Celery is one of the most world’s most popular vegetables and thousands of everyday recipes call for this delicious staple. One of the main problems with celery, however, is that it is typically sold in a large bunch, which means if you do not use all of your celery within a given time frame it can go bad, limp and mushy, causing you to throw more of it away than you actually end up using. This is a waste of food and money; but it’s also a scenario that can be avoided with the proper storage techniques.
In the following article we will discuss several strategies for properly storing both whole and cut celery so it stays fresh longer.
The Best Way to Store Whole Celery
For whole celery to keep its crispness and freshness for the longest period of time possible there is one technique that works very well. Below we will discuss this technique in a bit more detail:
Get Rid of the Plastic Bag
When we purchase celery in the grocery store, most of us place it in a plastic bag before putting it in our cart. We do this for the sake of convenience (a bag is easier to carry than a big stalk of celery), cleanliness (who knows what has been in and around that grocery cart) and to prevent the celery from wetting other items in our cart (because in the grocery store that celery is regularly sprayed with water throughout the day to maintain its freshness). This is a good strategy and we are not asking you to change this. However, when you get the celery home it is time to free it from the confines of the plastic bag.
While keeping your celery in a plastic bag may seem certainly handy and convenient, as it turns out, it is not the best way in which to store it. Several studies have shown that celery in a plastic bag will wilt and lose its color faster than celery stored in other ways.
Prepare for Storage
Although we entitled this section “Prepare for Storage,” the title is kind of a misnomer. That’s because there are very few “preparation” steps you will actually need to take. When storing fresh celery there are essentially three elements you will want to remember: keep the celery whole, wrap it in aluminum foil, and store it in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator, where the humidity is controlled.
Keeping the celery whole whenever possible is the BEST way to store your excess celery. The reason for this is that, when whole, the celery tends to lose less of its moisture. Losing moisture, or drying out, is the number one reason that celery goes bad, so be sure to leave the celery whole when storing it.
Wrapping the Celery
As we mentioned briefly above, you are going want to wrap the whole celery stalks using aluminum foil. When doing this, be sure to wrap it tight enough to prevent any moisture from escaping the package, but loose enough so as to not crush or crumple the stalks.
Store the Celery
Once the celery stalk or stalks are wrapped with foil, place them in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Do not just place them in the main area of the refrigerator, as the cold air can dry out the stalks and cause them to wither.
Why Store Whole Celery in this Manner?
So you may be wondering, “why is it okay to wrap the celery in foil but not in the plastic bag it came in?” Well, like many of the other fruits and vegetables we purchase, celery is constantly emitting a gas as it ages – a gas known as ethylene gas. Ethylene gas is one that can accelerate moisture loss and therefore spoilage. So, when celery is wrapped in plastic that ethylene gas actually gets trapped in the plastic bag, leading to rapid rates of spoilage and discoloring (picture brown celery). Aluminum foil, however, is actually more porous than the plastic bag. As such, the foil allows the ethylene gas to escape, while also keeping the moisture in. This translates to fresher celery and longer storage times.
The Best Way to Store Cut Celery
If the celery you purchased is pre-cut – or if you cut too much celery than you actually need – there is actually another storage method you should consider. Remember, once celery is cut it can begin to lose its moisture very quickly if you are not careful, and that moisture loss can lead to flimsy, crisp-less celery. Here is the best way to store cut celery in the refrigerator:
What You Will Need
To store cut celery in the refrigerator you will only need to assemble a few items. These include:
- The cut celery
- A large glass or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid.
How to Do It
Once you have assembled what you need you are ready for the storage process, being careful to follow each of these steps:
- Cut the celery to size. When preparing the celery you have on hand, you will need to make sure it can fit into the container you now have at the ready. For example, if your celery is already cut into half stalks – and if those stalks will not fit easily into the container – cut them in half to create equal size quarter stalks.
- Arrange the celery in the bowl. The next step is to arrange the celery you have cut into the container. It is okay here to stack the celery in rows on top of one another, just be sure to leave at least one inch of headroom between the top row of celery and the rim of the container.
- Add water. With your celery arranged, pour water into the container until all of the celery is completely submerged. For best results, we recommend you use filtered water to ensure no harmful chemicals can interfere with the storage process.
- Seal the container and place in the refrigerator. Next, seal the container with a tight-fitting lid. If your container does not have a lid, you can substitute aluminum foil wrapped tightly over the top of the bowl or container. Place the celery in the main part of the refrigerator.
Now that your celery is properly stored, it’s important to remember to change out the water frequently. We recommend you change the water every day for optimal freshness, but doing this once every other day will also work in a pinch. By storing your celery in this manner and changing out the water frequently you can typically keep celery fresh for a week to ten days without any noticeable decline in the crispness or flavor. This same storage trick works well with any root vegetable, such as beets, carrots, parsnips and radishes.
The last storage method we will look at is freezing your celery. Although freezing your celery will not exactly keep it fresh, it will prevent it from spoiling and keep you from having to throw it away.
Clean the Celery
Before you begin the freezing process, remove your celery from the plastic bag and wash it thoroughly, making sure you have cleaned off any dirt near the base. Next, tear off any leaves that remain on the celery, and cut off its base.
Blanch the Celery
Before freezing your celery it is best to first blanch it. To do this, you will need to prepare a large pot of boiling water and a large bowl of ice-cold water. When the pot of water comes to a rapid boil, plunge the celery into the pot and set a timer for three minutes. At the end of this time, take the celery out using tongs and immediately plunge it into the cold water for about 30 seconds. Wipe the celery dry and place it on a clean cutting board.
Cut the Celery to Size
Using the kitchen knife of your choice, you will now cut the blanched celery into pieces. For best results, we recommend you cut the stalks into easy-to-handle quarters, although you can cut them into any size you prefer.
Freezing the Celery
When freezing the celery you essentially have two choices. You can place the cut stalks immediately into a freezer bag or airtight container and place them into the freezer; or you can first freeze them on a cookie sheet and then place the frozen pieces into a freezer bag or airtight container. The benefit of using the second the strategy is to keep the celery from sticking together, making it easier for you to retrieve the desired amount of celery when you are ready to thaw and serve it.
Using any of the three methods we have discussed above you can keep your celery fresher longer and enjoy it throughout the year. For whole celery, remember to ditch the bag and wrap it in foil; and for cut celery submerging it in water will help the celery keep its moisture and crispness. Finally, freezing your celery is a long-term option that will ensure you always have celery on hand for the thousands of recipes that call for it.