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Ancient documents reveal that celery was originally from the Mediterranean area, and was cultivated for medicinal purposes before 850 B.C. to relieve pain, treat colds and flu, ease digestion issues, arthritis, and liver and spleen problems.
Domesticated by the Italians in the 17th century, celery stalks changed from hollow to solid, and became less bitter. After years of cultivation, early gardeners discovered cooler weather produced tastier and more tender stalks, especially if they were blanched.
The two main types of celery are self-blanching or yellow, and green (Pascal celery), which is most common in the United States. To produce yellow stalks, gardeners discovered they could ‘blanch’, or push up dirt around the base of the stalk to prevent sunlight from reaching the stalks and turning them green. Blanched celery tends to be tastier and crunchier and less stringy.
Often eaten raw with peanut butter as a snack, mixed in smoothies or salads, or served as celery sticks, often along with carrots. Celery is delicious added to soups, casseroles and stir-fry. The leaves are also edible and can be used for a colorful garnish for cocktails and soups, too, while celery seed is used as a spice to add a touch of celery flavor to a dish.
Celery is highly nutritious and contains vitamins A, B, C, K, fiber, folate, potassium, along with potent anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants which fight auto-immune disease, cancer and cardiovascular disease, and can also lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Since celery is 95% water, it can help prevent dehydration, while the high fiber levels aid digestion. This vegetable is best eaten quickly after harvesting, as it loses nutrients quickly.
As celery is a warm weather plant, start your St. Clare’s heirloom celery seeds indoors around 8 to 10 weeks before your last frost.
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