Well, this week hasn’t been just too busy, pokeno on Monday, one morning in our workshop getting ahead by making tray favors for July, one afternoon in the gift shop, part of an afternoon doing a photo with a group getting a “Flag Day” declaration from our mayor, and on Friday getting aprons cut out with a friend at our workshop. And, that, my friends, is when I found out how to get your adrenalin going at full speed early in the morning! My friend and I went to Mass, then to breakfast, and then on to the workshop. (Count that, trip to town to church, drive to breakfast, drive to work shop…three trips in the car with a passenger I didn’t know about!) When we got to the workshop, I took a couple of tote bags out of the car with patterns and fabric and started to hand them to my friend when I noticed that the unwanted passenger in my car, was perched on the beach bag containing a towel and my swim suit, as I intended to go exercise when we finished working! Yep, it was an ugly, dark brown, fuzzy, eight-legged creature! My friend came over to see when I asked her to, and said “Joyce, what are you going to do now”? My answer was to begin very, very sloooowwwly pulling on the beach bag, and as soon as it was clear of my body, dropping it (actually throwing it) down on the ground. The tarantula didn’t move during any of this and I had to use a phone book to get it off the bag. It crawled away even more slowly than I had pulled the bag from the car. Yep, a little excitement to begin my day! I should have known better than to put a bag of grass pulled from a flower bed, and outside for a couple of days into my car. Some days are just “duh” days for me, I never even thought about what might have crawled into the bag overnight, even though, it spent one night in the yard and the second on a chair on my porch. The reason I was carrying it in my car was that a friend wanted the “red stem” grass runners for her yard. And, yes, when I got home, I unloaded everything from my car and using my favorite “Bengal” brand spray for insects, sprayed under the seats, etc. Life is never very dull when you’re around me! Of course, if that spider had been moving very much, I might not have been so calm!
When I first mentioned wanting to do an article on celery to my family, my son told me that if anyone knew something about celery, it was me because I used it in everything and made them eat it. Oh, well, that’s how Mother’s are! Some members of my family dislike celery intensely; others like it and still others merely tolerate it. Personally, I like celery, be it in a tossed salad, or one of the spreads we use to make sandwiches, (i.e. chicken salad, Spam salad, tuna salad), or eating celery sticks with dip. As a child growing up, I liked to take part of a celery rib, put some salt in my hand and munch on the celery dipped in the salt. (How healthy was that?) Later, I learned to like it stuffed, usually with shredded cheese mixed with a little mayonnaise and maybe some pimiento added to it for color.
Stir-fries are great with celery; in fact it is a very important ingredient in most stir-fry dishes. It is also common to use celery when you are making chicken broth or a beef stock for soup, as well as using it in many other dishes.
In going to Google and typing in ‘celery’ I found there were over 11M sites just under the word celery, with an additional 10M more in recipes. Needless to say, I just used a couple of sites and still have more information than is needed. Also when I went back to Google to find out where celery is grown there were 82 sites with information on that! Most of my information is from Google: Wikipedia the free encyclopedia.
Celery belongs to the same family, Umbelliferae, that carrots, fennel, parsley and dill belong to. It grows to a height of 12-16 inches, composed of leaf-topped stalks arranged in a conical shape and joined at a common base. We usually use the stalks and leaves, but the seeds can also be used for seasoning, especially when fresh celery is unavailable. Celery seeds ground with salt to make celery salt is used as a seasoning in drinks, on the Chicago-style hot dog and in the Old Bay Seasoning that is used in cooking seafood.
Celery is believed to have been cultivated for medicinal purposes as early as 850 B.C. During ancient times, celery seed was used by Ayurvedic physicians to treat conditions ranging from colds to liver and spleen ailments. In 30AD the use of celery seed in pills for relieving pain was described by Aulus Cornelius Celsus.
Celery was considered a holy plant in the classical period of Greece and was worn by winners of the Nemean Games that were conducted every two years, starting in 537. In later Olympic Games, bay leaves were used the same way. The Italians domesticated celery as a vegetable as early as the 17th century.
In the United States, celery is almost always the green Pascal variety, but in other places, the blanched or white variety is preferred. This is accomplished by slowly mounding soil around the growing celery until it is nearly covered and receives no sunlight, rendering the celery almost white.
In the United States, celery is grown in California, Florida, Eastern North Carolina, Michigan, Texas and Ohio. California is the largest grower with more than 23K acres per year with a year-round harvest. Florida has over 3,500 acres per year with a harvest time of December to May. Michigan is next with around 3,000 acres planted and a harvest time of July through September, Texas has 1,200 acres and a harvest time of December thru April and Ohio has the smallest amount of acres with about fifty and a harvest time the same as Michigan.
Believe it or not, celery is very good for you, not only does it have very few calories, (in fact, it is commonly said to have negative calories, due to the fact that it takes more calories to chew celery than are calories in it), the leaves are high in vitamin A, and the stems are an excellent source of vitamins B1, B2, B6 and C and celery is also rich in potassium, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, sodium and lots of essential amino acids.
Celery’s health benefits include the lowering of blood pressure, has at least eight families of anti-cancer compounds, and the phytochemical coumarins in celery help prevent the formation and development of the colon and stomach cancers. Celery juice replaces lost electrolytes and rehydrates the body with minerals lost during workouts, helps to lower total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol, helps cool the body during hot weather if two or three glass per day are drank between meals, and the potassium and sodium in it acts as a diuretic helping to regulate body fluid. The polyacetylene in celery helps to relieve inflammation due to rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, gout, asthma and bronchitis. And, according to this article drinking celery juice every day for a week will significantly help lower blood pressure. It also suggests choosing green celery when possible for its chlorophyll.
Three vegetables, celery, onions and bell peppers are considered the holy trinity of Louisiana Creole and Cajun cooking. Celery, along with onions and carrots are the three vegetables that make up the French mirepoix that is used as a base for sauces and soups. When making chicken broth or beef broth for soup, the recipes always call for pieces of onion and chunks of celery, this gives it a great flavor. In sandwich spreads, I like the bit of crunch it gives a relatively soft mixture!
Vegetables (Oriental Style)
1 pound fresh broccoli (about 2 crowns)
½ pound fresh spinach*
½ pound fresh pea pods or a 6-oz package of frozen pea pods, thawed
4 large ribs of celery
2 medium yellow onions
8 green onions
1 Tbs. instant chicken bouillon granules
2 Tbs. cooking oil
1 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
Wash vegetables. Cut broccoli tops into flowerets, cut stalks into match-stick size strips and chop spinach coarsely. If using fresh pea pods, remove ends and strings and cut in half cross wise; cut celery into ½-inch wide diagonal slices; peel onions and cut into wedges (about 8 or 10 per onion) and separate layers. Cut green onions into thin diagonal slices**.
Combine water and bouillon and set aside. Heat oil in wok or skillet over high heat, add broccoli stalks, onion wedges and ginger. Stir fry for 1 minute; add all remaining vegetables and toss together. Add water/bouillon mixture and stir until vegetables are completely coated. Cook until liquid boils; cover wok or skillet and cook until vegetables are crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes.
*Check weight on a package of spinach in the produce section of your grocery store, I’m not sure if it will take a whole package or a partial package.
**To slice on the diagonal, lay the green onion on a cutting board, and holding your knife alongside the green part, start slicing you should have long, (1½-inches long or so), skinny slice! It’s simple once you begin doing it. When I first saw the photo accompanying this recipe, I couldn’t imagine what the long, skinny green things were, once I started slicing, I figured it out. Your green onions will be facing lengthwise on your board and your knife will be turned almost the same direction! This is truly an easy to make and great tasting dish.
1 can Spam
½ cup finely chopped celery
½ cup pickle relish (dill is best, but can use sweet or the new sweet/dill)
1 tablespoon diced pimientos
2 or 3 finely sliced green onions (if desired0
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
Use a coarse grater and shred the Spam. (You can use a food processor, but process in small bursts and you don’t want paste!). Add the remaining ingredients, using enough mayonnaise to moisten. This makes great sandwiches, or tastes good with crackers.
During the time I was growing up and the first years I was married, an appetizer tray was never complete with just celery sticks and carrots, it almost always also had stuffed celery on it. Back then; we weren’t as prone to eat broccoli and cauliflower raw as we are now, nor did we have the same types of dips we have now. In fact, I really don’t remember when we started serving raw broccoli and cauliflower, do you? One of my nieces worked for a caterer for a time and he had his prep people slice celery on the diagonal into ¼” to 1/3” thick slices for vegetable trays. It is much less time consuming than cutting it into sticks, also, it is not as ‘stringy’, as sticks can be.