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Celery (Apium graveolens)

Plant family

Apiaceae (parsley family)

Botanical synonyms



Europe, cultivated in the Mediterranean region since at least 3000 years. Cultivation spread to Central and Northern Europe as a consequence of the edicts of Charlemagne.

Used plant part

Leaves and root; both are used as vegetable or spice. Celery fruits, often termed seeds, are a strong though rather uncommon spice.

Sensoric quality

All plant parts are strongly aromatic.

Main constituents

Celery oil is dominated by terpenes, mostly limonene (70 to 80%) and the sesquiterpenes -selinene (10%) and humulene; but its characteristic fragrance is caused by phthalides (3-butylphthalid and its 5,6-dihydro derivate sedanenolid), although the latter occur only in traces.

Celery leaf


Celery is known in the Mediterranean since millennia. Homeros mentions them in his epics; it was considered a holy plant in the classical period of Greece. It is less known, though, that celery leaves were worn by the winners of the Nemean Games, similar to the use of bay (laurel) leaves at the Olympic and the Pythian games. It should be noticed however, that the botanic identity of the plant in question is not fully clear; some literature identifies it as wild parsley.

The Nemean Games were conducted every second year, starting in 573, in the small city of Nemea in Southern Greece (Peloponnes peninsula), where, according to the legend, the great hero Herakles, son of Zeus, had performed the first of his labours and killed the Nemean Lion.

The Romans valued celery more for cooking than for religion; on the other hand, much superstition was connected with it: the plant was thought to bring bad fortune under certain circumstances.

Today, celery is a popular herb and vegetable in Europe; the leaves are sometimes chopped and used as a garnish (similar to parsley), but more frequently cooked in soups or sauces to improve the taste. For the latter purpose, the root (often in combination with other herbs) is also suitable. Additionally, the cooked root can be eaten as a vegetable. In England and the US, the variety of celery with fleshy stems is more popular than root celery (also called celeriac ); the latter is more commonly found on the European continent.

Celery plays quite an important part in the Creol cookery of New Orleans, where celery stalks show up frequently in dishes like gumbo .

Celery fruits (often called celery seeds) have a similar, but much stronger aroma. They can be ground and mixed with salt (celery salt, though industrially it is often made from celery root extract) to make dosage easier. The fruits are slightly bitter, which limits their usage; but even so they are a great addition to cooked vegetables.

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