Celery Seed – The Smallage Marsh Plant
Celery seed is not the same as the celery plant that we eat. This plant is of the family Apiaceae also known as the parsley family, the botanical name is Apium graveolens. The plant is considered a hardy biennial marsh plant that also goes by the name smallage or wild celery. The plant is called celery seed because the dried light brown to khaki colored seeds have an odor that is reminiscent of celery stalks. The raw smallage plant is poisonous and it is the seeds that are actually used.
The plant is native to Southern Europe, The Near East, and the United States.
The plant was used by the Egyptians in medicines and for garlands. Due to its rank odor the Greeks and Romans associated the plant with death in their superstitions. The Italians breed out the extremely bitter taste by creating a milder version that was easier to use in culinary preparations.
The seeds are best purchased in their whole form. Since they are small they are often used without being ground in cooking. The ground seeds should be used quickly since they lose their potency quickly.
The seeds are often used as a salt with other herbs added to create the mixture such as parsley, dill and a 60% to 40% mixture of the seeds.
The seeds and the salt should be stored in an airtight package away from extremes of light, heat and humidity.
The strong flavor of the seed goes well in tomato and vegetable juices and alcoholic drinks such as the bloody Mary. They are also used in soups, stews, chutneys and pickles. They also go well with salad dressings, fish and eggs, and the seeds are great in commercial mixtures of other seasonings along with spices such as cinnamon, ginger, paprika, pepper and salt.
For other information on celery seed click on the link to Wikipedia.org
For some great sections on herbs and spices some great references are:
• The Spice and Herb Bible – Second Edition by Ian Hemphill with recipes by Kate Hemphill
• The Food Encyclopedia by Jacques L. Rolland and Carol Sherman with other contributors
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