Along with the usual assortment of tomatoes that we are accustomed to planting, this year our garden includes a ‘cousin’ that we sometimes have difficulty locating when it is time to plant– tomatillos. This weedy-looking plant tries its best to take over the space while we try to just keep it contained!
The tomatillo is native to Central American where it grew wild (hence its desire to spread) and was domesticated in Mexico where it has been grown as a food crop for hundreds of years. Tomatillos are also known as husk tomatoes, Mexican green tomatoes, Mexican ground cherry, and strawberry tomatoes. They are a member of the nightshade (Solanaceae) family, as are tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and peppers.
The outer paper-like husk of the tomatillo resembles a Chinese lantern and acts as a sort of protection to the fruit inside. Tomatillos are ripe when the fruit fills and splits the husk, however the fruit itself should be green and firm. Fruit that is yellow will tend to a sweeter flavor, rather than the characteristic tart flavor expected of a tomatillo. After peeling the husk away, the tomatillo will be sticky, which is normal and easily washed away.
Tomatillos are rich in Vitamins C and K, which provide immune support and help our bodies heal from injury. They also provide niacin that helps our body turn carbohydrates in to energy and potassium that aids in muscle contraction and regulation of blood pressure. Of course, as with all fruits and vegetables, there is also fiber which aids in digestive health.
As a traditional part of Mexican cooking, tomatillos are often found in stews, moles, and salsas. For a quick fresh green salsa, sauté 2 cups chopped tomatillos, ½ cup diced onion, ½ cup diced green chili, and 1 minced garlic clove in 2 tbsp. oil. Add ¼ cup of water and heat until the vegetables are soft. Purée mixture in a blender and add 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro if desired. If you have an abundance of tomatillos (like I am expecting) the recipe below is our favorite to preserve some of that garden goodness to enjoy long past garden season.
Green Tomatillo Salsa
(Makes about 5 pints)
5 cups chopped tomatillos
1-½ cups seeded, chopped long green chiles
½ cup seeded, finely chopped jalapeño peppers
4 cups chopped onions
1 cup bottled lemon or lime juice
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon ground cumin (optional)
3 tablespoons dried oregano leaves (optional)
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Wash hands, work surfaces, and equipment with warm, soapy water.
Preparing Tomatillos: Remove the dry outer husks from tomatillos; wash thoroughly. They do not need to be peeled or seeded. Chop tomatillos.
Preparing Peppers: (Wear plastic or rubber gloves and do not touch your face while handling or cutting hot peppers. If you do not wear gloves, wash hands thoroughly with soap and water before touching your face or eyes.) If you choose to peel chiles, slit each pepper along the side to allow steam to escape. Peel using one of these two methods:
Oven or broiler method - Place chiles in a hot oven (400°F) or broiler for 6 to 8 minutes until skins blister.
Range-top method - Cover hot burner (either gas or electric) with heavy wire mesh. Place peppers on burner for several minutes until skins blister.
After blistering skins, place peppers in a pan and cover with a damp cloth. Cool several minutes; slip off skins. Discard seeds and chop peppers.
Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan and stir frequently over high heat until mixture begins to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 2O minutes, stirring occasionally. Ladle hot into clean, hot pint jars, leaving ½-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened, clean paper towel; apply two-piece metal canning lids. Process in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes (adjust for altitudes above 1000 feet as recommended). When time is up, turn off heat, remove canner lid, and let jars sit in water for 5 minutes more. Remove jars and let sit undisturbed on counter for 24 hours, checking for vacuum seal after 2 hours.
Visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation for more information and safe, tested recipes like this one. https://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_salsa/tomatillo_green_salsa.html
Nutrition information: (2 tablespoons) Calories: 10, Total Fat: 0g, Saturated Fat: 0g, Sodium: 89mg, Carbohydrates: 2.5g, Fiber: 0g, Protein: 0g
by Cathy Bylinowski, Horticulture Instructor, University of Missouri Extension
September is a busy month for gardeners. If you have a vegetable garden, this month is often when you have a bountiful harvest of tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. And by the end of the month, it’s time for the sweet potato harvest. Be sure to cut the green vines off the sweet potatoes 2-3 days before digging them up to help toughen the skins and prevent damage to the sweet potato. The less damage they have to the skin, the longer they will last in storage.
Have you ever grown garlic? Garlic is used in salad dressings, marinades, sauces and as a flavoring agent for meats, veggies and soups! It also has several health benefits.
Learn to grow your own garlic! Join the free class online, on September 20, 6-8pm.
• when to plant
• nutrient, weed & pest management
• harvesting and storage
This virtual workshop provides research-based information for gardeners about garlic production cultural practices, right planting time in Missouri, and selection of good planting stock. This program also provides information about nutrient, weed and pest management. Participants will learn about harvesting, storage and marketing.
Contact: Field Specialist in Horticulture Dhruba Dhakal, email@example.com , 573-581-3231 to join the class.
Other September gardening tasks include the following:
Portions of this article were reprinted from the MU Extension Lawn and Garden newsletter.
Please feel free to contact Horticulture Instructor Cathy Bylinowski, firstname.lastname@example.org if you have more gardening questions.
Denise Sullivan, Nutrition & Health Education Specialist, MU Extension-Jackson County
Cucumbers are a popular summer vegetable that many people include in their garden or market basket. Cucumbers are a high-water content member of the squash family and are about 96% water, which makes them a very low-calorie food – about 8 calories per half cup. They are also low in sodium, and are good sources of potassium, magnesium, vitamin K and fiber.
Potassium is a nutrient that is important in maintaining healthy blood pressure, while magnesium and Vitamin K play a role in bone health. The type of fiber in cucumbers is beneficial in both digestive and cardiovascular health and helps to create a feeling of satiety. Since most of the nutrients are in the skin, eating cucumbers with the peel provides the most nutritional benefit.
There are two main types of cucumbers: slicing and pickling types. The most common slicing cucumbers are standard garden cucumbers. Theses cucumbers have larger, soft, edible seeds; however, some people choose to remove them. To retain moisture, it is common for food processors to coat the skin of the cucumber with food grade wax. English or Persian cucumbers are also slicing cucumbers and are sometimes referred to as gourmet, ‘burpless’, or seedless cucumbers.
These varieties are longer and thinner than standard cucumbers, have seeds that are very small, and are usually shrink-wrapped to seal in moisture. Slicing cucumbers range in size from 7 to 12 inches or longer depending on variety.
Pickling cucumbers tend to be smaller, with a thinner, often bumpy skin. Gherkins are one of the most common pickling cucumbers and their small 3-4 inch size makes them perfect for whole pickles. Kirby cucumbers grow to be 5-6 inches and are good for pickling or snacking whole. Standard garden cucumbers can be used for pickling, particularly for relish, however because burpless cucumbers result in a less desirable finished product, they are not recommended for pickling.
Making cucumbers into pickles can be done with either a quick process, taking just a few hours or a fermentation process, which takes several days to weeks. When choosing a pickling method, be sure to select a process that uses current research methods and food preservation recommendations. If you are uncertain of where to look for canning methods, you might start with print resources and the online food preservation course offered by University of Missouri Extension that can be found here: https://extension.missouri.edu/courses/103256-food-preservation-2022
When selecting cucumbers, choose slender, firm, green produce without wrinkles or soft spots. For optimal freshness, store unwashed for up to one week in a moisture proof bag. As with all fresh produce, wash before preparation and serving. Adding white vinegar to water and soaking cucumbers for five minutes prior to a gentle scrub with a vegetable brush can help dissolve any wax used in commercial processing. To remove the seeds, if desired, cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and scoop the seeds with a teaspoon.
Cucumbers make a delicious crunchy snack – with or without a dip – and a tasty addition to a salad. The recipe below combines vibrant colors, textures and flavors and is delicious served with grilled chicken or fish and is a wonderful way to add more plants on your plate!
Cucumber Blueberry Salad
(Makes 4 servings)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons white balsamic (or other) vinegar
1 tablespoon lime juice, freshly squeezed or bottled
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
4 slices whole grain bread
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 medium English cucumber, cut into small chunks
4 cups fresh arugula
1/4 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup crumbled reduced-fat Feta cheese
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted
Nutrition Information: Calories: 212, Total Fat: 10 g, Saturated Fat: 3 g, Cholesterol: 8 mg, Sodium: 368 mg, Total Carbohydrate: 24 g, Dietary Fiber: 4 g, Total Sugars: 10 g, Protein: 7 g
Recipe from USDA Mixing Bowl
by Cathy Bylinowski, M.S. Horticulture, Horticulture Instructor, University of Missouri Extension- Jackson County, MO
August looks like it will be hot. Even with challenging weather conditions, there are many important gardening activities we can do this month.
Outdoor Flowering Plants and Ornamentals
Have an abundance of zucchini this summer? Here’s a tasty way to use extra:
Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup oil (canola, olive, or vegetable)
1/4 cup nonfat milk
1 banana, mashed
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup zucchini, washed and shredded (about 1/2 large unpeeled zucchini)
1/4 cup chocolate chips
The month’s plant is another example that begs the question ‘is it a vegetable or fruit’? Botanically speaking, rhubarb is a considered a vegetable, though it is more commonly used as a fruit in culinary preparations such as desserts or sweet spreads -- with a fair amount of sugar added. To add to the confusion, in 1947 the U.S. Customs court in Buffalo, N.Y., legally classified rhubarb as fruit.
Though the origin of rhubarb is uncertain, it was commonly used in Asia over 2,000 years ago for its medicinal qualities. It was not until the 18th century that rhubarb was grown for culinary purposes in Britain and America. Rhubarb is a perennial plant in the Polygonaceae family, more commonly known as buckwheat. Rhubarb leaves contain a toxic compound that acts as a natural insecticide. This is the reason that the leaves are not fit for human consumption and only the rhubarb stalk is edible. Rhubarb ranges in color from light green to deep red depending on the variety, with a texture that is resemblant of celery. Typically, the deeper red a rhubarb stalk is, the less tart it will be.
Rhubarb is a nutrition powerhouse, with over 40 nutrient compounds present. A 1 cup serving provides about 25% of the daily value of Vitamin K, as well as Vitamins A and C, potassium, and dietary fiber, with under 30 calories. The high level of vitamin K should be considered by anyone on blood thinners, as it can intensify the effects of the medication. Beyond the vitamins and minerals, numerous phytochemicals provide additional health benefits including anti-inflammation and aiding in the prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Rhubarb also contains about 15% of the daily value of calcium, however not in a form that is readily absorbed by the body. Calcium oxalate, the form found in rhubarb, may lead to the buildup of oxalate crystals in different organs, including the kidneys, which can increase risk of kidney stones.
Rhubarb’s high acidity, which is atypical for vegetables, is mostly due to malic acid. Malic acid is one of the most abundant acids in plants and contributes to the sour taste of many fruits and vegetables. For this reason, rhubarb can be safely processed as a high acid food using a boiling water bath process, as opposed to the pressure canned process required for most vegetables.
Rhubarb’s tart flavor requires a sweet helper and strawberries are a popular choice (and a personal favorite of mine) but the use of blueberries in the recipe below results in an exquisite blend of colors, flavors, and textures.
Rhubarb & Blueberry Crisp
(makes 9 servings)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
2 tablespoons ground flax seed
1/4 cup margarine or butter, melted
3 cups chopped rhubarb
3 cups blueberries
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup 100% apple juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
Nutrition information: Calories: 185, Total Fat: 6.7g, Saturated Fat: .9g, Sodium: 65mg, Carbohydrates: 31g, Fiber: 3.5g, Protein: 2.5g
Recipe adapted from MyPlate Kitchen, analyzed by verywellfit.com
As I began pondering the topic for this month, I realized that I have never highlighted the most popular vegetable in the United States - and the world. Though there are some that would debate the fact that potatoes are worth including in the diet, potatoes are the number one vegetable in the shopping cart of more than 60% of American shoppers.
Potatoes are a tuber or root vegetable, belonging to the nightshade family Solanaceae. Vegetables in this family may have inflammatory properties that cause concern for some people, though most of the population is unaffected. A greater concern is concentration of the compound solanine, which is concentrated in sprouted and green sections of the potato peel. This risk can be reduced by proper storage of potatoes in a cool, dark space with minimal light exposure. For optimum quality, store away from onions, which can encourage sprouting. Most potatoes store well for several weeks to a month, but early spring ‘new potatoes’ have a shorter storage life. Potatoes that have green areas or are shriveled or sprouted should be discarded.
Potatoes originated in the Andes mountains of South America, likely in Chile or Peru, though historical evidence isn’t entirely clear. Following the conquest of the Incan Empire, Spaniards introduced the potato to Europe in the late 16th century. It took over one hundred years for the potato to become a staple crop in Europe and played a significant role in the population growth. The increased popularity in crop production and lack of diversity in plant varieties also led to plant diseases and the Great Famine in the 18th century.
Potatoes made their way to the New England colonies in the late 17th century. Today, the top potato producing states are Idaho and Washington, with 15.1 billion pounds and 11 billion pounds, respectively. Production reports also reveal that 25% of the potato crop is consumed in fresh form, while 40% is used in frozen potato products and 23% in chips.
Potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C and contain more potassium than a banana. They are also a source of complex carbohydrate and fiber, particularly when the skin is eaten. The type of starch found in potatoes, resistant starch, which has been shown to be beneficial form of starch to gut health. Colored varieties, such as gold and purple also provide phytonutrients that are powerful antioxidants that combat free radicals and are beneficial in disease prevention.
Because potatoes vary moisture and starch content, choosing the right potato for the preparation is key to success. High starch/low moisture potatoes like russets are best suited for baking and do not hold their form well in soups. Low starch/high moisture potatoes like most red skin potatoes make the creamiest mashed potatoes and hold their shape well for potato salad. Gold potatoes are a medium starch potato and share characteristics of both low and high starch varieties. Specialty potatoes, like purple potatoes are also a medium starch variety and suitable for most any preparation that red potatoes are.
Like many foods, preparation is key to nutrient retention. Considering that more than half of potatoes consumed are in a frozen or chip form, starting from fresh is a better choice. The recipe below is a favorite preparation at my house. We like to use a medley of petite potatoes, including purple potatoes when I can find them. You can also use russet potatoes cut into strips for tasty oven fries.
Perfect Herb Roasted Potatoes
(makes 6 servings)
vegetable cooking spray
1 pound potatoes (try Yukon gold or a mixture of colored petite new potatoes)
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon rosemary
½ teaspoon thyme
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
Nutrition information: Calories: 89, Total Fat: 2.5g, Saturated Fat: .5g, Sodium: 106mg, Carbohydrates: 15g, Fiber: 1.5g, Protein: 2g
Recipe adapted from MyPlate Kitchen, analyzed by verywellfit.com
by Denise Sullivan, Nutrition & Health Education Specialist, MU Extension-Jackson County
Cabbage is a common spring vegetable that is enjoyed by many. I’ve always liked it in just about any form - cooked, fresh, and fermented, but have typically chosen standard head cabbage. Recently I’ve been trying other varieties and I have discovered that I really like bok choy.
Bok choy (sometimes spelled bok choi, pak choy or pak choi) is a variety of Chinese cabbage and a member of the Brassicaceae family, within the sub-variety chinensis. This variety of cabbage does not form heads as other cabbages do, rather they have long, green leaves, with a lighter colored bulbous base that looks somewhat similar to celery. Bok choy originated in China, with records of cultivation going back to the 5th century and moved throughout Asia until the 15th century. It was introduced in Europe in the 18th century and eventually to North America in the 19th century.
Bok choy is grown year-round in California and Hawaii and seasonally in a handful of states across the United States. It is a cool season crop and will be one of the vegetables that shows up in Midwest growing seasons in the early spring and fall. Most of the world’s crop is still grown throughout Asia, where limited farmland has led to sustainable practices of vertical farming. Bok choy is the crop of choice for vertical farming in Singapore, growing in towers up to 30 feet tall and producing nearly 1000 pounds annually for local consumption!
Like most leafy greens, bok choy is low in calories but rich in nutrients. One cup of chopped bok choy has only 9 calories, 1 gram of fiber and is rich in vitamins A, C, K, and folate and calcium. Like other members of the Brassicaceae family, bok choy is also rich in glucosinolates, and selenium, both of which are shown to be effective in cancer prevention and management of blood sugar. Bok choy has flavor that is spinach-like in the leafy portion, while the crunchy stem end is similar to water chestnuts, with a slightly peppery undertone.
For most preparations, leaves and stems are either chopped or julienned. Bok choy is the main ingredient in traditional kim chi, a spicy fermented side dish common in Korean cuisine. Smaller varieties of this vegetable, known as baby bok choy are often cut in half lengthwise and roasted or grilled. An easy way to start enjoying bok choy is to add to a fresh green salad or to your favorite stir fry. The recipe below is a simple and tasty dish that you can customize with your favorite protein add-in if you desire.
Bok Choy and Mushroom Stir-Fry
(makes 4 servings)
1 pound bok choy
1 large carrot
8 dried shitake mushrooms
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced ginger
¼ cup low sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
6 scallions, chopped
2 cups cooked brown rice
Nutrition information: Calories: 293, Total Fat: 7.5g, Saturated Fat: .8g, Sodium: 565mg, Carbohydrates: 52g, Fiber: 8g, Protein: 9g
Recipe adapted from The Spruce Eats, analyzed by verywellfit.com
Lettuce and salad greens of all types are among the most popular early season vegetable. As my husband and I have been planning our garden, I found myself getting more excited about early season crops than I usually do. I usually have ‘good intentions’, but this year, I’m using a different approach…with my salad greens anyway! I am using a container garden approach for my lettuce, as described in the article from the Tiger Garden shop on MU’s campus, which can be found at this link: https://bit.ly/3sRtYLc
Lettuce, or Lactuca sativa, is an annual plant of the Asteraceae family. Lettuce was first cultivated in ancient Egypt as a seed oil and a medicinal herb, and several varieties are seen in ancient tomb drawings. Cultivation would continue in Ancient Greek and Roman civilizations and was praised by Hippocrates, the father of medicine, for its healing powers. Caesar Augustus is also said to have created a statue to honor the vegetable when it seemingly cured an illness when formal medications had failed.
California dominates lettuce production at around 70% of production, with Arizona producing most of the remaining lettuce needed to feed the average American adult more than 30 pounds of lettuce per year. According to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), more than 8000 million pounds of lettuce was grown in 2015, valued at nearly 1.9 billion dollars.
The most common types of lettuce suitable for growth in the Midwest are butterhead, leaf, and romaine. Head lettuce requires a longer growing season than leaf lettuce and will turn bitter if temperatures in late spring are in the upper 70’s. In addition to growing in container gardens, lettuce can also be started indoors and transplanted or sown directly into soil as soon as soil temperatures reach between 45-55 degrees. If started indoors, seedlings should be gradually adapted to cooler outdoor temperatures before planting, a process known as hardening.
Because of the high water content of lettuce – around 95% - lettuce is often thought to be void of nutrition, however it is a good source of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as potassium and folate. Lettuce that has deeper colors has higher concentration of nutrients, thus varieties like romaine and red leaf lettuce will have more nutrients than traditional iceberg lettuce. Combining lettuce varieties will increase nutritional value as well as appeal when making a salad.
The best spring salad contains variety in color, flavor, and texture. Create additional interest with dressings using different flavored oils and vinegars. Lemon or lime juice can also add tartness without excess acidity. Personalize your dressing with your favorite spices to complete your salad. Dressing should not be added to greens until just before serving to maintain the crisp texture of the greens. Lettuce can also be added to or used as a wrap for a sandwich instead of bread. This copy-cat recipe of one of my favorite restaurant appetizers is a tasty way to use lettuce in lieu of a salad.
Asian Lettuce Wraps
(makes 8 appetizer or 4 meal servings)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 lb. lean ground chicken
1 cup chopped water chestnuts
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
¼ cup low sodium teriyaki sauce
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
8 large lettuce leaves (Bibb or Romaine work well)
½ cup chopped green onion
¼ cup chopped peanuts
Nutrition information (for 8 servings): Calories: 302, Total Fat: 7g, Saturated Fat: .6g, Sodium: 210mg, Carbohydrates: 6.5g, Fiber: 1g, Protein: 52g
Recipe adapted from MyPlate Kitchen, analyzed by verywellfit.com
by Todd Lorenz, MU Extension Field Specialist in Agronomy
Review these top ten reasons to get a soil test in your garden:
• Maximize the productivity of your garden. Soil tests identify yield-robbing deficiencies and provide recommendations for fertilizer and amendments.
• Reward your hard work with hard science. Fertilizer recommendations that are provided with soil test reports are based on sound research, which maximizes results from fertilizer use.
• Learn a little — or maybe a lot. Soil test recommendations come with information that will teach and inform about best management practices for your yard and garden.
• Save by applying only the amount of fertilizer that is needed. A soil test will determine the amount of nutrients that your soil will supply, so unnecessary fertilizer applications can be avoided.
• Be healthy. Well fertilized fruits and vegetables result in more nutritious food. Nutrient deficient soil yields produce that is lower in nutrients and protein.
• Protect the environment. Applying fertilizer according to soil test recommendations prevents excessive fertilizer applications. Fertilizer applied in excess of plant need increases the likelihood that it will run off into lakes, ponds, streams and rivers.
• Conserve. Don’t apply fertilizer when it isn’t needed. Fertilizers are made from our natural resources (natural gas and nutrient-bearing rocks). Unnecessary applications of fertilizer needlessly use those resources.
• Inventory your soil resource. Knowing the nutrient levels in your soil can help you plan future garden or yard management and needs.
• Color your lawn/flower bed/shrubs. A properly fertilized soil will result in a deep green color in your lawn. Properly fertilized flowers and shrubs will maintain a healthy appearance. Some shrubs will flower only if the soil is maintained with appropriate fertility.
• Detect what is wrong with your plants. A soil test can help solve the riddle of what could be ailing your plant(s) or lawn.
When is the best time for a soil test?
Soil samples can be taken in the spring or fall for established sites. For new sites, soil samples can be taken any time when the soil is workable. Most people conduct their soil tests in the spring. Fall is a preferred time to take soil tests if one suspects a soil pH problem and wants to avoid the spring rush. Fall soil testing will allow you ample time to apply lime to raise the soil pH. Sulfur should be applied in the spring if the soil pH needs to be lowered.
Want to learn more about testing your garden soil? Go to MU Extension’s Soil and Plant Testing Laboratory website to learn more:
by Denise Sullivan, Nutrition & Health Education Specialist, MU Extension-Jackson County
This month’s spotlight is on another vegetable that many of us reach for all year ‘round for its continuous availability. It is a staple item on vegetable trays, adds a distinctive crunch to salads, and is a common sauté item in the beginning of many soup recipes. It’s also one of my favorite quick snacks to dip in some peanut butter. By now you have probably guessed that I am talking about celery.
Celery is a member of the Umbelliferae family that grew wild in the Mediterranean region thousands of years ago, and was mentioned in Chinese writings as early as 5 AD. The wild form of celery, also known as smallage, was initially used as medicine, though gained popularity as a food source in the 16th century in northern Europe. A popular variety in Asia is leaf celery, which has tender stems that are somewhat reminiscent of wild celery. It wasn’t until the 18th century that celery was refined and cultivated to resemble the vegetable that we recognize today. Pascal is the most common variety with the tight, straight, sturdy bunches that children like to fill with peanut butter. Celeriac, or celery root, is another variety that is grown for both the stalks and the bulbous root that resembles a turnip.
Celery leaves have a stronger flavor than the stalk and are often dried, which intensifies the flavor. Celery seeds are also used for their flavoring capability alone and ground with salt as celery salt. One celery seed is about the size of the period and the end of this sentence, and one ounce of celery seeds can grow one acre of celery, producing 32,000 to 42,000 celery plants. In the US, most celery is grown in California, Florida and, ironically, Michigan where it made it’s debut in the early 1800’s.
Widely recognized as one of the healthiest snacks available, celery is a great source of fiber, which is especially impressive given the vegetable's low-calorie count. This makes it a great choice for those concerned with losing weight or maintaining healthy digestion. Celery is a rich source of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as folate and potassium. Celery is also rich in antioxidants such as lunularin, bergapten, and phthalides, which aid in blood pressure regulation and the prevention of heart disease.
When shopping, choose celery with firm stalks with bright green leaves that have a fresh aroma. Celery will keep up to two weeks wrapped in plastic in the crisper drawer. While firm, crispy celery is most desired for crudité and salads, if it starts to get limp, it can still be used in cooked dishes, or even chopped and frozen for later use. The salad recipe below is a tasty combination of colors, textures, and flavors.
Apple and Celery Salad
(Makes 8 servings)
2 cups chopped apples (about 4 medium)
1 cup chopped celery
½ cup raisins
½ cup chopped walnuts
¼ cup vanilla yogurt
2 Tablespoons orange juice
½ teaspoon cinnamon
Nutrition information: Calories: 110, Total Fat: 1.5g, Saturated Fat: 0g, Sodium: 17mg, Carbohydrates: 24g, Fiber: 3.5g, Protein: 1.5g
Recipe adapted from MyPlate Kitchen, analyzed by verywellfit.com
Denise Sullivan is a Nutrition and Health Education Specialist for MU Extension in the Urban West Region, serving Jackson and Platte Counties.
MU Extension is a partnership of the University of Missouri campuses, Lincoln University, the people of Missouri through county extension councils, and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Visit our website at: