Celery (Apium graveolens) or marsh parsley is a biennial herbaceous plant of the family Apiaceae, grown as a vegetable for its leaves and its tuberous root consumed as vegetables and the seeds are also used as a spice.

It is one of the plants whose cultivation is recommended in the royal domains by Charlemagne in the chapter house De Villis (late 8th or early 9th century).

Celery leaves and inflorescences were part of the garlands found in the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamen (died 1323 BC), and celery seeds dated to the seventh century BC were recovered in the Heraion of Samos. In Homer's Iliad, the horses of the Myrmidons graze on wild celery that grows in the marshes of Troy, and in Odyssey, there is mention of the meadows of violet and wild celery surrounding the cave of Calypso.

Celery (roe and leaf) is used in cooking both as a condiment, as a vegetable.

The seeds are used to flavour fish and cauliflower, and can, infused in brandy, give liquor. They can be used whole or ground as a spice and also to flavour salt (celery salt).

Its tender, finely chopped leaves can be used to pick up various preparations, including soups and sauces. Their taste, stronger than that of parsley, is reminiscent of lovage. They can also be used chopped and dried.

The nutritional properties of celery are well known, but there are also medicinal virtues: leaves and roots are depurative, diuretic, carminative, stomachic, toning. The plant is also supposed to be aphrodisiac.

Leaf celery (Chinese celery, Apium graveolens var. secalinum) is a cultivar from East Asia that grows in marshlands.

Leaf celery is most likely the oldest cultivated form of celery. Leaf celery has characteristically thin skin stalks and a stronger taste and smell compared to other cultivars. It is used as a flavouring in soups and sometimes pickled as a side dish. In the past, celery was grown as a vegetable for winter and early spring; it was perceived as a cleansing tonic, welcomed to counter the salt-sickness of a winter diet based on salted meats without greens.

© 2018 Wessel Woortman

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