Now I know what you are thinking… what could possibly be entertaining about such a drab little plant? The truth is most people donâ€™t really have impassioned opinions on celery (apium graveolens). In fact, I dare say that most people donâ€™t give the plant much thought at all other than to view it on the same level as a garnish or condiment. Itâ€™s not as flashy or cool looking as some of the other vegetables out thereâ€¦ and thereâ€™s really nothing to it other than that widely known fact about it being a negative calorie foodâ€¦â€¦ right? Au contraire!! I know itâ€™s hard to believe that celery serves a purpose other than lounging in your Bloody Mary or hiding in your mothers chicken noodle soup but stick with me people!
Modern day celery was cultivated from wild celery from the Mediterranean regions of Northern Africa and Southern Europe. Celeryâ€™s medicinal use can be traced as far back as Ancient Greece (its mentioned in 9th century BC in Homers epic Odyssey.) Itâ€™s a biennial plant that belongs to the Umbelliferae (try saying that three times fast) family which also includes carrots, fennel, parsley and dill. According to Hippocrates (the father of medicine), celery calms the nerves and can reduce blood pressure. Scientists today know that this is because it contains active compounds called Pthalides which relax the muscles of the arteries that regulate blood pressure and allows these vessels to dilate. When researchers injected 3-n-butyl phthalide derived from celery into laboratory animals, the animals’ blood pressure dropped 12 to 14 percent!! The Chinese have been using it in this regard for ages.
Because of its high water content, itâ€™s great for the kidneys and aids in eliminating waste through urine (itâ€™s a natural diuretic and mild laxative… which is why you always see dieters chomping on it). The entire plant (leaves, seeds, stalks and root) is edible.Â In my cooked omni days I used to make an incredibly decadent celeriac root puree with lots of heavy cream. Right about now you’re thinking none of this is very interesting and certainly wonâ€™t be making you eat grass anytime soon, right?
But what if I told you that celery also contains phytochemical compounds called coumarins that studies have shown to be effective in cancer prevention and enhancing the activities of white blood cells? There are also studies that show celery is very effective in relieving migraines. In Japan, people who are afflicted with Rheumatoid Arthritis are often prescribed celery as it clears the Uric Acid from painful joints. Its high vitamin C content and anti-inflammatory properties make it the perfect aid in helping those with these types of severe inflammatory conditions (including asthma and osteoarthritis). In addition to all of that, this unassuming plant is antifungal, antispasmodic, carminitive, deobstruent, emmenagogic (which is why if you are pregnant you shouldn’t eat massive amounts of celery) and antiseptic.
As you can see from the chart above, celery is high in a number of nutrients including vitamin C (as noted above), B-6 and Folate and minerals; calcium, magnesium, zinc and iron. As you also probably noticed, celery has a fairly high sodium content for a vegetable. This tends to worry people, particularly those with hypertension (even with all the promising research showing the benefits of phthalides). Theres basically 100 milligrams of sodium in a cup of celery (more than most of us eat in a day). According to the US Food and Drug Administration, a person shouldn’t exceed 2400 milligrams. To get that much salt from celery you would have to eat 24 cups of it (roughly 48 stalks!!!) I think its safe to say that moderate, normal amounts of celery can not only be healthy to eat but might even prove to be beneficial depending on what ails you.
Soooooo after all of that you still need convincing?
*rolls up sleeves*
How about the fact that celery was one of the original aphrodisiacs! Celery juice has been used for years to treat impotency and enhance sexual “functions”. Men pay attention to this… eating celery will get you noticed by the opposite sex. Researchers have found that after eating celery or drinking the juice, men had higher levels of androsterone released through their sweat. Don’t have a date Saturday? Celery might just be your answer!
How to choose the perfect bunch of celery
The best tasting celery has light green ribs and a glossy surface. You want to make sure you pick a bunch that has clean crisp stalks. There should be no damage or dark discoloration on the stalks when you separate them. Pay special to the leaves. They should be healthy looking and not wilted.
It doesn’t keep well at room temperature for extended periods but it should also be kept out of the freezer (as freezing can also make celery wilt.)
Once you’ve picked your perfect bunch of celery you can make either one of the two very simple soups in the entry preceding this one.