Celery is a collection of long, thick, juicy stalks around a central, tender heart, celery ranges in colour from white to green – the darker its colour, the stronger its flavour. It has a very mildly bitter taste and a texture that’s both crisp and succulent and is eaten either raw or cooked.
It’s available all year round, but the European season runs from late July to late February.
Celery should be firm and tightly formed, with evenly shaped stalks and fresh-looking leaves.
The tougher outer stalks are the best to cook with – just pull them off at the base and use a peeler to remove any tough strings. The inner, more tender stalks are better for eating raw. Snap them off as you need them, then trim the ends and wash. The leafy tops can be used in salads.
You can store it in a perforated bag in the vegetable drawer of the fridge for around 2 weeks. Leave the stalks attached to the base until you’re ready to use them.
When you want to cook them, crop the stalks and the leafy tops and eat raw in a salad. Braise to eat as a side dish [10-15 minutes]; slice diagonally for stir fries [stir fries in 4-6 minutes] or chop and add to soups and stews.
Related to celery is celeriac, which is a variety grown as a root vegetable. The unsung hero of the vegetable world, knobbly, odd-shaped celeriac has a subtle, celery-like flavour, with nutty overtones. Try it as mash, in big-flavoured, slow-cook dishes, or in its classic form, and as they do in France, as a remoulade.
Celeriac is available year round but is at its best from September to April.
Choose a firm root that feels heavy for its weight. Avoid those that are discoloured.
To prepare it, you need to use a sharp knife, top and tail the celeriac, then use a potato peeler to remove the rhino-tough skin. Expect to discard about a quarter of the celeriac by the time you’ve done this.
Store it in the salad drawer of your fridge before use. Celeriac discolors quickly, immerse in a bowl of water, after chopping to size, with a squeeze of lemon juice or a splash of white wine vinegar added [also known as 'acidulated water'].
It boils in 20 minutes, and roasts in around 40 minutes when cut into rough-shaped chunks.