Thursday, 18 September 2008
These past couple of months I’ve re-discovered celery.
Mum never really used it in salads or stews because she always found it too stringy but Grandad loved it so every Christmas she’d get it in special for our evening ‘light bites’ (sarnies, celery, pickled onions, jellied eels and mince pies). Grandad would douse a stick of celery in salt and then, alongside his cheese & pickle sandwich, he’d take a bite. I can still hear the sound of that satisfying crunch! It was the crunch that eventually got me to try a stick myself. Anything that sounded that good surely had to taste good too? Well, that was the philosophy of a 7 year old, anyway.
And it did. I used to look forward to Christmas for a plethora of reasons but celery was definitely one of them. I think part of it was also the sharing of something special with Grandad, the man who I respected more in my life than anybody I’ve ever met either before or since. He was such an amazing influence in so many ways.
Anyway, because I’m always trying to get more fruit and veg into my daughter, I’m forever buying stuff that she either hasn’t tried for a long time (she accepts that our taste does change) or has just never had at all. Celery was one of those vegetables that I’d kind of dropped by the wayside when I left home and had never properly re-discovered. It was time to remedy that.
Nowadays there’s always at least a couple of sticks in the fridge because it’s become one of our staple salad veggies and now, as the colder weather starts to set in, it’ll be used in lots of casseroles and stews. We’ve already tried it in a few (including spaghetti Bolognese) and are happy with both the taste and the texture.
Celery’s great for those who have to watch their weight because it has very few calories but lots of fibre. In fact, it’s said that celery actual leaves us with negative calories because celery is quite difficult to digest so the body uses more energy to burn the fibre than it actually contains. The jury's still out as to whether or not there's any truth in that though, but it could explain how Grandad managed to stay slim and muscular when he ate huge amounts of protein and calorie rich foods but also ate a whole lot of celery!
Those with high blood pressure will also benefit by incorporating celery into their diet as, thanks to the Pthalides, it helps the muscles of the arteries relax, thus allowing blood vessels to dilate. It’s also high in vitamin C so will help prevent colds - a good reason for bunging some in those stews and casseroles - and contains a few essential minerals. It also offers a decent dose of vitamin K, necessary for blood clotting (although not so good for those who have 'sticky blood' - that's blood that's actually prone to clotting).
Good celery tastes slightly bitter with a spicy after taste and although I wouldn’t suggest dousing it in salt the way Grandad did, a few grains can help bring out the flavour. It's worth using sea salt rather than table salt though; it's less of a poison. Stuffing the cavity with cream cheese is really nice, too.
Locally grown celery should be available all year round some of which may be organic, although the latter may come from further afield than the 30 mile radius that’s usually used to measure whether food is or isn’t local, but you should definitely find British grown, organic celery at least. Personally, I'd go for local before organic but that’s just a matter of choice. Of course, if I can get celery that's both local and organic, all the better (or, at least, I think it is - I'm still on the fence regarding the long-term environmental impact of organic food).
Along with onions and peppers, celery is one of the staple ingredients of Creole and Cajun cooking, which pretty much matches my own. I love using onions, could eat raw red peppers with every meal (but I don’t), and… well, you already know about the celery.
What else could be so enjoyable that's long and hard with dangly bits below it and a big, bulky head? Answers on a postcard, please....