Celery: A medicine chest in disguise


It turns out that for over 50 years, I have held on to, in fact, I have nurtured, a ridiculous prejudice. I have always hated … celery. I mean, I won’t spit it out (like I might a carrot that found its way onto my plate), but I have disliked it intensely.

I don’t put it in soups or salads. I might buy it to stuff with peanut butter for other people, but I don’t typically eat it myself. I might eat it is if there’s an amazing dip to try.

I’ve had good reasons for this antagonism. I think it’s a dumb food. It doesn’t taste like anything, and it has these long stringy pieces that get stuck in your teeth and require professional dental hygienists to remove.

People tell me they use it to add “crunch.” Really? If you want crunch, I say, go get a bag of potato chips. At least those have taste as well as texture!

Then, I see it in soups — large, non-crunchy pieces of celery floating around for no apparent reason. They add nothing in terms of taste or texture, but they take up room. Room that could be used for tender pieces of chicken, succulent potatoes, or tasty noodles. But again, this is just my opinion.

I see it in drinks at brunches occasionally, offering a nice contrast of green against the red beverage. I have observed people using the celery to stir this beverage, but I’ve never actually seen anyone eat the celery stalk, confirming my opinion that it’s not really a tasty food.

Then I discovered that March is National Celery Month. An entire month has been designated (but not by anyone with any real authority) to celebrate this long, green, stringy, crunchy, tasteless vegetable. So naturally, I researched celery to see why this would be necessary or even desirable.

As it turns out, celery is actually good for us! First of all, as you might expect from something with the lowest level of taste on the scale, it has no fat, no cholesterol, no sugar, and no carbohydrate. What it does have is vitamins, minerals, and a lot of fiber. So while I see it as a mere vehicle to carry something more tasty into my mouth, it might actually be helping me fight disease, improving my blood pressure, and reducing my risk of heart disease. It’s also good for reducing heartburn, lowering cholesterol and maintaining healthy hydration.

Huh. Who would have guessed that the vegetable I’ve been shunning all these years is actually a potential medicine chest in disguise?

The article in Live Science that I perused did say that the antioxidants in celery were best if eaten within a week of purchase, and if eaten after being freshly chopped. It also said that up to 41 percent of the antioxidants are lost if blanched or boiled (so really, there’s no useful reason to include celery in soups).

I’m thinking about trying potato chips and dip on a celery stick this weekend. Sound good?