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Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Celery seeds are not too well known in Europe, although celery is widely used as a salad vegetable and in cooking. Beef and Celery go really well together on cold winter days when you want a really comforting stew. Celery seeds and celery salt (which is a mixture of ground celery seeds and fine grain salt) should always be added to a Bloody Mary to give it an extra bite.
Celery comes in many varieties, but the one found in supermarkets is Paschal. In Greece, the stalks are thinner and the leaves are used not in salads, but the whole thing is either cooked as a vegetable or just the leaves are used, not the thin, usually limp, stalks. This type of celery is more like the original celery which is believed to have come from the Middle East. However wild celery could also be found in many other parts of the world, including Europe, Scandinavia, and the Indian subcontinent, where the seeds, whole or ground are added to pickles, chutneys and curry sauces.
The Romans believed celery and its seeds were an aphrodisiac, and the Greeks used it in love potions. Modern medical research has shown that celery contains androsterone, a pheromone released by men to attract women, so maybe the ancients knew a thing or two. The Romans used the seeds as a condiment, but it seems that the Greeks didn’t see it as a food, only as a medicine and as a symbol of victory as athletes were crowned with celery leaf and bay crowns at the Corinthian Games.
In the Indian subcontinent it has been used for centuries to treat arthritis, some diseases of the liver and spleen, colds, flu, water retention and to aid digestion. The ancient Egyptians gathered it from salt marshes and used it as a vegetable.
Modern studies have shown that it is a good mosquito repellant, and celery seeds make a good diuretic. To make a tisane, crush 1 tsp celery seeds, and pour a cup of boiling water over them. Leave them to steep for 20 mins, strain and reheat, or drink cold. Do this 3 times a day for water retention problems.
Medical studies have also shown that celery seeds may help prevent growth of some cancerous tissues, and it probably lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels, but more tests are needed before there is real proof.
Celery has been cultivated for medicinal purposes since at least 850 BC, and the celery we eat today has been developed by human selection. It wasn’t cultivated in Europe until the 17th century, probably because it was gathered from the wild and cultivation wasn’t necessary.
Please don’t use seeds of celery which are meant to be planted in your cooking, as they will have been treated with chemicals that will be harmful. Only use culinary celery seeds.
The recipe below can be blended so that the soup is smooth or chunky. I prefer the smooth version, so that I can put it in a mug and drink it for a quick lunch, but that’s just a personal preference.

1 head celery, washed, fibres removed and cut into chunks
2 apples, cored and cubed (not necessary to peel them unless you want to)
2 onions, sliced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp celery seeds, crushed
a few sprigs fresh curly parsley, or a handful of flat parsley leaves
3 cups chicken stock (or vegetable)
olive oil

soured cream or natural yoghurt
few sprigs of parsley

Lightly fry the celery, onion, garlic, until onion is translucent and celery is well coated with oil. Add the crushed seeds and fry for a minute.
Transfer all ingredients to a large pan and cover with the chicken stock.
Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 20 mins.
Put in a blender and blend until it is the required consistency.
Reheat and then remove from the heat, pour into individual bowls and garnish with a swirl of natural yoghurt or soured cream, and a sprig of parsley.
Keep in the fridge to use later without the yoghurt or soured cream.
This has Taste and is a Treat.

To make soured cream, buy a pot of single cream and add a few drops of lemon juice to it. Stir well to mix.
Soured cream is not cream that has past its sell-by date!!

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