Thursday, July 13, 2006

Apium graveolens dulce

Celery (Apium graveolens dulce) © Fir0002or Celery to you and me.

I have, this week, been eating a lot of celery. This is entirely Mark's fault, as on Tuesday he had an attack of healthy eating and amongst the other fruit and vegetables he brought to work there was a bag of Sainsbury's Celery Hearts.

Now I like celery as much as the next man, but it had been quite a few years since I just went all rabbit (not rabid!) and munched on a stick of celery. Well by the end of the day I had consumed a rather lot of celery. As it happens, Quite by chance, I went to Sainsbury's today to purchase lunch and lo and behold I what greeted with an overabundance of Celery in the fresh fruit aisle? Not just any celery mind, Sainsbury's Celery, grown in Norfolk; probably by a chap called 'William Henry'.

Anyway back to the celery. Some less than intensive searching led me to discover the following tit bits of information.
  1. There is a widespread popular etymology that the word celery ("The Fast Vegetable") derives from the Latin word, celer, meaning fast or swift. This is entirely false — there is no connection between them. It actually comes from the Greek selinon, meaning parsley. A reference to selinon is found in Homer's Odyssey. The word celeri is found as early as a 9th century poem proclaiming the merits and medicinal uses of the plant, written in France or Italy.
  2. The wild form of celery is known as smallage.
  3. For something that most people think of as mostly fibre and water, celery has a suproisingly high amount of Vitamin C, Potassium, Folate, Molybdenum & (no surprises here) Dietary Fibre.
  4. Celery contains a number of active compounds that promote health, these include phalides, (reputed to help lower cholesterol), and coumarins, (reputed to help prevent cancer).
  5. There are many specialists that consider celery to be a very important agent in the growth of the sexual potency.
Having now had an opportunity to sample both of Sainsbury's offerings I am in a position to offer a definitive opinion and comparative review.
Sainsbury's Celery Hearts
Presentation: 12/20
Freshness: 16/20
Flavour: 27/30
Texture: 27/30
Total: 82/100

The packaging was adequate, it is a bit plain and I'm sure that Marks and Spencer's would have done a better job at it. Sainsbury's Celery Hearts look like celery should, light green and glaucous. There is a lovely semi-transparency to the celery which makes it very attractive. On opening the bag there was a waft of celery scent which titillated the senses and made consumption an almost primal urge [I was quite hungry at the time]. From the very first bite to the last the Sainsbury's Celery Hearts were a joy to chew, not particularly fibrous, with a propensity to almost dissolve in the mouth. The outer stalks had a higher water content than the inner stalks and there was a gradual increase in flavour as I made my way towards the core which was quite pleasurable. All in all the Sainsbury's Celery Hearts were a pleasure to munch upon.
Sainsbury's Celery
Presentation: 10/20
Freshness: 16/20
Flavour: 14/30
Texture: 12/30
Total: 52/100

Sainsbury's Celery is a little lower on the produce pecking order than the Sainsbury's Celery Hearts. They are a bit cheaper and this is reflected in the packaging. If the Celery Hearts packaging was a bit plain, the Sainsbury's Celery packaging was downright dowdy, although advertising where the product was grown was a nice touch. Visually the standard Sainsbury's Celery looks a bit agricultural. The stalks looked quite green and solid (a bit like Norfolk farmers) and not immediately appealing. On opening the bag there was a mildly acrid odour which was not very appealing. The stalks of celery were also quite dirty and they needed rigorous cleaning to remove the last vestiges of Norfolk soil. The very first bite was like biting into a woven basket. The fibres could easily have been used as an alternative to wicker. Unpleasant does not quite describe the sensation. The acrid smell developed into an acrid taste after a few chews. A bit like the flavour of burned rubber (Please don't ask how I know what burned rubber tastes like - I won't tell!). Moving inwards only accentuated the flavour and I must admit I did not eat much more as I couldn't bear it.

On balance given that the Sainsbury's Celery Hearts only costs a little more than the Sainsbury's Celery; anyone presented with the option should really only purchase the Sainsbury's Celery Hearts. If you have a recipe that requires celery and only the Sainsbury's Celery is available I would recommend shopping somewhere else, or changing the menu. It is edible, and should you find yourself stranded on an island with no other source of sustenance it would do the job, however if you have any respect for your tongue, stomach and intestines then you should really avoid the Sainsbury's Celery, at least the Norfolk variety.


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