Is celery burn normal?
January 28, 2008 5:38 PM   Subscribe

Sometimes celery tastes fresh and watery, and sometimes it has a slightly bitter taste and a lightly spicy/burning aftertaste. Is the light bitterness/burn normal or is this a product of chemicals/pesticides (or something else entirely)?
posted by Alabaster to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
In my experience biitter celery stalks mean that the stalk has been exposed to too much light during development. Normally celery is tied up when approaching maturity so that the internal stalks get starved of light (blanched) and this makes sure that these stalks aren't bitter. if this hasn't been done properly then the stalks will taste bitter. We have celery growing in the garden as a weed, and all we can do with it is use small amounts finely chopped for stock/flavouring because it's too bitter to use as normal.
posted by singingfish at 6:04 PM on January 28, 2008

I've grown celery. Some of it is yummy and some of it is really bitter and strong and nearly inedible. I've never been able to determine what causes the change, but I've always suspected it's either weather conditions (a freeze, say) or age.

So, it could be natural. But if you're really worried, by some organic celery and compare.
posted by mudpuppie at 6:19 PM on January 28, 2008

My wife claims all celery burns which is why she refuses to eat it. She can even taste the burn in foods that I didn't even (until checking) know had celery in them.
posted by schwa at 6:37 PM on January 28, 2008

Celery does have spice. Some regions put celery salt on hot dogs, for example.

I would guess it's got to do with different strains of the plant as well. My experience has been that the smaller ones are ickier.
posted by gjc at 7:22 PM on January 28, 2008

If celery isn't a little spicy, I consider it bland and pointless. Huh.
posted by desuetude at 7:39 PM on January 28, 2008

It could be the type, or it could be the growing time. I know that when lettuce isn't picked soon enough, it "bolts" and gets a bitter taste.
posted by coollibrarian at 7:47 PM on January 28, 2008

I get throat burn/prickliness from celery and bananas when I haven't eaten them in a long time.
posted by rhizome at 7:54 PM on January 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Celery should have a fresh spicy assertiveness, especially the leaves, which serve well in fish soups and stews. Any petrochemichal or poison taste would of course be reason not to eat it.
posted by longsleeves at 7:58 PM on January 28, 2008

I have never eaten celery that wasn't bitter and/or suffered a chemical kind of flavor. Just a data point: any celery I've eaten in the past five years is organic, so make of that what you will.

I should add that this is only an issue in raw celery. If it's used in stock or cooked in any way, that flavor goes away. I've always figured it was a response similar to what some people get with cilantro.
posted by rocketman at 8:24 PM on January 28, 2008

My neighbour torments her celery by growing it in the dark under rinsed milk cartons. The stalks emerge sunlessly as pale vegetable goths at harvest time, but have less of the bite.
posted by Sallyfur at 2:43 AM on January 29, 2008

Last time we were in Lancaster, PA, we found a stand at the farmer's market that sold celery--that's it, celery. You could buy it whole, or just the stalks, or just the tops. Intrigued (I mean, celery as a specialty product?), we bought some stalks. They were pure white, extraordinarily tender, and with no spicy bite at all, just sweet and tasty. I don't know what the folks did to make it that way, but it must be documented out there in Google-land somewhere.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:44 AM on January 29, 2008

Not sure if it's related, but there are naturally occurring chemicals in celery (particularly when it's been damaged or diseased) that have caused adverse reactions in some people.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 7:30 AM on January 29, 2008

I've grown it, and like other vegetables that we prefer to eat in their tender stages (lettuce, basil, asparagus), it gets tougher and spicier as it reaches reproductive maturity, ie. bolting. Hot weather, cold weather, drought, nutritional deficiencies, or any other sort of stress encourages this state. Bolting changes the chemical composition of the plant as it's focus changes to producing seed, and the plants will become tougher and more strongly flavored.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:28 PM on January 29, 2008

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