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CELERY
Apium graveolens Linn.
Family : Umbelliferae; Apiaceae
Description
The celery plant (Apium graveolens) is a hardy biennial, occasionally annual, widely cultivated for its fleshy leafstalk , which is used as a vegetable. Celery seeds, which are produced in the second season, are commonly used as a flavouring agent. Separate varieties have been developed for the production of seeds for condiment use and for vegetable celery. There are also root-producing varieties that are used for flavouring soups and stews.
Botany
Celery, a herbaceous annual or biennial plant of the carrot, parsley and caraway family and is native to southern Europe. In India, it is occurring wild and also is cultivated in the foothills of northwestern Himalayas and the outlying hills of Punjab, Himachel Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Roots are succulent, well developed and numerous. Stems are branching, angular, jointed and reaching a height of 2-4 m. Leaves are oblong, 7-18 cm long, pinnate or trifoliate. It throws up a flower head in the second year producing masses of fruits. The flowers are white or greenish white, very small on sessile compound umbels. The fruit itself is two united carpels which each produce a single seed. The seed is small, about 1-2 mm in length, oval and greenish brown.
Cultivation
Celery requires a rich moist soil and considerable care, both in starting the young plants and in bringing them to maturity. Plants may be grown indoors or in a prepared seedbed and, when large enough, transplanted to rows 90cm apart and spaced 10-15 cm apart in the row. Seeds may also be sown directly in the garden early in spring and the plants later thinned to 2 or 3 per 30 cm.

For seed purposes the plants must be well mulched with straw or litter to prevent winter killing when there is a severe freezing. In the first season, the tender leaves and leaf stalks may be used either fresh or dry for flavouring purposes. The seed umbels form on long flower stalks that develop during the second season and are harvested when mature. The root-producing varieties can be handled in the same manner as parsnips for winter use. The fruiting umbels can be dried either in the shade or sun and the seeds separated by threshing and stored in closed containers. The young tender leaves when dried possess a flavour similar to that of the fresh leaves and stalks.
Celery contains 1.5-3% volatile oil, primarily containing about 60-70 % d-limonene and 10-20% b-selinene. The oleoresin extracted from celery contains 12-16% volatile oil. The seeds contain apiin, apigenin, caffeic acid and chlorogenic acid. Several other substances like rutaractin, apiumetin etc. are also present.
Aroma and flavour
The seeds can be used in pickling fish and in salads, salad dressings, and other dishes where celery flavour is desired. Ground celery is used in a large variety of products like meat dishes, snack foods, gravies and sauces to provide a flavour enhancing effect. The leafstalks and roots give flavour as well as food value to soups and salads.
Culinary use
Blanched celery leaves are eaten raw or cooked as a vegetable. Whole seeds can be added to bread dough or when making cheese biscuits. Celery salt and celery pepper are both made by grinding the seeds with either salt or peppercorns in the required proportions.
Medicinal and other use
Celery seeds have stimulant and carminative properties. Since they have tranquilizing effect it is prescribed as a decoction in psychiatric, epilepsy like diseases. The fatty oil from seeds is antispasmodic and nerve stimulant. The roots possess diuretic property. The oleoresin is also used in a large variety of food items. The oil from the seeds is used medically to treat asthma, flatulence and bronchitis.