Make the most of celery

Did you know that you can eat celery leaves? I discovered this nugget of wisdom last week, having lived my life thus far believeing that they were toxic. They have an intense celery flavour (surprise!) with a peppery warm undertone. I've been chopping them up and throwing them into salads and pasta sauce. They seem to be a frugal substitute for parsley.

Stringy, salty celery was my food nemesis as a child, right up until I discovered cardammon and coriander leaf and came to know true hate. It's taken years to retrain my tastebuds; and it's still a rare occassion that I eat is as a crudité. Still, we always have a bunch in the fridge, to be finely diced and added to sauces, stews and salads. And yet, whilst it is ever so useful, I still occassionally find limp celery buried at the back of the fridge - a completely preventable waste.

The most reliable way to store a head of celery is to immediately remove it from its plastic wrapper and rewrap it tightly in foil. Stored in this way in the bottom of the fridge, it will keep its crunch for a couple of weeks. Alternatively, it can stored upright in a jar of water in the fridge, which is all I have space for this week. Individual cut stalks can be stored submerged in water which extends their shelf life by a few days. The water must be changed every few days to prevent spoiling.

Incidentally, both of these methods can also be used to revive already flagging celery - lightly trim the dried out base or stalk ends before adding to the water. The colder the water the better; iced water apparently works the fastest but I have never tried it.

Chopped and sauteed celery can be frozen in batches to add to dishes when needed. I sometimes sautee large quantities of onion, carrot and celery and freeze them in batches - these flavours are the base of many dishes from pasta sauce to shepherdess pie.

And when all that is done, the end of the celery can go into either the stock pot or the compost bin.

It seems that some have had success at regrowing celery from their scraps, but I just don't have the space for that. What a beautifully frugal idea, though. 

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