FR: Celeri GER: Sellerie
IT: Sedano SP: Apio
BOT: Apium graveolens FAM: Umbelliferae
Garden celery was developed mainly by the Italians during the seventeenth century from smallage, the wild celery of European salt marshes which was a very popular herb with the Romans. Celery began to come into general use in England and America only during the nineteenth century. Celery flavour before that was provided by smallage – which is poisonous when raw – or by lovage and alexanders which have slight flavour similarities. Smallage, even when blanched, is exceedingly bitter, and it was the breeding out of this bitterness that was the great contribution of the Italians. Today there are many horticultural varieties of celery, some of which are naturally white and usually called ‘selfblanching’, others being green but without bitterness. There are also summer and winter varieties as well as varieties grown for the root such as celeriac, Fr: celeri rave.
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As a flavouring, celery is particularly important in soups and stews. In northern countries, the large salad types of celery are usual, but in hot countries, including Italy, one also finds in the markets the smaller, leafy, green and bitter types of celery used exclusively for flavouring. Celery leaves may be dried and are, in fact, used as a source of the essential oil of celery.
Celery seed is a useful flavouring, but is rather bitter. Celery salt is salt flavoured with celery and, in these days, it is a common commercial condiment.