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In Southern California, we are fortunate to enjoy celery all year, but its season peaks in the cooler months of November through February.

Given its omnipresence, it’s easy to take this powerful health food for granted. According to Michael Murray’s Encyclopedia of Healing Foods, with only 20 calories per rib, celery is an excellent source of both Vitamin C and fiber. Perhaps less known is that celery is also a good source of potassium, folic acid, B vitamins, and a special group of phytonutrients called coumarins, which are currently being studied for their role in cancer prevention. A study conducted at the University of Chicago demonstrated that one specific coumarin compound found in celery lowered blood pressure by 12-14% and cholesterol levels by 7% over the course of just one week. Additional studies have shown that celery extracts help reduce muscular aches and pains due to inflammation-induced conditions like arthritis, rheumatism, and gout.

According to Paul Pitchford’s Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition, celery improves digestion and is especially helpful for long-term weight reduction and heart and artery renewal. As a bitter food, celery enhances digestion of fruit and simple sugars and calms inflammation, detoxifies the liver, and clears excess heat and damp. Given its high mineral content and its ability to calm inflammation-related muscle or joint pain, celery juice may be the perfect post-workout electrolyte-recovery drink.

 

But buyer beware – whether you enjoy celery juiced, raw, or cooked, mind the Dirty Dozen, as defined by the Environmental Working Group’s list of pesticide-containing produce items. Celery has been identified as a leader in this list, and is one of the top 12 most contaminated foods in terms of pesticide residues. Aim for organic options or those grown from a local farmer you trust, and avoid bunches with discolorations or limp, pliable ribs.

While celery certainly pairs well with its cousin, the carrot, dipped in ranch dressing, hummus, or even peanut butter, let’s think outside the crudités box and consider some other options for serving celery:

  • Filled with mustard and wrapped inside your favorite tofurkey or tofu deli slice.
  • Chopped and tossed with pineapple bits, cherry tomato halves, then splashed with rice vinegar and olive oil.
  • Stir-fried with ginger, onions, and mushrooms.
  • Roasted with other members of the Umebelliferae family (carrots and fennel).
  • Tossed with wild rice and sliced apples in a mustard dressing.

Try this warm, detoxifying, digestion-improving, wild-rice pilaf instead of stuffing at your holiday table; your heart, muscles, joints, and digestive tract will thank you for the crunchy, healthy dish.

 

Celery Apple Wild Rice Pilaf

 

Prep Time:  45 minutes
Yields: 8 servings
Ingredients: 4 cups vegetable broth (preferably homemade or low-sodium)1 cup wild riceHoney mustard dressing:¼ cup apple cider vinegar¼ cup whole grain mustard

5 tsp honey

½ tsp sea salt

½ tsp freshly cracked black pepper

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 large bunch organic celery with leaves

1 large organic granny smith apple

1 large or 2 small organic pink lady apples (or your favorite apple)

¾ cup raw or toasted walnuts

Directions:
  1. Bring the broth to a boil in a medium sauce pan over high heat, and then add the rice. Cover, reduce heat and let simmer according to package directions (about 45 minutes).
  2. Meanwhile, make the dressing in a large bowl – whisk first five ingredients together and then gradually whisk in the oil.
  3. Cut off the bottom of the celery bunch and discard or save for stock. Trim celery leaves, and then chop enough to measure 1 cup; discard the rest or save for stock. Thinly slice celery ribs on diagonal. Place celery slices and leaves in the large bowl.
  4. Quarter, and then core the apples. Slice each quarter into two wedges, and then thinly slice the wedges crosswise into triangle shapes. Add the apples to the large bowl with celery and dressing and toss well.
  5. When rice is done, drain and add to the celery/apple mixture and toss again.
  6. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Top the salad with the walnuts and serve immediately. Refrigerate leftovers and serve chilled or at room temperature.

 

Red Jen Ford is a Certified Holistic Health Coach, Yoga Instructor and Seasonal Eating Expert. Jen teaches her clients the benefits and simplicity of eating local, sustainably grown food. Enjoy more of her dishes in her seasonal recipe booklets or online course, Simply in Season – Fall Recipes to Celebrate Healthy, Easy Seasonal Food. Redjenford.com