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Saturday, March 13, 2010

What's Exciting About Celery?

At the beginning of the month, when I posted the food days for March, I received a comment from one of my favorite bloggers, Miranda, from A Duck in Her Pond. Her question was,

Why would you celebrate celery for a month? What is exciting about celery?

I relish questions like this. After all, inquiring minds want to know. And now, I want to know, and not only because March is National Celery Month!!!

Let's Crunch the Facts

1. All parts of the celery plant are edible; roots, stalks, leaves and seeds, which can be used as a flavoring or spice. Celery is packed with so goodness. Pretty incredible considering it is almost 90 percent water.
2. Celery helps the body get rid of excess fluid and uric acid, which can aggravate joint pain. Research suggests that celery be used as an alternative therapy for arthritis, rheumatism and gout
3. Researchers have discovered a number of compounds in celery that act as antioxidants.
4. Prior to the sixteenth century, celery was primarily used as a medicinal herb. Celery has been used for centuries as a remedy for lowering high blood pressure.
5. If you have high cholesterol eat more celery!
The use of celery seed in pills for relieving pain was described by Aulus Cornelius Celsus ca. 30 AD. Celery seeds contain a compound called 3-N-butyl-phthalide that has been demonstrated to lower blood pressure in rats. (source)
6. Hippocrates used celery to treat nervous patients. Here is the recipe for Hippocrates' Broth.
7. Celery is thought to promote a good night’s sleep. Research has shown that essential oils extracted from celery seed have a tranquilizing effect on the central nervous system.
8. King Tut's tomb contained a shroud adorned with garlands of wild celery, olive leaves, willow, lotus petals, and cornflowers.
...After months of carefully recording the pharaoh's funerary treasures, Carter began investigating his three nested coffins. Opening the first, he found a shroud adorned with garlands of willow and olive leaves, wild celery, lotus petals, and cornflowers, the faded evidence of a burial in March or April...(National Geographic)
9. Celery is considered an aphrodisiac. Madame de Pompadour, mistress of Louis XV, swore by celery and truffle soup. Rather odd I thought considering Madame is an inventor in her own right. It is said, she invented Asparagus a la Pompadour. Psst...Casanova also included celery in his diet:)
10. Medieval magicians used to place celery seeds inside of  their shoes because they believed that doing this would help them to fly.

Snack Break! Buffalo Wings are celebrating their 50th Anniversary in 2014, I think we need some celery curls to celebrate! Here are directions from The Book of Garnishes by June Budgen.

1. A recipe uncovered in Pompeii for a celery dessert called for roasting chopped celery in an oven and serving it with honey and ground pepper. Archaeology News; May 25, 2005

2. The name "celery" is from the French word "celeri".

3. Celery was first introduced to America in 1856 by George Taylor, an emigrant from Scotland. He is commemorated in Kalamazoo as being one of those responsible for introducing the cultivation of celery to Michigan. At one time, Kalamazoo was known as "Celery City."

4. The town of Celeryville, Ohio was settled by celery farmers from Kalamazoo.

5. The two main types of celery are Pascal and Golden Heart. However, only several varieties of Pascal are still grown commercially.

6. Unlike many vegetables that lose some of their nutrients when cooked, celery retains its nutrients. In How To Cook Everything by Mark Bittman a recipe for Braised Celery is garnished with these words; "Cooking celery mellows its flavor and improves its texture."

7. Celery is one of the ingredients in the "holy trinity," in Creole and Cajun cuisines and the "mirepoix," in classical French cuisine.
Miripoix- pronounced meer-pwaha is mixture of coarsely chopped onions, carrots, and celery used to flavor stocks, stews, and other foods; generally the mixture is 50% onions, 25% carrots, and 25% celery, by weight.
8. The Bloody Mary cocktail got stuck with a celery stalk when a patron who did not have a stirrer on hand grabbed for a stalk of celery to stir his drink. Whew! so they say...

9. Don't throw out leftover celery leaves. Instead, dry them and grind them. Mix them with salt and use as a seasoning.

10. Celery oil, distilled from celery seeds, is used in the manufacturing of perfumes, soaps, lotions and other cosmetic products.

11. There are two months to celebrate celery "National Celery Month" in March and "National Fresh Celery Month in April.

12. "In 1869, Dr. Brown's Celery Tonic went on sale.  The drink consisted of soda water and crushed celery seed.  This started a celery craze in the late 19th century that included celery flavored soft drinks, celery gum, celery soup and elixir of celery." (Heirloom Seeds Garden Trivia)

And now for my personal exciting factoid!Waldorf Salad!You tell me, how exciting would Waldorf Salad be without celery?

13. Did you know, Waldorf Salad made its first live appearance on March 13, 1893.

I am grateful to have two copies of The Waldorf Astoria Cookbook in my collection. The first edition published in 1969 and the above Golden Anniversary edition published in 1981. (the anniversary edition is inscribed by Eugene Scanlan, then vice-president and manager) It may sound like the dates are out of whack, but they aren't. You see, the original home of the Waldorf Astoria, in 1893, was where the Fifth Avenue site of the Empire State Building now sits. On October 1, 1931, in the midst of the depression, the present building was opened on Park Avenue.

From the book:

Witness the opening, March 13, 1893. It was damp, raw, wet. Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt had booked the brilliant young conductor Walter Damrosch and all the boys from the New York Symphony for the evening...The sumptuous new hotel was an item of curiosity...Some 1,500 super society celebrities traipsed through the downpour to view the new Hotel Waldorf...They saw the five-million dollar hotel with 450 rooms and 350 baths. They saw eight private dining rooms all arranged to serve the côtelettes de ris de veau, oysters, terrapin, glacé à l'orange' and glace fantaise.

Now, here's the exiting part, "Oscar Michel Tschirky" ("Oscar of the Waldorf") first created Waldorf Salad for the opening of The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel today. Happy "Birthday" Waldorf Salad!!! (there was a bit of a mix-up online about the opening day, some say the 8th. However, I must go with what is stated in the book:)

The year was 1893 and an ambitious and enterprising  Swiss had left his job as head waiter at the fashionable Delmonico's Restaurant in New York to join the staff of a new hotel being built by William Waldorf Astor on ground he inherited from his father, John Jacob Astor, Jr., at the corner of 5th Avenue and 34th Street.  The new job would lead to a career more successful than he dreamed, and he would be credited for the invention of at least three foods Americans would enjoy throughout the 20th Century, although he never was, and never claimed to be, a chef.  His name was Oscar Tschirky, and he is famous for presenting to the world Eggs Benedict, Thousand Island Dressing, and the Waldorf Salad.  He was also the man who defined to Americans the job of "maitre d'hotel" or "maitre d'," the one in charge of a grand restaurant catering to the great and near-great among fashionable diners. (Who Cooked That Up)

Or did he?

Oscar is not and never was a chef. He never did any cooking for a hotel and his position always was administrative or managerial. Popular fancy made him a sublime cook when all he ever pretended to be was an overseer of public comfort. In this capacity, it is true, he supervised the appetites and gastronomic tastes of the Waldorf's patrons. That, of course, is the job of a maitre d'hotel. But prepare salads! No, his job was too big for such a detail. Oscar The Epicure

In 1896, Oscar Tschirky compiled a cookbook called The Cook Book by "Oscar of the Waldorf" and gave his recipe for the salad using only apples, celery, and a "good mayonnaise dressing." At some point, walnuts were added. In both The Waldorf-Astoria Cookbooks on my shelf, walnuts are included. Here's the original recipe from Oscar himself.

Peel two whole apples and cut them into small pieces, say about a half inch square, also cut some celery the same way and mix it with the apple. Be very careful not to let any seeds of the apples be mixed with it. The salad must be dressed with a good mayonnaise.

And here is an excerpt about the history of Waldorf Salad from Evan Jones in American Food; The Gastronomic Story.

Oscar Tschirky, who became famous as Oscar of the Waldorf and was maître d'hôtel from the hotel's opening until his death, created this salad for a "society supper" to which 1,500 persons came from Boston, Baltimore, Philadelphia; these social lights were invited to preview of the Waldorf when it opened in March 1893. For Sheila Hibben, food editor of The New Yorker, his creation was a mixed blessing. She thought his combination of apples and mayonnaise headed American housewives in the wrong direction and "bred the sorry mixture of sweet salad" that remain very much on the gastronomical scene. Someone else seems to have added nuts to Oscar's Salad, which, truth be told, can be a happy addition when homemade mayonnaise is used (particularly with some walnut oil added) rather than the more common sweet salad dressing.

What's Exciting About Celery? I'm delighted Miranda asked. Truth be told, I never really gave celery much thought. It's the kind of thing you search for in the bottom of the vegetable bin because you know you have it in there somewhere and you're simply lost without it. As for Waldorf Salad, it sure is fun to "play" with isn't it?

Here's a recipe for Frozen Individual Waldorf Salads from the Southern Living Do-Ahead Cookbook. (1991)

Frozen Individual Waldorf Salads
1 (8-1/4 ounce) can crushed pineapple, undrained
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup sugar
2-1/2 cups chopped apple
1/4 cup lemon juice
2/3 cup chopped celery
2/3 cup chopped walnuts
2/3 cup miniature marshmallows
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 cup whipping cream, whipped

Drain pineapple, reserving liquid. Set pineapple aside. Combine reserved pineapple juice, eggs, and sugar in a large saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and smooth. Remove from heat; cool slightly.

Combine chopped apple and lemon juice in a small bowl; add to thickened mixture. Add reserved pineapple, celery, and next 3 ingredients, stirring well. Fold in whipped cream. Spoon salad into paper line muffin pans, filling each three-fourths full.
To Store: Cover and freeze until firm. Remove salads from muffin pans, and place in large zip top [freezer] heavy duty plastic bag. Freeze up to one month.
To Serve: Let stand at room temperature 5 minutes before serving. Serve immediately. Yield: 18 servings.

revised Feb. 2014

Resources
1. Michigan Celery
2. Blue Cheese Waldorf with Jacket Potato (the UK loves celery too!)
3. C Is For Celery
4. Alexanders: a clarification (a member of the celery family)

21 Nibbles:

Channon said...

I actually like celery in lieu of crackers for ... getting stuff (like PB, Miranda!!) into my mouth in an almost proper fashion. Thanks for giving the crunchy, stringy stuff its due!

fishing organizations said...

You totally blew me away with your post! I've always wanted to grow celery, but I never knew that there was so much history behind it!

Now, you've just made me want to grow celery even more!

G. Out said...

Today I have a healthier self image, renewed self confidence and higher self esteem. I fit into new cute clothes. I've reduced the blood pressure medicine I have to take for a congenital heart problem from 20mg to the minimum dose of 5 mg. And last but not least, I increased my happiness and peace of mind.
Last night when I came home from work, wearing my belted pencil skirt and sleeveless top, my husband of 25 years was all "Look at you, look at you. Looking like a young girl. You look so 'lil." Yeah, haha, and almost 50 years YOUNG girl!

Marjie said...

Celery broth, eh? I think it sounds good, but I think my hungry hordes would find it weird. Frozen Waldorf Salad sounds great!

Did you make it to that auction in the blizzard and get your hands on those cookbooks?

tigerfish said...

I add celery into my chicken soup. Celery is known to be immunity booster too. :)

veron said...

love celery especially in stir fries and soups. Glad to know of its health benefits!

Rochelle R. said...

I used to not buy celery very often because it would go bad before I could use it up. Then I discovered if I wrapped it in foil it would last a very long time. Now I always have it handy.

About the Bumble Bee said...

Hi Louise,

Do the benefits of celery know no bounds?

I am rather partial to celery, carrot and ginger juice but now after reading your post I may start having it in the evening to promote a good night’s sleep …..amongst other things ;P

Have a lovely weekend,
Gillian

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

I love celery root! That is such a wonderfully versatile and refined-tasting root veggies! Thanks for the interesting info and post!

Cheers,

Rosa

Daily Spud said...

Celery just continues to amaze and surprise me - it's a fascinating vegetable, that's for sure!

Mae Travels said...

Great post. Never knew so much about celery!

Too bad the other site was wrong about the date of Waldorf Salad intro.

I think you let a Diet-spam comment slip in here...

Maefood.blogspot.com

Kate at Serendipity said...

I love celery. I eat it instead of crackers. I love its crunch, its flavor, and its few calories. And I LOVE WALDORF SALAD! Thanks for this history of it.

My grandmother always made Waldorf Salad for us. Since we lived in the South, we always had pecans in it. I still make it this way. YUM!

Petra said...

Thank you for this interesting bit of history, Louise. I don't like celery in general but I like it in Waldorf Salad. I checked out the history of this salad for my book last year and it seems that Oscar really was the inventor though he didn't know to cook. But you don't have to cook to mix up a salad. By the way in the 1950s in Germany every green salad with fruits and mayonnaise dressing was called "american salad".

5 Star Foodie said...

Great info on celery! I don't use celery very often but I am cooking with it today - it sure does add great flavors to a dish!

Katy ~ said...

I NEVER knew any of this. Now I'm going to use that celery that just sits in my fridge until I have to throw it out. Celery is good food!

comfycook said...

I love this post. I learned a lot from it. Maybe, I will give celery a second chance.

Selba said...

Very interesting to read the facts of celery, too bad I'm not a celery person... Tried several times to eat celery during my stay in the US (eating with peanut butter, etc) but just couldn't enjoy it then the same thing with the celery here in Indonesia (chinese celery) whenever my mom cooks and put chopped chinese celery into her cooking, I just "sulk" in front of her, hahaha...

grace said...

i had no idea that celery had so much going in its favor. i knew i liked its crunch and subtle flavor, but i learned more about the stellar stalk in this post than in my previous 26 years combined. :)

tasteofbeirut said...

Louise

Thanks for reminding me of waldorf salad! I loved that salad and the days of my mother going to have luncheons with her Texan friends from the Newcomers club of Dallas (she only stayed here a short time and then went back to the middle-east)
Thanks for the celery tips.

catherine said...

I was amazed of the health benefits of celery. Anyway, you can add celery in a saute veggie to add some flavor.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Wow, what a great post! I'm adding a link to this in my Celery, Corn, and Bacon Chowder post!