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Celery is a flavorful ingredient often included in various delicacies. You can mix it in salads, use it on its own as an appetizer, or incorporate it in your favorite soup. Its crispy and refreshing taste often causes many people to assume it is a fruit. But, because it also closely resembles a vegetable as well due to its leafy green exterior, it’s not uncommon to ask yourself the question, “is celery a fruit or a vegetable?”
Celery is a vegetable and not a fruit. It’s a part of the Apiaceae family, which farmers have always cultivated as vegetables. Celery seed also has many uses and is an ingredient for both culinary use and medicinal purposes. Its origins date back to the Middle East and the Mediterranean, where it acted as a flavoring for many dishes. In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know about celery.
A History of Celery
The oldest evidence of the use of celery lay among the tomb of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun in Egypt. There were also said to be archeological findings of the plant dating back to the 9th century BC. The evidence, however, is far from conclusive. It became a commonly known plant in ancient Greece with various texts and artistic references to the plant, as seen in Homer’s Iliad. The first cultivation of celery occurred in the Mediterranean.
Before then, celery was more of a wild plant that produced flowers and seeds every other year. It thrived in wet climates and often grew muddy soil. Today, celery is grown from seeds in an open garden for most of the year. During medieval Europe, the plant was common among medicinal herbs. Some cultures believed it was a vital ingredient for pain relief. Others also used it to add more nutrition to the meal, especially during the winter season. It eventually became a regular part of European cooking and led to cultivation.
Over the years, the cultivation of celery led it to enhance its flavors and reduce bitterness. Many compared it to other vegetables as it had similarities with parsley. It was even believed to be a parsley species until the 19th century when it created a separate image. Since the 1900s, it became a staple in American restaurants and was expensive due to how hard it was to cultivate it.
Today, the most popular variation of celery in the US is Pascal celery. Other popular variations include leaf celery and celeriac, which have slightly different features.
Appearance and Taste
Celery has a leaf, stalk, and root, all of which are edible. It has a slightly salty yet watery taste. You can also taste a bit of bitterness which lingers for some time. The vegetable’s texture is soft, and it has enough of a unique combination of flavors that makes it stand out.
It is also a crunchy vegetable. It snaps like carrots and is not as fibrous because of its water content. Eating the vegetable also reveals its stringy nature, and some parts of the celery can stick to teeth. Some people experience a sensation similar to mint after eating celery. The tingling sensation occurs due to a reaction to the furanocoumarin chemical, often found in some citrus fruits like lime.
Nutrition and Benefits
Celery contains various powerful antioxidant compounds. They help in preventing cellular damage and neutralize free radicals that cause diseases. There are also small amounts of nutritional elements within celery, which makes it an ideal option to include in any diet. In ancient Chinese medicine, herbalists treated inflammation through celery and other herbs.
Some also used it to reduce blood pressure and fight against hypertension. Some scientific studies even link celery to a reduced risk of cancer. Aside from these, the vegetable is a source of fiber. Here are some other benefits celery provides according to various scientific studies:
- Reduced bad cholesterol levels (LDL)
- Stimulates regeneration of nerve cells
- Prevents liver diseases
- Helps with urinary tract problems
- Treats asthma and bronchitis
- Used for skin disorders
- Treats gout
Celery As a Part of a Diet
You can consume celery both raw and cooked. The argument for eating it raw is that it will retain the most nutrients. Boiling celery can affect the number of antioxidants in the vegetable, and steaming may be the better option if you want to cook it. The issue with raw celery is that its flavor doesn’t spring out without cooking.
Another way to take advantage of celery’s benefits while enhancing its flavor is to mix it with other ingredients. It works best with other sweet or citrus ingredients. Popular combinations include fennel, lemon juice, and apple. Some also mix it as a part of juices or shakes during warmer months.
Due to celery’s saline taste, it works best with other ingredients that add to its flavor. You can pair celery with dips like peanut butter and cheese. Others include them in salads or soups. A tomato soup with celery and other vegetables makes for a very healthy combination of ingredients.
While a rare occurrence, celery can cause a severe allergic reaction. It can even lead to difficulty breathing, which can cause anaphylaxis that kills people when they lose the ability to breathe. Other reactions recorded include swelling and hives.
Celery is also a target by many pests, which often exposes the vegetable to pesticides. A study by the Environmental Working Group revealed that most celery is likely to contain harmful toxins from pesticides. Like any vegetable, the recommendation is to wash them thoroughly before consuming them.
Is Celery a Fruit or Vegetable?
Even while celery may have some qualities that fruits possess, it is a vegetable. It does not contain any seed-bearing structures, which you can find in all fruits. While you can eat every part of it, its appearance and taste compare to others within the Apiaceae family. Its green color and leafy structure lead to comparisons to spinach, while its taste reminds others of parsley.
Unlike most vegetables, celery is one you can eat raw. Some prefer to steam it or include them with other ingredients due to its lingering bitter taste. Celery is also one of the few vegetables you can freeze for later consumption. Including it in your diet yields many benefits to your body thanks to its antioxidants and other vitamins.