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ISO ways to salvage a particularly bitter bunch of celery

I buy supermarket celery, and don't mind when it is slightly bitter, though I prefer the milder stalks. I like the leaves in salads and for cooking.

For the first, and perhaps last, time, a couple of weeks ago I bought a large, plump bunch of local celery at the last farmer's market of the season here near Boston. At home, I removed almost all the leafed stem-lets and bagged them separately. I trimmed the root end, halved the stalks crosswise, and put them into water in a large straight-sided lidded glass jar. The leaves and stalks are by far the most bitter celery I have ever encountered. Using a sweet dressing makes the leaves barely edible, but I haven't cooked with them for fear of ruining the stock or soup.

I tried eating the raw stalks. Normally I do not de-string celery but this stuff demands it. It's almost impossible to bite through the strings, and when I peel them, I get the whole outer layer of the stalk coming off, not just thin strings. The lighter part that remains is only slightly less bitter than the exterior.

Will steaming, stir-frying, or any other method of cooking mellow the celery? I suspect that even if I added something sweet like honey, or put it in a sweet marinade, the bitterness would still be overpowering. I don't want to ruin a bunch of other ingredients but would hate to throw the celery out if I can salvage it.

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  1. Will sautéing work, like it does onions, perhaps?

    2 Replies
    1. re: salsailsa

      That's what I want to know before wasting the effort. Will cooking - whether saute, braise, steam, or whatever - make enough of a difference to turn it into something edible?

      1. re: greygarious

        I have no idea if cooking it would make a difference. I have another experiment to try. Put something flavored into the water with the raw stalks and see if it will absorb that flavor and mask some of the bitterness. I'd try lemon juice.

    2. You could try brasing. Saveur had a recipe onlive recently that I've been meaning to try. I couldn't be simpler. All that's in it is onion, pancetta, celery and tomatoes.

      1. Do you have Molly Stevens All About Braising? If not here's a link to a braised celery recipe that I've fixed several times:


        1. Swizzle sticks for Bloody Mary. ~ To cook with it, par boil for a few minutes and then incorporate into the dish. If that doesn't work have another, and another Bloody Mary. There's always file 13.

          1. I roasted celery for the first time this year along with some parsnip, carrot and onion. It was really surprisingly good! I tried it because I was low on other ingredients and my celery was needing to be used up. It definitely sweetened it up. It was roasted with maple syrup and Dijon. Here is the recipe I used.


            1. Stirrer for Bloody Mary.

              1. Braise the celery in a simple tomato sauce with cured pork or parmesan cheese. The celery will mellow out but have enough flavor to contrast with the umami-rich sauce.

                1. I would recommend sauteeing them. If you're happy with the results, proceed with whatever you want to do with them. And report back so we'll know. I love a good crunchy celery stick but once in a while I'll get some that are just too bitter to eat raw. I've never noticed a problem with any I've cooked though.

                  I am curious if you always prep and store celery this way. If so, how long does it stay fresh? I like to keep some prepped and ready to snack on but they start browning on the ends within a couple of days.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: MrsJonesey

                    I braised some of the celery last night, in white zinfandel, with onion and honey dijon mustard. The bitterness was curbed dramatically, so I am no longer hesitant to use the remaining stalks in mirepoix and other cooking. Thanks for all the suggestions!

                    As for storing, I keep it in its plastic sleeve in the crisper if it's a smaller bunch that I know I'll be using up within a couple of weeks. I have often read that wrapping the bunch in aluminum foil (not sure whether that includes the plastic sleeve) keeps it for weeks, but have not tried it. I do store it in a "vase" arrangement on a regular basis. I change the water every few days, and trim a sliver off the submerged ends. The tops do develop a sliver of brown at the rim but less than when the stalks aren't in water.

                    1. re: greygarious

                      That is good to know. Thanks for reporting back.

                      I have heard several people swear by the aluminum foil wrap. I tried it just recently and couldn't tell that it helped at all. I am beginning to wonder if celery lasts longer during certain parts of the year. Anyway, I put some celery sticks in water and covered with a plastic bag yesterday. I've been doing this for a while now with asparagus and broccoli when I bring them home and they do stay fresher longer.