This weekend is the last of the summer holiday weekends. When I was growing up and also when my children were growing up, school started the Monday after Labor Day. Now, however it starts much earlier and everyone looks forward to this weekend to have a last family outing. Teachers were having work days and various things, beginning the second week of August, children were actually in the classroom last week and the week before, so, by now, they are used to the routine, and the teacher’s have figured out who is going to be cooperative and who isn’t and how they’re going to handle it. Here’s hoping the rest of the year is a great one for all teachers and students, may you learn a lot and enjoy your school year.
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. Some members of my family dislike celery intensely; others like it and still others merely tolerate it. I am a person who likes celery, be it in a tossed salad, or one of the spreads we use to make sandwiches, 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, 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, you can also use ready-made pimento cheese for this, but it is better to use the shredded cheese, as the mixture holds its shape bettering the celery.
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 11.5M sites just under the word celery, with an additional 10 million more in recipes.
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 making 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 Aulus Cornelius Celsus described the use of celery seed in pills for relieving pain.
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. (Sort of like the way farmers tie the leaves around cauliflower to keep it white).
In the United States, celery is grown in California, Florida, Eastern North Carolina, Michigan, Texas and Ohio. California is the largest grower with over 23,500 acres per year with a year-round harvest. Florida has more than 3,500 acres per year with a harvest time of December to May. Michigan is next with about 3,000 acres planted and a harvest time of July through September, Texas has over 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 with the 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.
1 (16-oz) package egg roll wrappers
2 c. finely shredded cabbage
1 c. finely diced celery
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced, including tops
1 can (16-oz) bean sprouts
¼ to ½ cup water chestnuts, finely chopped
¼ c. shredded carrots
2 to 3 T. oil
½ lb. lean pork*
¼ lb. fresh shrimp*
1 T. Corn starch
1 T. soy sauce
Oil for frying
Cut pork into very fine dice, or use ground pork (not pan sausage), peel and devein shrimp and cut into small pieces. Clean vegetables; drain bean sprouts and water chestnuts. Shred cabbage (I use the Angel hair shredded cabbage from the grocery store), dice the celery (you can use a food processor, just don’t make it into mush), thinly slice the green onions, including the tops, coarsely chop the bean sprouts, dice the water chestnuts and shred the carrots on fine side of grater. (I use the pre-shredded carrots from the grocery store and chop them finer). Heat about 2 tablespoons oil in skillet or wok until very hot, cook pork until no longer pink, add shrimp and stir and cook quickly. Remove from skillet and set aside. Add vegetables to skillet, adding a little extra oil if necessary and cook, stirring constantly for 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle with the cornstarch and stir to mix, add soy sauce and cook 1 minute more. Add the pork and shrimp back to the skillet and stir to distribute. Turn out into a colander that you have set over a bowl to drain off excess moisture and allow to cool for a little while.
Break the egg into a small bowl or cup and beat well, adding about 1 tsp. of water if desired and set aside.
Dampen your counter top and cover with plastic wrap. Sprinkle with a small amount of cornstarch, place an egg roll wrapper, with a point toward you, place 2 to 3 tablespoons of filling on the wrapper. Fold the point that is closest to you over the filling, brush with beaten egg, fold in side points and brush with again, roll to remaining point. Place finished roll on a piece of waxed paper or plastic wrap that you have sprinkled with a little cornstarch until you have finished using all the wrappers. Fry in about a 2-inch depth of hot oil until golden brown and crisp. This should make about 16 egg rolls as some brands have 16 wrappers in a package and others only have 14.
*Since some folks don’t eat pork, and others don’t eat shrimp, it is fine to use ½ lb. ground beef or ground turkey or chicken in their place, or you can use finely diced chicken breast, OR you can leave the meat out entirely and have vegetarian egg rolls. Whatever type of meat you use, follow the recipe directions for cooking it until it is no longer pink.
Serve with the following sauce for dipping.
Sweet & Sour Sauce
1 small jar apricot preserves
½ jar granulated sugar
½ jar vinegar
½ jar water
2 T. cornstarch
Empty the jar of preserves into a small saucepan and using the jar to measure, judge the half-way mark and add sugar, do the same with the vinegar, rinsing the jar of the remaining sugar. Again using the jar to measure, add the water and dissolve the cornstarch and add to the saucepan. Cook and stir over medium heat until clear and thickened. Serve with the egg rolls.
This recipe is from a woman who was the owner of an Asian restaurant in SA and this is what they served at that restaurant. I asked if she would share the recipe and she very graciously told me what to do and how to do it. Numbers in parenthesis are for 1/2 recipe.
Chinese Mixed Vegetables
(1/2 lb) 1 lb. fresh broccoli
(1/2-tbs) 1 tbs. minced pared fresh ginger root
(1) 2 medium yellow onions
(4-oz) 8-oz fresh pea pods
(2) 4 stalks celery
1 Medium zucchini*
1 small carrot, thinly sliced*
1 small bell pepper, julienne sliced*
(4) 8 green onions
(4 0z) 8-oz fresh spinach
¾ cup water
(1/2-tbs) 1 tbs. instant chicken bouillon granules
(1-tbs) 2 Tbs. vegetable oil
Clean vegetables, cut broccoli tops into flowerets, and cut stalks into thin strips, 2-inches by ¼-inch. Coarsely chop spinach, remove ends and strings from pea pods, slice celery into ½-inch diagonal slices. Peel yellow onions and cut into wedges and separate layers. Cut green onions into thin diagonal slices. Combine water and bouillon. Heat oil in wok over high heat; add broccoli stalks, onion wedges and ginger. Stir-fry 1 minute.
Add all remaining vegetables and toss lightly. Add water mixture and stir until vegetables are completely coated. Cook until liquid boils, cover wok and cook until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 2 to 3 minutes. Makes 4 to 6 servings.