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Apium graveolens is a plant species in the family Apiaceae, and yields two important vegetables known as celery and celeriac. Cultivars of the species have been used for centuries, whilst others have been domesticated only in the last 200-300 years.Daniel Zohary and Maria Hopf, Domestication of plants in the Old World, third edition (Oxford: University Press, 2000), p.202.
Uses Apium graveolens is used around the world as a vegetable, either for the crisp petiole (leaf stalk) or fleshy taproot.In temperate countries, celery is also grown for its seeds, which yield a valuable volatile oil used in the perfume and pharmaceutical industries. Celery seeds can be used as flavouring or spice either as whole seeds or, ground and mixed with salt, as celery salt. Celery salt can also be made from an extract of the roots. It is used as a seasoning, in cocktails (notably to enhance the flavour of Bloody Mary cocktails), on the Chicago-style hot dog, and in Old Bay Seasoning. Celery is one of three vegetables considered the holy trinity (along with onions and bell peppers) of Louisiana Creole and Cajun cuisine. It is also one of the three vegetables (together with onions and carrots) that constitute the French mirepoix, which is often used as a base for sauces and soups.
MedicineThe use of celery seed in pills for relieving pain was described by Aulus Cornelius Celsus ca. 30 AD.Celsus, de Medicina, Thayer translation [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Celsus/home.html] The whole plant is gently stimulating, nourishing, and restorative; it can be liquidized and the juice taken for joint and urinary tract inflammations, such as rheumatoid arthritis, cystitis or urethritis, for weak conditions and nervous exhaustion. The seeds, harvested after the plant flowers in its second year, are the basis for a homeopathic extract used as a diuretic. The extract is believed to help clear toxins from the system, so are especially good for gout, where uric acid crystals collect in the joints, and arthritis. They are also used as a mild digestive stimulant. The extract can be combined with almond or sunflower oil, and massaged into arthritic joints or for painful gout in the feet or toes.The root is an effective diuretic and has been taken for urinary stones and gravel. It also acts as a bitter digestive remedy and liver stimulant. A tincture can be used as a diuretic in hypertension and urinary disorders, as a component in arthritic remedies, or as a kidney energy stimulant and cleanser.Celery roots, fruits (seeds), and aerial parts, are used ethnomedically to treat mild anxiety and agitation, loss of appetite, fatigue, cough, and as an anthelmintic (vermifuge).
Allergic responses Although many people enjoy foods made with celery, a small minority of people can have severe allergic reactions. For people with celery allergy, exposure can cause potentially fatal anaphylactic shock.Celestin J, Heiner DC. West J, Allergy and Immunology: Food-Induced Anaphylaxis. West. J. Med. 1993 Jun; 158(6): 610-611. The allergen does not appear to be destroyed at cooking temperatures. Celery root—commonly eaten as celeriac, or put into drinks—is known to contain more allergen than the stalk. Seeds contain the highest levels of allergen content. Celery is amongst a small group of foods (headed by peanuts) that appear to provoke the most severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis). An allergic reaction also may be triggered by eating foods that have been processed with machines that have previously processed celery, making avoiding such foods difficult. In contrast with peanut allergy being most prevalent in the US, celery allergy is most prevalent in Central Europe.Bublin M, Radauer C, Wilson IBH, Kraft D, Scheiner O, Breiteneder H and Hoffmann-Sommergruber K Cross-reactive N-glycans of Api g 5, a high molecular weight glycoprotein allergen from celery, are required for immunoglobulin E binding and activation of effector cells from allergic patients The FASEB Journal. 2003;17:1697-1699.
History Zohary and Hopf note that celery leaves and inflorences were part of the garlands found in the tomb of Tutankhamun, pharaoh of ancient Egypt, and celery mericarps dated to the 7th century BC were recovered in the Heraion of Samos. However, they note "since A. graveolens grows wild in these areas it is hard to decide whether these remains represent wild or cultivated forms." Only by classical times is it certain that celery was cultivated.Zohary and Hopf, Domestication, p.202M. Fragiska mentions another archeological find of celery, dating to the 9th century BC, at Kastanas; however, the literary evidence for ancient Greece is far more abundant. In Homer's Iliad, the horses of Myrmidons graze on wild celery that grows in the marshes of Troy, and in Odyssey there is mention of the meadows of violet and wild celery surrounding the cave of Calypso.Fragiska, M. (2005). Wild and Cultivated Vegetables, Herbs and Spices in Greek Antiquity. Environmental Archaeology 10 (1): 73-82.A chthonian symbol, celery was said to have sprouted from the blood of Kadmilos, father of the Cabers, chthonian divinities celebrated in Samothrace, Lemnos and Thebes. The spicy odour and dark leaf colour encouraged this association with the cult of death. In classical Greece celery leaves were used as garlands for the dead, and the wreaths of the winners at the Isthmian Games were first made of celery before being replaced by crowns made of pine. According to Pliny the Elder (Natural History XIX.46), in Archaia the garland worn by the winners of the sacred contest at Nemea was also made of celery.
Cultivation Apium graveolens grows to 1 m tall. The leaves are pinnate to bipinnate leaves with rhombic leaflets 3-6 cm long and 2-4 cm broad. The flowers are creamy-white, 2-3 mm diameter, produced in dense compound umbels. The seeds are broad ovoid to globose, 1.5-2 mm long and wide. In North America, commercial production of celery is dominated by a variety called Pascal celery. Gardeners can grow a range of cultivars, many of which differ little from the wild species, mainly in having stouter leaf stems. They are ranged under two classes, white and red; the white cultivars being generally the best flavoured, and the most crisp and tender.The wild form of celery is known as smallage. It has a furrowed stalk with wedge-shaped leaves, the whole plant having a coarse, rank taste, and a peculiar smell. With cultivation and blanching, the stalks lose their acidic qualities and assume the mild, sweetish, aromatic taste particular to celery as a salad plant. The plants are raised from seed, sown either in a hot bed or in the open garden according to the season of the year, and after one or two thinnings out and transplantings they are, on attaining a height of 15-20 cm, planted out in deep trenches for convenience of blanching, which is affected by earthing up to exclude light from the stems. In the past, celery was grown as a vegetable for winter and early spring; because of its antitoxic properties, it was perceived as a cleansing tonic, welcomed after the stagnation of winter.
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