Celery, good for you in so many ways. It was used as medicine in ancient times, and is finally being accepted as a healthy choice as a snack.March is a month-long celebration of celery, so here’s what you need to know about this often overlooked veggie.

Celery has been consumed by humans for a long time now. It’s that vegetable that we grab at the store, because we were taught to by our parents or grandparents, and then it lives in the crisper (the vegetable drawer) long past its expiration date (value of vitamins), until it goes limp and brown and finally gets thrown away. Why is celery purchased then ignored? Deep in our genetic bones we know that celery IS good for us. At some level we know that if we eat it, we are helping our bodies in some way.

Several thousand years ago celery was given as medicine, not food. At some point along the human journey celery was incorporated into our meals. It showed up in soups and stews (probably as a filler during lean times). It was eaten with other vegetables until finally, in modern times, it ended up as a permanent resident on the veggie platter. You know the one put together by the grocery store cooks, then purchased and brought to every sports gathering or movie watching party. It is consumed alongside carrots with Buffalo wings because it helps cool down the burn and the bite of Franks Hot Sauce (the sauce most Buffalo wings are tossed with).

Finally, celery has its own soup: Cream of Celery. And while I have not developed a vegan version of this soup (no call for it yet), it would be pretty easy to swap out the milk and heavy cream for soy milk, coconut milk, or almond milk, or a mixture of these things, and then blend with vegetable stock and cooked celery and onions. Add salt, pepper, paprika, saffron or other spices, and you’ve got yourself a tasty bowl of soup loaded with anti-carcinogens and lots of vitamins including, A, K and B12 (an ever elusive vitamin for vegans to obtain).

Our ancestors had it right to give celery as a medicine. Modern science is starting to prove that they weren’t as primitive as originally thought. Being able to notice that foods keep you healthy is an astute observation, and one our ailing, over-medicated society can strive towards once again. I’m not advocating letting go of all medicine, but certainly incorporating a healthy diet into one’s daily routine can be beneficial.

In addition to the vitamins listed above, celery also contains calcium, iron and magnesium (to name a few minerals). It acts as a diuretic and can help people with arthritis because it helps pull uric acid out of the body. That means less joint trouble.

So the next time you reach for that bunch of celery, remember these things:

  • Don’t leave it in the drawer for longer than 5-7 days. That’s the shelf life of the vitamins contained in celery.
  • Cooking it for less time also helps keep the good stuff alive, just like cabbage.
  • And it’s ok to put peanut butter on it, or any other nut butter, if you want to be nostalgic. This little treat is called Ants on a Log. Cut up celery, slather peanut butter in it, then place raisins on the top. Kids love it and it’s a fun treat for a party.