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Celery (Apium graveolens) is a marshland plant in the family Apiaceae that has been cultivated as a vegetable since antiquity. Celery has a long fibrous stalk tapering into leaves. Depending on location and cultivar, either its stalks, leaves, or hypocotyl are eaten and used in cooking. Celery seed is also used as a spice; its extracts are used in medicines.
First attested in English in 1664, the word "celery" derives from the French céleri, in turn from Italian seleri, the plural of selero, which comes from Late Latin selinon.
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 and transplantings, they are, on attaining a height of 5.9–7.9 inches, planted out in deep trenches for convenience of blanching, which is effected by earthing up to exclude light from the stems.
In the past, celery was grown as a vegetable for winter and early spring; it was perceived as a cleansing tonic, welcomed to counter the salt-sickness of a winter diet without greens based on salted meats. By the 19th century, the season for celery had been extended, to last from the beginning of September to late in April.
In North America, commercial production of celery is dominated by the cultivar called 'Pascal' celery. Gardeners can grow a range of cultivars, many of which differ from the wild species, mainly in having stouter leaf stems. They are ranged under two classes, white and red. The stalks grow in tight, straight, parallel bunches, and are typically marketed fresh that way, without roots and just a little green leaf remaining.
The stalks are eaten raw, or as an ingredient in salads, or as a flavoring in soups, stews, and pot roasts.
In Europe, another popular variety is celeriac (also known as celery root), Apium graveolens var. rapaceum, grown because its hypocotyl forms a large bulb, white on the inside. The bulb could be kept for months in winter and mostly serves as a main ingredient in soup. It can also be ground up and used in salads. The leaves are used as seasoning; the small, fibrous stalks find only marginal use.
Leaf celery or Chinese celery, Apium graveolens var. secalinum, is a cultivar from East Asia that grows in marshlands.
Leaf celery, also known as Chinese celery
Leaf celery is most likely the oldest cultivated form of celery. Leaf celery has a characteristically thin skin stalks and a stronger taste and smell compared to other cultivars. It is used as a flavoring in soups and sometimes pickled as a side dish.