Thursday, October 8, 2015

Vegetable Feature: Celery

by Beth Brown-Lucas

Harvesting Celery
Celery is considered by most people to be a kitchen “staple”, much like potatoes, onions or garlic. It is often used more like an herb than a vegetable, being used to flavor stocks and soups or added to a pot roast. It’s also used as a snack food, and who doesn’t love pairing celery with peanut butter and raisins for the classic Ants on a Log?

Celery can be a difficult vegetable to grow. We estimate that we have 40-50% good, harvestable celery out of what we plant. Celery is very susceptible to aster yellows disease. Even with these challenges, we choose to continue to grow a small amount of celery for our CSA and market members. We prefer growing celeriac as it is much more resistant to aster yellows disease.

Celery Bin
Nonetheless, the celery we grow is delicious and has great flavor. We trialed many varieties, and there are not many available. Our celery is grown from seed gifted to us from our friends at Seedway. We are growing two varieties-Tango and Merengo. The Tango is not as disease resistant, while the Merengo has a better success rate. Richard estimates we are able to harvest 60-65% of the Merengo variety.

Fresvindo shows off his celery harvest

When it comes to preparing your celery, you may find it to be a little different than the California celery found at the store. Wisconsin-grown celery has much more flavor! The outer stalks are best used to flavor stocks and soups or roasted with other vegetables. They can also be sliced thinly and stir-fried or tossed with a light vinaigrette in a salad. The inner stalks are suitable for eating raw-try pairing with cheese or, of course, peanut butter! Celery leaves can also be used to add flavor to stocks, stews or a green salad. You could also dry the leaves and make your own celery salt. It’s a very simple process, and there are several tutorials available online to guide you through it. Celery also has a strong enough flavor that it can be the main flavor in a pureed soup, especially with a little cream and bacon! Check out the recipes below for more cooking ideas.

Curried Celery Soup

Servings:  4-6
2 tsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 leek, sliced
5 ½ cups chopped celery
1 Tbsp medium or hot curry powder
1 ½ cups washed and diced unpeeled potatoes
3 ¾ cups vegetable stock
2 Tbsp chopped fresh mixed herbs (parsley, thyme, etc)
Salt, to taste
Celery seeds and leaves, to garnish

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion, leek and celery.  Cover, and cook slowly for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  
  2. Add the curry powder and continue cooking for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
  3. Add the potatoes and stock.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Simmer for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender, but not too soft.  
  4. Remove the soup from the heat and cool slightly before processing it.
  5. Transfer the soup to a blender or food processor and process in batches until smooth.
  6. Add the mixed herbs, season to taste with salt and process briefly again.  Return to the saucepan and reheat slowly until piping hot.  Ladle into warm bowls and garnish each one with a sprinkling of celery seeds and a few celery leaves before serving.

Recipe sourced from The Soup Bible edited by Debra Mayhew.

Mushroom & Celery Salad with Parmesan Cheese

Servings:  6
6 ounces fresh white or cremini mushrooms, sliced thinly
3 ounces fresh oyster mushrooms, thinly sliced
3-4 stalks celery
3 ½ Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 ½ Tbsp finely chopped shallot
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
4 ounces baby spinach, baby kale or salad mix
3 ounces Parmesan cheese

  1. Lay the mushrooms on sheets of paper towel;  cover with clean, damp kitchen towels.  Thinly slice the celery, and transfer it to a bowl; cover with plastic.  Refrigerate both until you’re ready to assemble the salad.
  2. Stir together the lemon juice and shallot.  Let stand at least 15 minutes or up to 2 hours.  Whisk in the oil until emulsified, and season with salt and pepper.  Toss the mushrooms and celery with the dressing;  let stand 10 minutes.  Divide the greens among plates, and top with the mushroom mixture. Shave the cheese with a vegetable peeler over the top of the salad.

Recipe adapted from The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook:  The New Classics.

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