Celery is a vegetable which grows in its wild state in most temperate regions of the world. But as a cultivated vegetable

it was only introduced into Britain in the 17th century from Italy.

Celery has long white stalks or ribs rising from a base and ending in curly yellow-green leaves. The stalks are the part

most often eaten, either raw or cooked. The leaves should never be thrown away as they can be used as flavouring for

sauces, soups and minced or stewed meat. In Britain the season for celery is from September to February, but it is after the first frosts that the best celery is available. Imported celery can be bought throughout the year.

The best celery is young celery, especially if it is to be eaten raw. Remove the outer stalks. These can be scrubbed and added to stocks or sauces. Cut off the green tops and trim the base. Cut the head into quarters lengthways or separate the stalks. Wash thoroughly under cold running water. Keep the prepared celery in iced water in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.

The stalks of raw celery may be filled with cream cheese, a mixture of cream cheese, herbs and white wine or pureed

avocado and seafood mixtures.

Whatever way you intend to cook the celery, the first step is blanching or boiling. The prepared celery is dropped into

boiling water and boiled for 10 minutes after boiling point has been regained. Then it is drained and dried (if you want

to serve whole or half heads, tie the tops loosely with string before the next step in cooking). For boiled celery, continue the boiling for another 8 minutes or until the celery is tender. It is then ready to be covered with a sauce or butter.

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