The celery plant that supplies celery leaves comes from the Mediterranean region. The Ancient Egyptians used celery in their cult of the dead celebrations. Celery leaves were among the items found in the tomb of Tutankhamun.
Celery was also highly prized by the Ancient Greeks, who used it as a medicine and an aphrodisiac. Like the Egyptians, they associated it with the dead and used it to make garlands for dead bodies. It was used in other celebrations as well. The first wreaths given to winners at the Isthmian games were made from celery, which is how bay leaves were used at the Olympic games.
Celery is mentioned in Homer’s Iliad and the ancient Greek city of Selinunte on Sicily’s western coast was named after the celery growing there.
The Ancient Romans used celery for culinary purposes more than for medicine or anything related to death but still retained some superstitions about it. According to some historians, they believed that it could bring bad luck in some cases.
The Italians began cultivating celery in the 1600s and bred out the hollow stems and bitterness that were characteristics in the earlier wild versions.
In the early 1800s, celery was grown with the same methods still used to grow endives today. The methods including keeping it in the dark to prevent darkening. The method made production expensive, so celery was considered a vegetable for rich people. Towards the end of the 19th century, there was a boom in celery cultivation with new varieties that did not require covering and celery became both affordable and widely available.
Celery’s botanical name Apium graveolens translates to strongly smelling. Its pungent aroma may explain its association with death and corpses early in history.
Celery leaves flavor profile
Celery leaves have the same earthy, herbaceous flavor as celery stalks. The flavor is savory with a hint of saltiness since celery is naturally high in sodium.
Health benefits of celery leaves
With celery leaves in your diet, you will get a variety of nutrients including:
- Vitamins: Celery leaves are good sources of vitamin K and modest sources of vitamins A and C. They also have small but significant amounts of B vitamins, including folate.
- Minerals: Celery leaves contain small amounts of many different minerals including potassium, calcium, and manganese.
- Fiber: Like the rest of the plant, celery leaves are good sources of both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber.
With celery leaves as a part of your diet, you may be able to prevent or treat health problems like:
- Cancer: The antioxidants in celery leaves can help remove free radicals from your body. Free radicals promote cancer and other serious illnesses.
- Heart disease: Animal studies have found that celery can reduce blood cholesterol and high blood pressure. Both of these conditions can raise your risk of heart disease.
- Poor gut health: The insoluble fiber in celery leaves can help improve gut health in a variety of ways including treating constipation.
You can dry celery leaves and combine them with kosher salt to make homemade celery salt. The darker the leaves you use, the stronger the flavor they give. Celery leaves are also great as salad greens and in tabbouleh as a parsley substitute. Use them in soups, stews, and stir-fried dishes to add a touch of green and the celery flavor.
Celery leaves also make an attractive and flavorful garnish in place of parsley. They can even work as an alternative to basil in pesto.