A few weeks ago, after asking Halley Stillman at the Copley Farmers Market Stillman's Farm stand why so few local farms grew celery, she offered to bring in some of the cutting celery they were trying out back on the farm.
The next week, she had it on the stand. I bought it, popped it into a vase of cold water by my kitchen sink to refresh it, and proceeded to add it to a variety of salads, pasta dishes, and other recipes where I might have used celery or parsley. Each morning, I changed the water, washed down the stems, and continued to clip away at my bunch.
A week later, I was pleased to report to Halley that I loved this product and would be a customer for cutting celery – if it became a regular offering.
Reporting back to local vendors is important. While some of these experiments may never make it to the mainstream, others will, if they make good business sense for the farmers.
Here it played a supporting role in a Sicilian Cauliflower Salad. It is much stronger in flavor than celery and I learned that the strength of the flavor can vary from bunch-to-bunch.
In her book, Bitter: A Taste of the World's Most Dangerous Flavor, with Recipes, Jennifer McLagan explained that in 15th Century Italy growers began to reduce the bitterness of wild celery and this has continued until it resulted in the blanched stalks we know today.
Cutting celery, on the other hand, still has that strong flavor. It also has hollow stems and was sometimes use as we use straws.
One of my favorite food writers Deborah Madison in Vegetable Literacy had a great approach for those new to the powerful flavoring agent.
"When using the stalks or the leaves of cutting celery, such as Chinese celery or Par-Cel, taste them to judge their strength. Start small and add more, as if it were chile."
If you have a home garden, you should think about adding this to your herb patch. It's widely used as an herb by Asian and European cooks.
Do you have an Amazon Gift Certificate to use? Or do you need to buy one for a gift? Remember to click over to Amazon from here to support this site!
Words: Penny Cherubino
Photography: © 2016 Penny Cherubino