Smallage has always grown in the Mediterranean area and has been used for its aromatic and medicinal properties.
The Greeks made elixirs with the leaves and wine, but they also used them to crown victorious athletes, as they did with laurel.
The Romans loved the seeds, which they used as seasonings, also taking them in large quantities because of their aphrodisiac properties.
A celery elixir existed in the Middle Ages to cure arthritis and to aid digestion. Smallage was one of the ingredients of the typical vegetable soup of the time, porée.
Celery was genuinely considered a vegetable in the 16th century after work by botanists and the idea of burying the plant in order to blanch it and tone down its flavor.
Celeriac would arrive two centuries later, again the work of botanists who enlarged the root of the celery plant, which was nothing but stalks at the time.
The stalks should always be very firm and crisp, with pretty pale leaves with no signs of wilting.
The celeriac root should be heavy and firm, and an even white when cut. A spongy appearance is a sign it is old: its flavor will then be particularly spicy.
These come from common celery grown for this purpose.
Celery and celeriac are sold fresh by the piece, the former by the bunch and the latter by the root. They weigh from 800 g–1 kg.
Celery is also found frozen in slices, which can be organic or imported from China.
Celeriac is also found blanched, diced and frozen. It is also available preserved.
Celeriac puree is also sold frozen and ready to use.
Dried celery seeds can be found whole or powdered.
Celery salt is table salt or salt crystals mixed with ground celery seeds.
Both a condiment and a vegetable, celery is used in different ways.
Chopped celery leaves add flavor to many soups, sauces, and vegetable dishes.
The raw stalks can be chopped and added to a salad. Cut into pieces, they can be eaten as they are; they can also be used to aromatize a marinade and to add flavor at the start of preparing a dish, court-bouillon, soup, etc. Celery can be poached, braised, and served as a gratin.
Celeriac can be pureed, used in soup, diced and sautéed, or made into fries. Raw, it can be shredded and made into the traditional céleri rémoulade, but also cut into fine slices and accompanied by a vinaigrette, or added to a salad.
Celery seeds can add aroma to court-bouillons, and can be added to vegetable and fish dishes.
Celery salt can be a condiment for tomato juice.
Both celery and celeriac can be stored in the refrigerator or cool room at 4ºC, carefully wrapped so that their strong smell does not contaminate other food.
Celery and celeriac are low in calories. They are also low in vitamins and minerals.
Their high fiber content makes them quite difficult to digest.
The aphrodisiac properties attributed to celery since ancient times have never been proven scientifically, although, like the truffle, celery contains a substance similar to testosterone (male hormone), which perhaps explains the saying that has been used for a long time in the South of France: "If women knew the power of celery on men, they would plant it from Paris to Rome".
However, celery can also cause allergic reactions.
Celery has a small root and very developed stalks that are fleshy and ribbed, joined at the base to form a “foot”. It grows to a height of 30–40 cm. The tender innermost stalks form the “heart”.
It is generally grown away from direct sunlight in order to keep the stalks white and to weaken its flavor a little.
There are two varieties in Europe: common celery, also known as ribbed celery, the leaves of which are quite developed, and leaf celery, which is smaller.
In North America there are more or less long, less fibrous varieties that have golden or white stalks.
Celery is found all year round, but it is in season between the end of June and November.
It is also grown for its seeds.Celeriac
The root of this plant is hypertrophic.
Different varieties are grown in Europe: Giant Prague, Paris amélioré, Gennevilliers, Pomme à petites feuilles, Erfurt, Boule de marbre, Monarch, Creuse de Maline.
These different varieties appear successively in the markets in July (new-season celery), but most of the production occurs in September and all winter.
Celeriac is practically unknown outside of Europe.