Celery is a popular ingredient in various dishes, from soups and stews to salads and tasty snacks. Not only is celery a nutritious addition to your diet, but it also brings a distinctive flavor and taste to many recipes.
When it comes to describing the taste of celery, it’s a blend of several sensations. Celery is crunchy and watery, with a slightly salty and fibrous taste. It has a mild yet bold flavor that can remind you of raw or green onions, with an earthy undertone that adds depth to its taste.
In this guide, we’ll explore its taste in more detail, discuss its culinary uses, and even share some tips on making the most of this unique vegetable in your cooking.
How Does Celery Taste?
When it comes to the taste, texture, and aroma of celery, there are several aspects to consider:
- Taste: Celery has a unique taste that is a mix of mild saltiness and a hint of earthiness. Some people also describe it as having a slightly nutty flavor. It’s not overwhelmingly strong but distinctive enough to be noticeable in dishes.
- Texture: One of the most recognizable characteristics of celery is its texture. It’s crunchy and fibrous, providing a satisfying bite when eaten raw. The stalks are juicy, releasing a burst of flavor with each bite. This crunchy texture is retained even when used in cooking, adding a delightful contrast to soups and stews.
- Aroma: Celery has a fresh, green aroma that is quite subtle. When used in cooking, particularly in mirepoix (a mix of celery, carrots, and onions), it contributes to a wonderful aroma that forms the base for many Western dishes.
- Leaves vs. Stalks: It’s worth noting that the taste can vary between the leaves and the stalks. The leaves have a typical green and slightly bland taste, while the stalks are more robust in flavor, being juicy and salty.
Does Celery Taste Good?
Whether or not celery tastes good is largely subjective and depends on individual taste preferences. However, it’s safe to say that celery has a unique flavor that many people enjoy, especially when it’s used as an ingredient in various dishes.
One common complaint about celery is its somewhat stringy texture, which some people find off-putting. This is due to the fibrous nature of the vegetable. However, this can be easily remedied by peeling the outer layer of the stalks before eating or cooking.
Another misconception about celery is that it’s bland or tasteless. While it’s true that celery has a mild flavor compared to some other vegetables, it does have a distinct taste that is slightly salty and earthy. This flavor can be enhanced when celery is paired with other ingredients or used in cooking.
As for whether celery tastes better fresh or frozen, it’s generally agreed that fresh celery has a superior taste and texture. Freezing can affect the crunchy texture of celery, making it more suitable for cooked dishes rather than eating raw.
There are also instances where celery might taste bad even if you generally like it. For example, if celery is overgrown or not fresh, it can taste bitter.
Also, some people report that celery can sometimes taste like soap. This is usually because the celery was grown with too little water or too much heat.
How to Make Celery Taste Better
While celery has a unique flavor that some people enjoy as is, there are several ways to make it more appealing to a wider range of palates:
- Pair with complementary flavors: Celery pairs well with a variety of flavors. For example, its slight saltiness can be balanced with sweet ingredients like apples or raisins. It also goes well with creamy ingredients like peanut butter or cream cheese, which can mellow out its earthy flavor.
- Use in cooking: Celery is a key ingredient in many recipes, where it adds depth of flavor. It’s a fundamental part of mirepoix, a combination of diced vegetables (usually onions, carrots, and celery) used as a base for many dishes. When cooked, celery’s flavor becomes more subtle, and it can absorb the flavors of the other ingredients.
- Season well: Don’t be shy about seasoning celery. A little bit of salt can enhance its natural flavors, and other seasonings like black pepper, garlic powder, or herbs can add interesting flavor notes.
- Roast or grill: Roasting or grilling celery can bring out its natural sweetness and reduce its stringiness. Simply toss the celery in some olive oil, sprinkle with your favorite seasonings, and roast or grill until tender.
- Juice it: Celery juice is a popular health drink. While it has a strong celery flavor, adding other ingredients to your juice can make it taste better. Apples, cucumbers, lemons, or ginger can add sweetness, freshness, and a bit of zing to your celery juice.
- Peel the stalks: If you find the strings in celery stalks unappealing, simply peel them off using a vegetable peeler. This can make the celery more enjoyable to eat raw.
What Does Celery Look Like?
Celery is a tall, leafy plant that is easily recognizable by its long, pale green stalks and vibrant green leaves. The stalks, which are part of the celery plant most commonly consumed, are firm and ribbed, running beside each other from the base of the plant up to the leaves.
The stalks of celery are typically about a foot long, and they taper off into leaves at the top. These leaves resemble flat-leaf parsley in shape and color, with a bright, vibrant green hue. Celery leaves are often used in cooking as well, particularly in soups and stews, and they have a stronger flavor than stalks.
When buying celery at the grocery store, look for fresh stalks that are firm and crisp, with no wilting or brown spots. The stalks should be tightly bunched together, and the leaves should be vibrant and fresh-looking. Avoid celery with limp stalks or yellowed leaves, as these are signs that the celery is past its prime.
In terms of size, a bunch of celery is usually about 12 to 16 inches tall and about 6 to 8 inches wide at its widest point. The individual stalks are about 1 to 2 inches wide.
Overall, celery has a distinctive look that makes it easy to identify. Its combination of long, pale green stalks and bright green leaves is a common sight in the produce section of most grocery stores.
Is Celery A Vegetable Or Fruit?
Celery is classified as a vegetable, both in culinary and botanical terms.
In the culinary world, vegetables are typically savory or less sweet ingredients used in main dishes, sides, or salads. Celery fits this description perfectly. It’s commonly used in savory dishes, and its mild, slightly salty flavor complements a wide range of foods.
Botanically speaking, vegetables are the parts of a plant that are not involved in reproduction. This includes roots, stems, and leaves. Celery is a stem vegetable, meaning we eat the stalk or stem of the plant. This is another reason why it’s classified as a vegetable.
There might be some confusion because, in botany, fruits are part of the plant that develops from a flower and contains seeds.
However, in the case of celery, we don’t eat the part of the plant that would develop into fruit (if it were to flower and produce seeds). Instead, we eat the stem, which is why it’s considered a vegetable.
Celery Taste Comparison With Similar Vegetables
When comparing the taste of celery to other similar vegetables, a few come to mind: fennel, bok choy, and cucumber.
Fennel: Fennel is a vegetable that has a slightly sweet, licorice-like flavor. While it also has a crunchy texture similar to celery, its taste differs. Celery’s flavor is more earthy and salty, while fennel is sweeter and more aromatic. Both can be used raw in salads for a crunchy texture, but their distinctive flavors lend themselves to different types of dishes.
Bok Choy: You may also find this called Chinese cabbage. It has a mild, slightly sweet flavor. Its stalks are juicy and crisp, much like celery, but its leaves are more tender and slightly bitter. Bok choy is often used in stir-fries and soups, where the mouthfeel and taste of celery would not be as appetizing.
Cucumber: Cucumbers share the watery crunch of celery, but their taste is different. Cucumbers are very mild and refreshing, with a slight sweetness. They lack the salty, earthy flavor that celery has. Cucumbers are often eaten raw or pickled, while celery is commonly used both raw and in cooked dishes.
Popular Recipes And Side Dishes With Celery
Celery is a versatile ingredient that can be the dish’s star or play a supporting role in various recipes. Here are some popular recipes and side dishes where celery really shines:
- Celery Soup: This is a simple yet flavorful dish where celery is the main ingredient. The soup is typically made by sautéing celery, onions, and garlic, then simmering it in broth until tender. It’s then pureed to create a smooth, creamy soup that really highlights the unique flavor of celery.
- Braised Celery: Braising is a cooking method that involves lightly frying food and then simmering it in a small amount of liquid. Braised celery is a delicious side dish that brings out the vegetable’s natural sweetness. It’s a great way to use celery as the main ingredient in a dish.
- Celery Salad: A celery salad is a refreshing and crunchy side dish that’s perfect for summer. It can be as simple as sliced celery tossed with lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. You can also add other ingredients like apples, nuts, or cheese to make it more substantial.
- Celery Stir-Fry: In this dish, celery is quickly cooked at high heat along with other vegetables like bell peppers and carrots and a protein like chicken or tofu. The celery retains its crunch and contrasts the other ingredients nicely.
- Stuffed Celery Sticks: This is a popular appetizer where celery stalks are filled with a variety of fillings. Cream cheese and peanut butter are classic choices, but you can also try more adventurous fillings like hummus, pimento cheese, or even a crab salad.
- Celery and Potato Gratin: This is a comforting side dish where celery and potatoes are baked in a creamy sauce until golden and bubbly. The celery adds crunch and a hint of earthiness to the dish.
My Tasty Thoughts
In the world of vegetables, celery is a bit of an unsung hero. Whether you’re munching on raw celery sticks, savoring a bowl of comforting celery soup, or enjoying it as a crunchy addition to a stir-fry, there’s no denying that celery brings something special to the table.
However, celery may not be to everyone’s taste like any food. Its flavor is distinctive, and while some people love its earthy, slightly salty taste, others might find it a bit too strong.
The texture, too, can be a point of contention – while many enjoy the crunch of celery, others might be put off by its stringiness. But with the right preparation and pairing with other flavors, even those unsure about celery might enjoy it.
So, would I recommend giving celery a try? Absolutely! From its starring role in classic dishes to its potential as a healthy snack, celery is worth a taste.