Celery seed is the dried fruit of this biennial in the parsley family. This is the same genus and species used for growing table celery, although there are particular varieties used for the vegetable. The word celery comes from the Greek selinon meaning parsley and the wild plant is referred to as “smallage.” Grown by the Greeks and Romans for medicinal qualities, it was developed from the wild plant commonly growing in Europe in marshy ground especially near the sea. The Romans and Greeks also associated the seed with funerals and the plant has been found woven into garlands discovered in Egyptian tombs. In the Middle Ages, the plant began to be used as a vegetable and by the 17th century it had been bred to reduce the original bitterness. It was not until the 19th century that the seeds were used in recipes, appearing first in pickling spices.
The sturdy herb with branched, fleshy, ridged leaf stalks and dark green leaves and clusters of white flowers forms its seeds in the second year of growth. The seeds are very small, ovoid and light brown and there are approximately 35,000 seeds per ounce. Plants are raised from seed either sown in pots or directly into the garden and thrives in a moist, cool climate of early spring in a sandy loam. Allow plants to flower, then harvest the flower heads in autumn of the second year and hang to dry upside down in a paper bag to catch the seeds. You can leave a few for the birds, since celery seed is an ingredient commonly used in birdseed!
The vegetable is part of the “holy trinity” with onions and carrots used as a base for sauces and soups, so naturally the seeds are used to add the celery flavor to foods when the “crunch” of the vegetable is not desired. The seeds are similar in flavor with a hint of nutmeg and parsley. The tiny seeds have an unexpected big flavor, so use sparingly in order to avoid overpowering a dish. Celery seeds accents a wide variety of foods from tomato juice to coleslaw, but may also be used for fish, eggs and meat dishes. Add a pinch to blue cheese dressing, marinades and rice dishes and of course, pickling spices. Celery seed also gives zest to breads and biscuits. Celery salt is a mixture of ground celery seed and table salt commonly used as an alternative to ordinary salt in recipes, cocktails and seasoning such as Old Bay. Used as a diuretic, the seeds help clear toxins from the body and are a traditional remedy for a nervous stomach. Celery seed tea is said to promote rest and sleep.
Buy celery seeds whole
and crush as necessary especially
to combine with table or sea salt
to make your own celery salt
for recipes and beverages
SAVORY CELERY SEED STICKS
1 1/2 c flour
1/2 c butter
1/2tsp celery seed
1/2 c grated cheddar cheese
3Tbs cold water
1tsp celery seed, extra
Combine flour and salt then cut in butter. Add celery seed and grated cheese and mix gently. Add water to hold mixture together. Roll into a piece 1/2 inch thick and cut into finger strips then place on a cookie sheet. Melt butter and stir in extra celery seeds then brush over pastry fingers. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 mins. Sprinkle with extra cheese if desired and serve warm.
BASIC BARBECUE SPICE
1tsp black peppercorns
1tsp celery seeds
1/2tsp dried thyme
1/2tsp dried marjoram
1Tbs mustard powder
1Tbs soft brown sugar
Crush the peppercorns and celery seeds in a mortar and mix all the ingredients together. Rub on meat before grilling.
which is on the face of all the earth,
and every tree whose fruit yields seed;
to you it shall be for food.”