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Celery half-portions for small households.

How do grocers / produce packagers decide on products? I use celery only when making a new recipe that calls for it, typically needing 1 - 3 stalks. I'd really like to be able to buy a half portion of it, for half the price of a full 10-stalk package - i.e., under a dollar. When I get celery, I like having the leafy parts, including the small paler inner stalks for use in sauces/soups/garnish. My grocery stores often sell cut squash half or cut melon halves - why not a celery half?

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  1. IME the entire bundle is fairly cheap and lasts a good long while. I've had a bag of two celery hearts and it's still good 3 weeks later. Some stores sell precut stalks in water or diced celery in tubs but then you pay a higher premium.

    1. I learned this from fellow Chowhounds - and it works beautifully - wrap the whole bunch of celery tightly in aluminum foil - it keeps for a long time. Sorry, I can't help you with buying the smaller portion, but what you buy won't mostly end up in the trash.

      7 Replies
      1. re: jacquelyncoffey

        I'm not a celery fan, so a bunch lasts longer than I'd wish! I also do the tightly-wrapped-foil trick.

        Sometimes, though, I'll go to the salad bar/chopped veg area of my store & just buy small amts of chopped celery.

        1. re: jacquelyncoffey

          Interesting tip. I should try that to see if it helps, as I often find wilting celery in the fridge.

          Does this help with other produce too?

          1. re: vil

            If it is just wilting, cut off an end and place in a cup of ice water, it will crisp up again in no time. Also don't toss, save and freeze in you scraps bag for stock in the freezer.

            1. re: melpy

              I've never foil-wrapped and have my doubts that the foil is essential, because just putting it in a sealed plastic bag keeps it well for a couple of weeks, especially if you include a damp paper towel. After that, cutting off the bottoms and standing them in a container with a little water in the bottom, changed every few days, trimming ends now and then, will keep it going another few weeks. If the "vase" has no lid, cover with plastic wrap/bag snugged to the container exterior with a rubber band.

              Remember that exhaling into an almost-sealed bag of produce through a straw, then crimping the straw as you withdraw it and complete the seal will up the carbon dioxide, which will make the produce last better.

              1. re: greygarious

                The foil wrapping is all you need and the celery will last a lot longer than a couple of weeks. That's all you need to do, no trimming, no damp paper towels, vases etc.

              2. re: melpy

                Actually my celery tends to wilt (turn limp) and rot (turn into a funky texture and colour) at the same time...

                1. re: vil

                  I also keep mine in a celery keeper Tupperware that I inherited from my mother's kitchen.

          2. Some supermarkets in my area do offer loose, leafless celery stalks in addition to packaged bunches, but for what works out to a higher price per pound. They seem to be in areas where a high proportion of the customers are elderly.

            You can freeze celery that you will be using for stock-and- soup-making. It's limp when thawed, of course, but that makes no difference when it's going to be fully cooked, or discarded.

            2 Replies
            1. re: greygarious

              A local store does carry single stalks, but for the price of two, I can get a whole bunch at Aldie's. For the price of three, I can get the whole bunch at that grocer.

              I tend to use it up in soups.

              1. re: Clams047

                If I find I have a glut, I stuff sticks with cream cheese mixed with green olive, a bit of olive juice, and onion powder. Very 1970's and fattening, but so good. I'll have them for dinner.

            2. The good thing about celery is it'll keep a month or two in your fridge as long as you keep it dry and in the whole bunch (if it gets wet it rots, and cut ends dry up)... I rarely use it and only buy it three or four times a year, but we usually have some around.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Kajikit

                Ditto this- keep it dry and it lasts a while. I wrap the stalks in a paper towel (to absorb any moisture), then keep it in a sealed zip top bag. The celery in my fridge is about one month old and is still very crisp.

              2. I've always wondered this. I've NEVER in my life been able to use up a whole bunch of celery and I feel awful tossing it. I'd actually still pay full-price (a dollar) for half the product.

                Will have to try some of the tips listed here regarding the foil.

                1 Reply
                1. re: nothingswrong

                  What about making a big pot of soup with whatever veggie leftovers you have? I do that every couple of weeks and it is economical.

                2. In Japan, celery is sold by the individual stalk, or by the whole bunch. Pretty convenient. But whole bunches are not trimmed, so we always have to figure out what to do with the leafy tops.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Tripeler

                    The leafy tops are good chopped and added to chicken soup. I share the frustration that I don't need an entire bunch. One and only one market in my experience let me buy a few stalks.

                    1. re: Tripeler

                      Chop the tops and add them to stupor whatever you are cooking.

                    2. Typically, a full stalk of celery can last me a month. It's only .99.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: treb

                        A sleeve of celery was $1.85 last week. I used 2 stalks for soup. I've now frozen the center leafy party and top leafy portions for use in future cooking. I cut 2 stalks into 4 inch chunks and bagged those for use in the next couple of weeks. The rest got roasted last night for 40 minutes, topped with Italian Seasoned breadcrumbs mixed with butter for the last 10 minutes. It was still crunchy/stringy in places when I sampled. We'll see how that reheats.

                        1. re: MidwesternerTT

                          Well, that didn't work - we don't like roasted celery prepared that way any better than raw - texture/strings aren't appealing. Very finely diced is OK -- maybe I'll just use the blender and juice the leftover raw celery.

                          1. re: MidwesternerTT

                            I whiz up 2- 3 stalks of celery, a couple carrots, a few cloves of garlic and half onion and freeze it as soup starter.

                            1. re: MplsM ary

                              That's kinda brilliant. I've got all those components chopped and ready in the freezer but for sheer ease yours is fab. :)

                              And for Midwesterner, my celery goes as follows: half sliced for fresh celery sticks, leafy bits used fresh or frozen for soup, rest of stalks chopped crosswise and frozen for soups/stews/beans. The fresh sticks are eaten as-is or chopped further during the week for tuna salad, Waldorf salad, etc.

                            2. re: MidwesternerTT

                              On the strings--that's one of the reasons I'm not a fan. If the strings look really heavy, I'll do a light peel with the veg peeler--helps to remove the worst of the strings.

                              1. re: MidwesternerTT

                                I actually love celery in a stir-fry. I use a knife or peeler and get rid of most of the strings, then cut into slices on the diagonal. I add them last with a splash of soy and sesame oil and cook quick so they stay crunchy at the center

                          2. Loose celery stalks are sold in our area supermarkets, along with single loose carrots. The price is 99 cents per pound. Even when the price of carrots and celery varies, the price for loose remains unchanged (for the last 5 years).

                            I often buy just one or two stalks for a recipe.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: bagelman01

                              Nice. I would prefer to buy it by the pound, like habaneros.

                            2. Most groceries I've been to carry individual stalks but like others have said it does seem to last forever. I also have a Molly Stevens' braised celery dish that I like quite a lot.

                              1. Have you seen this idea? I haven't tried it yet but might because I feel ya - I rarely eat celery raw, and actually prefer leafy bits in terms of the applications I use it for, basically adding a bit of flavour to stock, soups and stews. So I keep it around in the bottom of the crisper until it starts to rot a bit, then replace, hardly ever using up the whole thing.


                                1 Reply
                                1. re: julesrules

                                  Make a veggie broth in the slow cooker with whatever celery, carrots or carrot tops, onion, etc... you didn't use for a couple of weeks. Let it go all day. So good.

                                2. Our local grocery stores sell celery already chopped in smaller amounts in plastic tubs. I just never buy it because it's kind of a rip off vs. just buying it whole. It's easy to save excess celery in the freezer for stocks.

                                  1. Such questions inevitably come down to economics.

                                    1. It cost the grocer money to re-pack so you can't expect the same price as a whole bunch. How about cream of celery soup (you can use frozen celery) or braised as a side vegetable....yummy!

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: zackly

                                        True this - it's usually packaged in the field. Keeping the bunch intact makes it last longer, since the cut ends dry out more quickly. Ideally, they could breed smaller celery for those of us who like the occasional taste but don't want a whole bunch (I believe it's the entire plant minus the roots, but I've never grown celery).

                                        Otherwise, freezing works well for soups. If you have some stalks on the limp side, try soaking them in acidulated water (vinegar or lemon juice in cold water) for an hour or so to see if they revive.

                                        1. re: tardigrade

                                          The head of celery that you buy is indeed the whole plant. I grow celery every year.

                                      2. I go through spells where I really like to eat it, and it's nice when that craving coincides with some soup-making or other activity calling for celery. But I agree, it's too bad that stalks aren't more commonly sold by the pound.

                                        As for the suggestion of wrapping it in foil, I don't dare do that with anything I'll be keeping for a while, unless it's something virtually immortal like persimmon pudding. Any perishable item wrapped in foil in my fridge tends to become invisible until the vegetable or whatever it is rots and starts leaking!

                                        I think what I need to do is simply come up with recipes for stuff I like that will reliably eat up half a bunch or better. Cream of celery soup, for instance. I even like the canned version, and homemade is so much better!

                                        1. When I need only a small amount of a vegetable, I always check the salad bar. Often it is there, and celery is on almost every grocery salad bar I've seen. The price per pound is much greater than buying the whole veggie but the cost for a 1/4 cup is quite reasonable.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: missybean

                                            I'm fortunate to live in a large city, but small town grocery stores don't have a salad bar. I agree that it's a strategy that at least avoids waste, even if the cost is more per pound than steak.

                                          2. In a world so rich in peanut butter, pimento cheese spread, peppercorn ranch dip ... how can such a thing as "leftover celery" even exist???

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: chowyadoin99

                                              Seriously, we go through at least one bunch every 2 weeks. Often more.

                                            2. I don't often use celery up fast so here's my approach:

                                              • I fish out all the leafy stuff I can and put that in a large sieve so it can dry. I save it to season soups, etc as an herb. I use it like parsley. I love that flavor which is just a little "greener" than celery itself.

                                              • Then I cut across the whole head to get "chopped" celery

                                              • I take ribs rom the outside of what remains for snacking

                                              • The sturdy "stump o' celery" that goes back in the fridge is more hearty than the parts I've already used. It won't bend up in response to gravity or light. It won't wilt easily. So I can go back to that, slice off the browned scar and cut off more "chopped" celery for even a couple weeks

                                              • When I get down to a couple inches from the base, that goes in stocks. Does the same thing as ribs but is sooo much easier to fish out of the finished stock. But, before I put it in the pot, I cut off the base if it's a generous size. I cut the scar off the bottom of that and trim the sides. This is the *best* part of all for me. It has the third sweet and nutty "root" flavor of celery and I love it.

                                              • Finally, if some part gets too old to bother with I toss it unashamedly. Celery isn't that expensive and I have a compost pile. ;>

                                              PS It will last longer, however you use it, if you wrap it in a damp paper towel before putting it in your fridge.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: rainey

                                                The delicate middle is fantastic for snacking.

                                              2. All grocers I shop at sell celery stalks individually (more $/lb) as well as intact. They don't do that where you live ?

                                                5 Replies
                                                  1. re: LotusRapper

                                                    No - I can sometimes get chopped celery from the salad bar ($6 / lb.) or celery hearts cut/prepped for a relish tray. But not a single stalk with leafy top.

                                                    1. re: LotusRapper

                                                      Interesting! I get single carrots (only at Whole Foods) but have never seen a single celery stalk.

                                                      1. re: mels

                                                        Sure is. It's very common here in supermarkets.

                                                      2. I know some people don't like the hearts, which is the whole point of celery to me ... would be great to split bunches with someone who wants the stalks. I want the whole heart, though, so a cut bunch wouldn't work for me. (I give the extra stalks to my dogs--part of the food I make for them.)

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: foiegras

                                                          I use the hearts for mirepoix. Dice 'em up with carrots and onions, toss in some olive oil (to protect from freezer burn), put into small Ziploc bags and freeze them. Handy for making soups when dinner prep is behind schedule.

                                                        2. Maybe grocers are listening MidTT. The last few grocery stores I've been to celery hearts and smaller celery bunches were for sale along with full larger stalks. Not sold at a premium either, just a much smaller bunch. And if you prefer celery hearts (as I do) that portion is much easier to buy now.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: HillJ

                                                            Cool! I'll look again at my stores.

                                                          2. Part of the problem may be the celery you are buying. For years I had wilted celery after only a few days in the fridge. I tried all the tricks, and eventually came up with the frozen veggie stock starter to solve the problem. In truth, the problem was the everyday prepackaged celery I had been buying.

                                                            Once I started buying celery at the co-op and Whole Foods, my celery woes disappeared. Of course all the normal things to check - not too spotty, feels heavy, the stalks are strong and straight. The trick is to look at the root end. The less brown at the root, I've found, the longer my celery seems to keep. I routinely have celery last a good three weeks in the fridge.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: MplsM ary

                                                              We don't particularly like celery, which is why I want to only occasionally get a small portion for use in a specific new recipe. A longer lasting full plant taking up space in my veggie drawer for a month isn't my goal. I'm seeking a once (OK, maybe twice) & done solution. Where are cute "miniature" vegetables when you really need them - a celery with pencil-sized stalks would be fine with me.

                                                              1. re: MidwesternerTT

                                                                Totally understand. Ooh - baby celery sounds like a great idea!

                                                            2. Reminds me of an old joke.
                                                              A clerk is stocking the produce section and is approached by a little old man.
                                                              "This head of lettuce is too much for just me. Can I buy just a half a head?"
                                                              "I'm sorry sir, we don't sell half heads of lettuce."
                                                              "Could you check with the manager?"
                                                              So,rolling his eyes off the clerk goes and finds the manager....
                                                              "Some cantankerous old idiot wants to know if we could sell him a half head of lettuce....."
                                                              And then notices the old man standing right behind him.
                                                              "And, this fine gentleman has offered to buy the other half!"

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