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What Is Leaf Celery?

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  • Written By: Emily Pate
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 07 October 2017
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Leaf celery, or Apium graveolens secalinum, is a biennial culinary herb most often used in Europe and China used for its flavorful leaves which are incorporated into cooked dishes. Though highly-perishable, it offers numerous nutrients, most notably vitamins K and C. It's best grown in cool conditions in a location with moist, well-drained, and fertile soil. While it takes some time to grow, it can be continuously cut and harvested during its growing season.

Growing up to 2 feet (appx. 61 cm) long, leaf celery has long, thin, fibrous stocks topped with bunches of curly, thin leaves resembling parsley. The plant does produce tiny flowers during the summer months, though they're not visible due to their small size. This herb likely descended from wild celery, a plant native to Southern Europe and North Africa.

In Europe and China, this plant is used as an herb, though it's harder to find in the United States. Its earthy flavor works well in soups and stews, though it's not often used raw due to its overwhelming taste. Notable dishes, like Greek tomato sauce with celery and mint, feature the herb. Leaf celery is highly perishable and best used immediately, or it must be placed in paper towels and plastic bags and refrigerated.

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All varieties of lettuce offer a significant source of nutrients. Vitamin K and C are both abundant in this medicinal and culinary herb. Potassium, folate, and fiber, among other micro-nutrients, are provided. Leaf celery also has potential blood pressure and cholesterol-lowering effects, and is used as a diuretic.

Leaf celery requires cool growing conditions, but it will not tolerate a frost. It thrives in moist, well-drained soil with plenty of nutrients. Areas with full sun or partial shade provide a good habitat. Regular fertilization is necessary during the growing season. While leaf celery is slow to establish, its leaves can be cut several times during this time, as they grow back continuously. Its biennial classification means that it lives for about two years.

Wild celery is closer to the leaf variety than stock or root types. It likely originated in Southern Europe and North Africa. The earliest use was medicinal, dating back to 9th century B.C. The Middle Ages saw the advent of its use as a cooked food, though it wasn't eaten raw until the 1800s.

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