Congratulations on taking the next step in your daily celery episodes.
Good thing you’re pondering over the possible nutrients you’re leaving off the table whenever you reach for the celery stalks and ditch the luscious greens at the top of their heads.
There is, indeed, very exciting news for you!
Celery leaves are perfectly safe to consume in their raw state or when cooked, and pose zero threat to whatsoever is consuming them, except for those at risk of celery allergy. In fact, celery leaves, like the stalks, are packed with nutrients like Vitamins E and Calcium which are scientifically linked to positive side effects on the heart and bone.
Celery leaves can be prepared in a variety of ways aside from eating them raw, and in all cases, they serve as a very big addition in terms of flavor and texture.
What do celery leaves taste like?
Celery leaves have a taste reminiscent of the seed of the anise plant, and are to some extent, fibrous.
The leaves found on the outer part of the plant are much darker and bear a much harsher flavor profile, unlike the inner chartreuse leaves closer to the stalk which bear a subtle flavor and are tender to the bite.
In other words, celery leaves taste just like the stalks that hold them, but in a much stronger way, so care must be taken to avoid using celery leaves exactly the way the stalks are used in dishes, to avoid overpowering whatever you’re making with celery flavor!
How nutritious are celery leaves?
Like the stalk which most of us are conversant with, celery leaves pack a decent punch in nutrition too.
But the truth of the matter is, that the flavor and crunch of the celery leaves will always be the driver of the wheel, before it’s nutrition.
This is because of the unimpressive nutrient profile which many different leaves like the broccoli and spinach easily boast of a more superior one.
Now back to the celery business.
The cells in the celery leaves house pretty decent minerals like calcium and iodine and also contain key vitamins like Vitamin E, C and A which offer tremendous health benefits as we already know from scientific studies.
Iodine is good for your brain and calcium is good for your bones!
It’s important to point out at this junction that, even though celery leaves contain key vitamins and minerals, most of these vitamins and minerals are not present in such great amounts that would make up for a good portion of your recommended daily intake.
Vitamin E for instance, is only available in very small quantities for every half cup you consume — around 18 percent of the recommended daily intake.
So you may need to consume more celery, or other foods rich in vitamin E to actually hit the recommended mark or come close to it.
Another thing to note is that some vitamins and like the water soluble ones i.e Vitamin C and minerals like calcium are pretty unstable at high temperatures, which means some of them leach out into the very substrate that cooks them or are lost to heat.
To begin with, this particular Vitamin, the C Vitamin, is not one that is abundant in celery, so at the end of the day, you might end up losing most if not all of it after cooking, especially for a longer duration. I guess that’s where subsisting on a well balanced diet comes into play isn’t it?
When cooking veggies like celery leaves, it’s always advised to use methods that impact the least nutrient loss to them. Based on scientific studies, the methods include microwaving, sauteing, stir-frying, roasting and baking.
Methods like poaching, simmering, steaming and boiling promotes leaching of nutrients to the substrate water, and unless you’re repurposing the water as broth for another dish, you’ll be losing a chunk of the leached out minerals and vitamins.
How to eat celery leaves?
Celery leaves can be eaten cooked or raw. Here’s how to do it.
Wash celery leaves thoroughly, especially when you pluck them from the backyard or get them fresh from the farmers market.
There might be insects and aphids stuck at folds and corners and you don’t want to snack up on them.
After washing, chop celery leaves finely and add to your favorite salad recipe. For instance, you can make celery salad with diced apples, a toss of walnut garnish and some powdered salad dressing.
Use two heads of celery. Wash them thoroughly and chop them finely, then saute with olive oil, chopped onions, garlic and melted butter until it gives off aroma and becomes tender.
Add in soup builders like potato (cubed) and meat (i.e chicken) and pour in vegetable broth to form the base. The broth could be any type of broth depending on what you have or what you like.
Simmer without covering until potatoes turn tender, then remove from heat and pour in heavy cream to thicken the soup. Puree in the blender, season as you like, and you’ve got yourself a hearty creamed spinach for any occasion you have in spring.
Have some leftover celery leaves? Use them as garnish over the top of the soup!
Instead of scallions, or in addition to chopped scallions, you can add celery leaves to omelet recipes for a more herbal boost.
In addition to onions and carrots, add a few leaves of celery to form the starters for your vegetable broth.
Whichever method you end up using to make the broth, bear at the back of your mind that heating the celery and other veggies overheat first before adding water will purge out the flavors even better!
Following this technique ensures that the stock turns out better tasting.
Add to green smoothie
Celery is a quick way to boost the nutritional value of your green smoothie be it with cucumber or banana. It also adds its own flavor to the mix which makes everything even more exciting.
Add celery to risotto so it complements the rice and add in some aroma. You can also use them as garnish over the final risotto.
Braise with turkey
One way to infuse flavor into your turkey or chicken is using celery leaves. Use them together with garlic for braised turkey or chicken that tastes far more superior than whatever your old ways of making them will ever produce.
Add a sprinkle of chopped celery leaves to baked or cooked articles like you would parsley or any other herb or vegetable.
Eat them raw
Chop fine celery, add some salt and oil and munch on it as it is.
How to preserve celery leaves
Like other vegetable leaves, celery leaves are perishable and without any extra efforts to preserve them, will last only for a few days on the counter.
To keep optimal freshness, insert a layer of damp paper towel to the bottom of a plastic storage container and add the leaves. Close for air tightness and place the container in the crisper part of the refrigerator.
You can also freeze them, but avoid doing so in their very state. You want to puree them first in a blender then freeze them into cubes. Transfer the cubes into a ziploc bag and store for many months on end.
Another technique is to chop them up into small pieces, transfer them to an ice cube tray, pour small olive oil over the top of each cube section and then freeze, then transfer the cubes into a ziploc bag and store for no longer than one month. This method preserves the scent better.
To use, no need to thaw, just toss the cubes into soups, stews, broth or sauces.
Another way to preserve celery leaves is by drying and then crushing them. Don’t worry, the nutrition is nearly almost the same even after drying.
To begin, wash leaves thoroughly to rid them of dirt and insects. Now place them spaciously on a plate and allow to dry for at least 5 days. Ensure to rotate the leaves after the second day to promote even drying. Use a drying rack and ditch this step.
Now crumble dried leaves with your hand and load them into jars. Label, keep in a dry cool place, like a pantry shelf, and use as seasoning for soups and stews. Celery preserved this way will typically keep for upto a year!
What about the seeds of the celery plant?
Celery seeds are also edible, having a celery tone that is much warmer and bitter.
They are very nutritious too and are typically incorporated in culinary episodes as pre-cooking seasoning or flavoring for soups, stews, sauces, broth, braise etc.
They are mostly either sprinkled over dishes prior to cooking or mixed with a wide variety of ingredients like sage, turmeric and ginger to form a mixed seasoning. This is especially good when used on chicken or beef.
You can find celery seeds in your local grocery stores or online.
How about celery roots?
Another edible part of the celery plant is the root also called celeriac. A whole variety has been bred to focus on the roots, which produces sizes between 10 to 14 cm.
Celery root is like a root vegetable, except that it has many roots attached to it. Its taste is almost similar to that of the stalk from the plant.
Celery root can be eaten raw (cut and diced into manageable pieces), in salad, blanched in salted water, pureed, creamed, roasted, stewed and even mashed. It is also a useful addition to soups, casseroles and dishes that are savory.
Of the popular dishes incorporating the celery root include remoulade which is a popular French dish that is very easy to make.
What other leaves can you eat?
Almost every part of the broccoli plant from the stalk, sprout, flowers to even the leaves are edible.
The leaves of broccoli taste similar to the florets, except that they have a much milder flavor.
Every part of the celery plant except the roots are edible. The leaves form a very nutritious part of the mix and are completely edible either raw or cooked.
They bear a much stronger flavor profile than the stalks and are expected to be used in smaller quantities than the stalks for similar applications.
Celery leaves are best suited for enhancing flavors in soups, stews and sauces.
They can also add crunch to salads and stir-fries and when added to smoothies, give a bit of that grassy and green edge!