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CELERY, Apium graveolens L. var. dulce, Other names: Stalk celery. Grown in North America and temperate Europe for it’s succulent petioles.
CELERIAC, Apium graveolens L. var. rapaceum Other names: Celery root or knob celery. Grown in Northern and Eastern Europe for it’s enlarged root or hypocotyl.
SMALLAGE, Apium graveolens L. var. secalinum Other names: Leaf celery Grown in Asia and Mediterranean regions for its leaves and seeds.
What’s in a name?
Apium: from the German Eppich. Graveolens: from the Latin Gravis "grave, heavy" and Olens "smelling" from the verb olere. The Greek writer Homer referred to celery as "selinon". The Latin name was "selinun" and the French name "celeri" is similar to the name we use today.
Eat Some History:
Celery is believed to be originally from the Mediterranean basin. Ancient literature documents that celery, or a similar plant form, was cultivated for medicinal purposes before 850 B.C. It’s claimed medicinal purposes were probably attributable to it’s volatile oils, contained in all portions, but mostly the seed. During ancient times Ayurvedic physicians used celery seed to treat the following conditions: colds, flu, water retention, poor digestion, various types of arthritis, and liver and spleen ailments. Woven garlands of wild celery are reported to have been found in early Egyptian tombs.
Celery was considered a holy plant in the classical period of Greece and was worn by the winners of the Nemean Games, similar to the use of bay leaves at the Olympic Games. The Nemean Games were conducted every second year, starting in 573, in the small city of Nemea in southern Greece in the Poloponnes peninsula.
The Romans valued celery more for cooking than for religion although much superstition was connected with it. The celery plant was thought to bring bad fortune under certain circumstances.
Although celery is thought to be from the Mediterranean, indigenous "wild" relatives of celery are found in southern Sweden, the British Isles, Egypt, Algeria, India, China, New Zealand, California and southernmost portions of South America. However it is doubtful that it’s center of origin was that extensive.
The Italians domesticated celery as a vegetable in the 17th century resulting in selections with solid stems. Early stalk celery had a tendency to produce hollow stalks. After years of domestication, selection eliminated this characteristic as well as bitterness and strong flavors. Early growers found that the naturally strong flavors could be diminished if grown in cooler conditions and also if blanched. Blanching is the practice of pushing dirt up around the base of the stalks to prevent sunlight from turning the stalks green.
There are two types of stalk celery varieties, self-blanching or yellow, and green or Pascal celery. In North America green stalk celery is preferred and mainly eaten raw although it is also eaten cooked. In Europe and the rest of the world self-blanching varieties are preferred. Celeriac is very popular in Europe where it is eaten cooked or raw. Smallage is grown in Eastern Europe and Asia for it’s seed as well as to use the aromatic leaves to flavor cooked food and to garnish plates. In some areas celery and celery seed is consumed to treat high blood pressure. Celeriac is becoming popular as a part of trendy American gourmet eating.
Currently California harvests about 23,500 acres per year, Florida 3,500 acres per year, Texas 1,200 acres per year, Michigan 3,000 acres per year, and Ohio less than 50 acres per year. California harvests year-round, Florida harvest from December to May, Texas from December to April, Michigan and Ohio from July thru September. Per capita consumption of celery is about 9 to 10 pounds per person annually. (2004)
California Celery Research Advisory Board - www.celeryresearch.com