Consider crisp, crunchy celery

by Betty Wrenn Day - Posted on Apr 09, 2014 - 11:42 AM

Photo: Celery, a staple in every kitchen. Photo by Betty Wrenn Day

Celery, a staple in every kitchen. Photo by Betty Wrenn Day

There are many things to celebrate and enjoy in April. The month begins with April Fool’s Day and daffodils in full bloom. But did you know April is also National Fresh Celery Month?

It is believed that celery originated in the Mediterranean basin. Ancient literature documents that celery, or a similar plant form, was cultivated for medical purposes before 850 B.C. Not until the 1600s in France was celery noted in Europe as a plant meant for consumption. Soon the Italians began using celery the way we use it today.

In the 1850s celery seed was brought to Kalamazoo, Michigan, from Scotland by George Taylor. He began growing it at a nearby farm. Taylor would offer his product free of charge just for it to be put on a serving table. His celery attracted considerable interest. Dutch immigrants in the area caught on to celery and Kalamazoo became the “Celery Capital” of the nation; but in the 1930s a blight hit the area and  production died out.

Today more than 1 billion pounds of celery are produced each year in the United States with California being the biggest producer (harvesting 23,500 acres annually) yet a substantial amount of celery used in this country in grown in Mexico. The average U.S. adult consumes about 6 pounds of celery per year.

Choose celery that looks crisp and snaps easily when pulled apart. It should be relatively tight and compact and not have stalks that splay. The leaves should be pale to bright green, free from yellow or brown patches. To store your celery, place in a plastic bag; the one it came in from the grocery store will work. Squeeze out any excess air and close bag securely and place in refrigerator. Five to seven days of refrigerator storage for an uncut head of celery is recommended. If you find yourself needing to cut up celery ahead of time, place cut celery in a hard plastic or glass container with a top and refrigerate. Celery should not be kept at room temperature for longer than several hours, as it wilts quickly. If you have wilted celery, sprinkle it with a little water and place in refrigerator for several hours. It will help to regain some of its crispness.