Thursday, 13 May 2010

Discover: Chinese Celery

Chinese Celery, a.k.a. Gin Cai, Kun Choy, Kan Tsoi, Oriental Celery, Chinese Small Celery, Seri-Na (Jan.) can be divided into two categories, namely Green Chinese celery and White Chinese celery. 

Green Chinese Celery is taller, with green petioles, high yielding, and more aromatic. Green Chinese celery can be divided into Solid Chinese celery, which has solid petioles and Hollow Chinese celery with a hollow core inside the petiole. Solid Chinese celery is slow bolting and tolerant to storage and shipment. Hollow Chinese celery is easy bolting in spring, but tolerant to heat and suitable for summer cropping.

White Chinese celery has yellowish white or white petioles with green leaves. Popular in some southern parts of China. 

Chinese celery is the same species as the European variety most people in the West are familiar with, namely Apium graveolens, but it has a number of important differences. 
  • Chinese celery has much thinner stalks and a stronger taste than its European relative. 
  • It can range in color from white to dark green. 
  • Chinese celery is rarely served raw, but is a common ingredient in cooked Chinese and Vietnamese dishes.

Celery is an ancient plant with a long history of use in China, where it has appeared in cuisine since at least the Han Dynasty (206 BCE to 220 CE). Chinese celery is closer than European celery to the wild variety, called smallage. It looks and tastes more like an herb, somewhat like parsley.

Chinese Celery has thin stalks which are crispy, and both the stalks and the leaves may be added to cooked dishes. The seeds of the plant are also used in cuisine and in traditional Chinese medicine. Chinese celery can be used dried as well as fresh to add flavor to food.

Chinese celery grows best in a cold climate, 60-75 F. Plants may need shading if grown in warm summer season. Seeds are very small and seed generation can be erratic. Several unique characteristics are observed for the seed germination - germinating best in cold condition (50-60 F) but poorly in higher temperature; germinating best with seeds uncovered and in the light. Soil should be kept moist during the seed germination and seedling growth stage. Given good open weather, sowing to maturity can be as little as ten weeks.

When harvesting Chinese celery, look for crisp stems and fresh, vibrant leaves. Do not choose celery with any yellowing or wilted portions. Before cooking, wash the celery and remove the tough outer strings. It can be stored in the refrigerator in a well-sealed plastic bag for weeks.

While all celery is good for the health, being rich in iron, potassium, and vitamins A, B1, B2, C, and D, Chinese celery is said to have a number of medicinal benefits. Warm Chinese celery juice is traditionally used to cure jaundice and low fever. It is a diuretic and may be used to promote healthy urination, as well as to replace electrolytes when a person is dehydrated. Chinese celery has also been used to treat such various conditions as high blood pressure, rheumatism, digestive problems, and scurvy.

Celery seed
Culinary Celery Seed is the dried fruit of any of the varieties of Apium graveolens, of which Chinese Celery is just one variety. These small, brownish-green seeds have a flavor similar to celery combined with fennel or anise. 
  • Celery seed is popular in German, Russian and Indian cooking.
  • Celery seed is particularly useful when you want to add a celery flavor to a cooked dish when the crispy crunch of the actual vegetable is undesired.
  • The principal celery seed importers are India, China and, to a lesser extent, France. 
  • Indian celery seed has the strongest flavor and is lighter-colored than the mild-tasting, dark-hued French variety. 
  • Chinese celery seed has a flavor that falls in the middle between the Indian and French seeds.
  • Celery seed is so small that it takes about 750,000 to make a pound.

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