Celery is widely grown in Europe, USA, the near East and many other temperate regions worldwide.
The use of celery, as a vegetable and seasoning, is relatively recent as its use became widespread only in the Victorian era -thanks to the Italian who managed the breeding of the white stalked variety during the previous century. Celery had been used almost exclusively as a medicinal herb before that time.
The seeds themselves are rather bitter with a concentrated celery flavor. They can be crushed and added where this flavor is needed but the use of the vegetable itself would be inappropriate. Pastry, savory biscuits and breads, for example, can improve with celery seeds. They can add taste and sharpness to cheese dips, fish pates, salad dressings, and to any tomato sauce. Tomatoes have a definite affinity with celery; celery salt is most famous as an ingredient in the Bloody Mary cocktail, while celery seasoning is often added to barbeque marinades along with tomato puree.
How to identify celery
As a condiment, celery comes in three forms: celery seeds, dried celery flakes or celery salt.
Celery seed are the tiny green-brown seeds of the garden celery plant; a biennial growing to 1-2 ft (30-60 cm) with ridged stems, clustered at the base and serrated leaves. Stems and leaves are also edible and used as a vegetable. The garden varieties are blanched or self-blanching. Dried celery seeds are not easy to find and, unless you grow your own celery, you may need to order from a specialist gourmet shop.
Cleary flakes are easier to find, although dried celery flakes are not present in every grocery shelf, they are not uncommon. However, celery salt and celery seasoning can, be found in almost any grocery shop and it is in these forms that celery seed is typically used.
How to use and store celery
Celery is available in dried flakes, and seeds, whole dried, or ground with salt - celery salt - or other herbs - celery seasoning. Use the ground forms quickly to avoid loss of flavor and aroma. Celery seed and dried celery flakes have a strong flavor and should be used sparingly. A teaspoonful of dried celery flakes is equivalent to two tablespoons of fresh celery.
Use the flakes as a celery substitute, and use the seasoning to flavor soups, casseroles, stews, dips, sauces, salads, tomato dishes, savory breads, savory pastries, pickles and marinades. Celery salt is an essential ingredient in the Bloody Mary cocktail.
Cooking with celery seed
Celery seed is used in many recipes. It is a wonderful flavor to add to cheese puffs.
Try tomato juice seasoned with celery salt makes for a healthy low calory drink.
apium graveolens 'dulce' (umbelliferae) - celery - French: céleri - German: sellerie - Italian: sedano - Spanish: apio.