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Buying celery


Chris Hennes
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I use a lot of celery in my cooking, but I realized the other day I don't really know anything about it... are there different varieties of celery? Do you ever see it at the farmer's market? Is there any trick to picking it out in the store, or do you just pull a bag off the top?

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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As far as I've ever seen, there's only one commercial variety. I haven't seen any "heirloom" varieties like they have with tomatoes, pumpkins, etc.

The only criteria I have when picking celery is that it must look nice and hydrated, and bruises are to a minimum. A few more leaves on the top are desirable because you can judge the freshness, the leaves wilt a lot faster than the stalks, and they're good flavourings in pasta dishes, like parsley but better.

"...which usually means underflavored, undersalted modern French cooking hidden under edible flowers and Mexican fruits."

- Jeffrey Steingarten, in reference to "California Cuisine".

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I don't know about varieties, but in Pennsylvania Dutch country they frequently grow celery similarly to white asparagus, i.e., they mound the dirt over the stalk as it emerges so it's "blanched". I find it in season (November) at the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia.

Now that I think of it, there are "varieties". Celeriac, a.k.a. celery root, is a variety grown for its root rather than its stalk

Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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Chris,

The only unusual type of celery I've seen is red celery, but you have to grow that yourself. There are interesting varieties in this year's Cook's and Johnny's catalogs. I'm thinking of giving it a whirl myself.

The other options are Lovage, and Par-Cel. These are both a type known as "cutting celery."

As Bob notes, most celery is grown at least somewhat hilled, to blanch, although these days they may be considered at least semi-self-blanching. They do need a lot of water!

By the way, if you haven't tried it yet, I highly recommend the braised celery recipe in Braising with Molly. It's a revelation!

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Chinese celery is a variety with many leaves and skinny stalks, and a stronger flavor than regular supermarket celery. I only use it in recipes that specifically call for it. I wouldn't substitute Chinese celery for regular celery, or vice versa. The Asian dishes seem to need that strong accent of Chinese celery, when it's in the recipe, and Western dishes are overwhelmed by it.

http://chinesefood.about.com/library/blchineseing5.htm

I agree, braised celery tastes very good, and I've added celery pieces to braise along with carrots in a beef stew.

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My friend from N. Ireland tells me that most celery here on the West Coast isn't "ripe" -- it's too green for him. Couldn't prove it by me -- I always thought celery was supposed to be green. In my family growing up we always cut the white portion off! :hmmm:

SusieQ

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My my my, how could I forget celeriac and chinese celery. For some reason I was thinking celeriac was a different species. Chinese celery is apparently closer to actual wild celery in both appearance and taste.

I love celery though, so I'd love to be able to get more kinds, I definitely think heirloom celeries would do well with the foodie crowd. Maybe we can start an heirloom celery movement :raz:

"...which usually means underflavored, undersalted modern French cooking hidden under edible flowers and Mexican fruits."

- Jeffrey Steingarten, in reference to "California Cuisine".

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OK -

If we're talking the classic celery, then you either get celery (one plant with leaves/bag), or celery hearts.

What do you want to do?

Stew/soup - choose celery, but pick the plants that have more leaves on them. Leaves = flavor, for stews and soups.

I imagine the hearts are better for salads/cruidtes.

V

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I've bought celery from the Greenmarket here in New York, and it's been the same variety as the commercial celery, but it tends to be less uniformly straight and has more flavor. I often use the leafy tops in stock.

Edited by David A. Goldfarb (log)
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I hate it when I get a bunch of celery that has a really bitter taste (it usually has a white core/layer inside the ribs). :angry:

I find only one kind of celery in my local grocery stores but it's sourced from different areas/countries depending on the time of year.

 

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Tim Oliver

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