top with green, serrated or saw-like edged leaves. Our stems are ‘U’ shaped with slight furrows or ribs running parallel to the stem. Both our stems and leaves can be eaten. We grow to 50-60cm long and are cut below the crown when we’re harvested.
We’re available all year round.
In Australia, we’re not sold by variety.
We’re a biennial plant (which means that we flower, fruit, then die in the second year) but we’re generally grown as an annual. We prefer warm days and cool nights and grow best in a clay to sandy soil with plenty of moisture.
Most of us are transplanted from seedlings that are carefully grown in nurseries. This is due to our very small seeds and the fact that we can be difficult to grow.
As I said, we’re harvested by hand, but before this happens we’re measured from the soil line to the first node on the celery stalk. If we’re at least 25cm long and our stalks are tight and compact, we’re ready for harvesting.
To pick the best of us select crisp, pale green bunches with thick, ridged stalks and fresh bright leaves.
Refrigerate us unwashed in a plastic bag or airtight container. Use within 7 days.
We’re a cultivated version of a wild celery The wild celery was used as a medicinal plant in Europe throughout the Middle Ages. We were first used as a food in Italy during the 16th century. We spread to France and by the 17th century French cooks were using us to flavour soups, meats and stews. People took us with them when they migrated around the globe and today we are enjoyed in almost every cuisine.
Stuffed or cut into sticks we make a terrific snack for school. Or serve us with dips, antipasto and cheese platters or add us to salads. Cooked we can be served as a vegetable, added to casseroles, crepes, omelettes, sauces and stir-fries. Steam, boil, bake, microwave or stir-fry.
Remove outer leaves and any ‘strings’. Use any tender leaves in salads, soups or as a garnish. Celery pieces can also be curled for garnishing. Cut into 5cm lengths and then cut each end into thin strips. Soak in iced water for several hours and ends will curl. Dip in chopped parsley for great effect.
Try these ideas for quick treats:
Stuffed Celery Ideas
Cream cheese, mayonnaise and finely chopped cooked prawns, peanut butter and chopped chives or sultanas, blue vein cheese softened with sour cream, cottage cheese, diced apple and pecans, mashed avocado, mayonnaise, horseradish and crab, mashed egg, yoghurt, red capsicum and shallots.
Curried Celery And Chicken Balls
Beat together 100g cream cheese and 2 tablespoons mayonnaise. Stir in 1 cup smoked diced chicken, 1/3 cup finely diced celery, 1 tablespoon mango chutney and 1-2 teaspoons curry powder. Shape into small balls and roll in shredded coconut. Chill.
Celery And Prawn Stir-Fry
Saute minced garlic and ginger for 1 minute. Add 4 sticks celery, sliced, and cook 2 minutes. Stir in 450g shelled prawns and 2 tablespoons desiccated coconut and cook 3-4 minutes or until prawns turn pink. Add 3 tablespoons white wine or stock, 1 tablespoon tomato sauce and dash Tabasco. Serve on a bed of rice.