Garden celery - uses for?

lathechuck's picture

I put a few celery plants into my garden late this summer, and did nothing in particular to constrain their growth. Instead of a pillar of palid stalks, I got a bush with lots of dark green leaves on dark green stalks. It was undamaged by a few frosty nights, but with a winter storm coming in (mid-December in the mid-Atlantic), I decided that harvest could not wait. So, what to do with a bunch of leafy celery?

I stripped the leaves off of the stalks, and made pesto (adding walnuts, parmesan cheese, fresh flat-leaf parsley, garlic, salt, and olive oil). I think it tastes good smeared on crackers, along side the soup described below. (My wife, who has a more sensitive palate than mine, said that the taste was too "sharp" for her.)

The stalks, stripped of their leaves, were chopped and sauteed with a chopped onion in olive oil. When tender, I added some water and a diced potato. When THAT was tender, I tried to mash it all into a cream-style soup, but it still turned out chunky. Added milk, salt, pepper, simmered for a few more minutes, and then served it. I liked it, but my wife found that celery is something that people can be allergic to, along with cantaloupes (which are a problem for her), so I didn't need to share it.

Celery freezes beautifully. Every part. Wash leaves and stalks carefully. Really carefully. Super carefully for thick, bushy leaves because they'll have critters hidden amongst the thicket of greens.

It depends on how much additional animal protein of uncertain origin you like in your diet.

You can sort the leaves from the stalks or mix them up. Chop very fine. Both ways work.

Then freeze in handful-size portions. Toss frozen lump into soup at the start of the cooking process.

ClareBroommaker's picture

Oh, no, your wife is allergic to celery?! That's not good.

I usually put loads of chunky celery in cornbread dressing, but the leaves alone would give it lots of flavor. I also could see chopping the leaves very finely on a burger, since I sometimes put celery seed on a burger as it cooks. Otherwise I'd just use it bit by bit in soups. I think your creamed celery soup sounds great, even the lumps. Lumps just indicate homemade authenticity!

I know what you wife means by sharp celery. I'm not certain, but I think that might mean your celery could use more water during its growth next year. Some suggest growing it in garden trenches in order to swamp it with water sometimes. And I think its wild cousin is actually a swamp plant.

Maybe you could put bits of it it in grain dishes like risotto or bulghur salad (or the cooked equivalent). How about in meatballs or some kind of fried dough dishes like hush puppies or falafel?

alice's picture

Celery is also wonderful in traditional meat braises from Italy. I learned about it because my ears are usually alert for mentions of traditional ordinary people's food. A newspaper columnist mentioned a traditional menu rhyme* from Rome -- 'braised meat with celery' is one of the dishes . The celery imparts lovely flavour and cooks down as the meat braises to become really tender. I did it with oxtail the other week. £5 for an oxtail (best quality), braised with veg, and the meat is so rich it feeds about eight, I froze some of the meat then made broth with the bones.

*"Monday beans with pork rind, Tuesday braised meat with celery, Wednesday oxtail, Thursday se Dio vorrà, li gnocchi (if god wants, gnocchi), Friday fresh fish soup, Saturday tripe with sauce, Sunday supplì, or rice croquettes."

lathechuck's picture

When I started this thread, I mentioned that I thought that my "harvest could not wait" due to incoming cold weather. Well, I actually only harvested half of my celery, and the rest of it seems to have come through the week of cold weather (rain, sleet, 1-2" of snow, freezing rain, morning temps around 25F) without harm. This is without a cold frame or row cover, though I have tucked handfuls of leaves up around the base of the plant. The leaves at the ends of the stalks look just fine this morning, at about 40F.
So... I guess I'll whip up another batch of celery pesto for the New Year.

Sweet Tatorman's picture

I have never tried growing celery. Since my climate is similar to yours maybe I should give it a try. Did you grow from seed or from the bottoms of bought celery from the store? Any tips on growing that you care to offer? Thanks.

lathechuck's picture

I got them last fall at the local farmer's market.

We've had more nights in the low 20's (F), and the remaining plant looks perfectly healthy. It may be relevant that I stuffed a bunch of fallen leaves around it before the weather got cold.

I dry celery leaves and use them in soups. I love the flavour of celery in vegetable soup - it is a little bit salty. Celery leaves/stalks make a brilliant vegetable stock as well, very flavoursome.