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Celery Sense

Connie Moore

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There’s a love-hate relationship with this vegetable that goes crunch. Just look online under “Why do people hate celery?” A 2011 Japanese survey showed it is the most hated vegetable among adults. A 2012 New York Times article began, “Americans don’t use celery much.”

For we who love the green stalks, March is National Celery Month. All sorts of possibilities come to mind. Stewed, fried, soup, stew, appetizers, side dishes, dessert. (Oops, did that say dessert? Yep, celery goes into a ribbon-winning cake.)

Before we get to recipes, though, let’s take a walk through a bunch of celery. It’s low in calories and high in fiber; a good source of potassium and containing small amounts of Vitamin C. The leaves contain more than the stalks as far as nutrients, so use them for garnishes, soups, in place of parsley, and in salads.

Traditional herbalists use celery and celery seed tea for treating gout and other inflammatory arthritis. Celery is 95 percent water, so it can easily be incorporated in smoothies and other nutritious drinks. It can grow to over 3 feet tall in rich, black peat or, as some call it, muck.

Among Ohio towns is Celeryville, located in Huron County. Known as the celery belt, the land in this area was once a swamp (Willard Marsh). Draining a 5000-acre swamp was a challenge taken on by three Dutch families from Kalamazoo, Michigan. That was back in 1896. Today, the Wiers family is raising hundreds of acres of celery. Their business started out with 8 trucks and 10 trailers. Today they have farms in Ohio and Florida. They use 125 trucks and 200 refrigerated trailers. This year will mark 111 years for their farms.

In 1856, in our already mentioned Kalamazoo, MI, celery was introduced as a crop by George Taylor from Scotland. Today Portage, Michigan is home to the Celery Flats Interpretive Center. Located on Garden Lane, the interpretive center is on the north side, and an historical area is on the south side.

While most recipes calling for celery use a very small amount, our recipes highlight this vegetable as a main ingredient. Well, all except the cake, but it’s still important and I promise, it won’t go crunch!


Mom’s Celery Casserole

Ingredients

• 1-1/2 cups bread cubes
• 3 tablespoons butter
• 4 cups diced celery (including leaves)
• 1 can (10-3/4 oz.) cream of chicken, celery, or mushroom soup
• 1 can (4 oz.) mushroom pieces

Instructions:

1. In skillet, sauté bread cubes in butter until crunchy like croutons.

2. In saucepan, cook celery in enough water to cover it for 8 minutes, then drain.

3. Measure out 1/2 cup bread cubes for topping. In 2-quart baking dish, combine the rest of the bread cubes with celery, soup, and mushrooms. Mix well. Top with reserved bread cubes, which may be crushed if desired.

4. Bake in oven at 325 degrees F for 35 minutes.

Recipe source: Together We Share by Connie Moore and Evah Lewis, 2000.


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Ants on a Log

Ingredients

• Celery
• Peanut butter or cream cheese
• Raisins, Craisins or chopped nuts

Instructions:

This can be an appetizer or snack.

1. Wash celery and drain. Cut into 3-inch long logs.

2. Stuff with your choice of peanut butter, cream cheese, or even Nutella.

3. Place raisins, Craisins, or nutmeats along the top of the creamy stuffing. Enjoy!


Celery Chowder

Ingredients

• 4 cups cooked, diced celery
• 1 small onion, minced
• 1 cup cooked, diced carrots
• 3 tablespoons butter
• 1-2 tablespoons flour
• 2 teaspoons salt
• Pepper to taste
• 3 cups milk, warmed

Instructions:

1. Celery should be cooked well in enough water to cover. When soft, drain. Rub through sieve, discarding stringy residue.

2. Sauté onion and carrots in butter until soft and just starting to turn golden. Add celery. Blend in flour, salt, and pepper.

3. Warm milk in saucepan or microwave. Add gradually to vegetables, stirring to blend well.

4. Cook on low until thickened, about 5 minutes.

Recipe adapted from 1948 Culinary Arts Institute Encyclopedic Cookbook.


Waldorf Salad Cake

Ingredients

• 3 cups flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 2 teaspoons cinnamon
• 2 large eggs
• 1-1/2 cups sugar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 1 cup mayonnaise
• 1/2 cup milk
• 2-1/2 cups apples, peeled and chopped
• 1 cup chopped walnuts
• 1/2 cup celery, finely diced
• Garnish of apple slices, cherries, celery leaves, nuts — optional

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour three, 8-inch cake pans.

2. Sift together dry ingredients.

3. In bowl, using electric mixer, cream eggs, sugar, vanilla. Beat in mayonnaise. Add dry ingredients alternately with milk. Mix in apples, nuts and celery. Pour into pans.

4. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean. Cool in pans for a few minutes. Remove and cool completely.

5. Frost (below). Decorate with optional garnishes. Be sure to dip apple slices in lemon juice or fruit fresh product to prevent browning!

Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients

• 1/2 cup butter or margarine
• 1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese at room temp.
• 4 cups powdered sugar (4x or confectioners’)
• 2 teaspoons maraschino cherry juice

Instructions:

1. Beat all ingredients until creamy and spreadable.

Cake recipe won fourth place in 2004 at Clark County Fair and is property of Clark County Agricultural Society. Printed in County Fair Cookbook-Dishes of the Day, 2010.