Celery: Unveiling the Vegetable-Fruit Conundrum

Is celery a vegetable or a fruit?

Celery is a widely consumed plant that is often used in a variety of culinary applications. However, there may be some confusion regarding its classification as a vegetable or a fruit. In this article, we will look at the botanical aspects of celery and explore whether it is a vegetable or a fruit.

Vegetables and Fruits: An Overview

To understand the classification of celery, it is important to have a basic understanding of what constitutes a vegetable and a fruit. While these terms are commonly used in everyday language, their botanical definitions may differ.

What is a vegetable?

Botanically, vegetables include various edible parts of plants, which can include stems, leaves, roots, and even flowers. Unlike fruits, vegetables are not specifically the ovary or fruiting body of a plant designed for reproduction.
Some examples of vegetables include stalks such as rhubarb and lovage, leafy greens such as cabbage and lettuce, and root vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, and beets. In addition, certain plants such as asparagus can be classified as stems, while others such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower are considered vegetative or flowering buds.
When it comes to celery, it falls into the category of vegetables, specifically as a stalk, similar to rhubarb and lovage. In culinary applications, the stalks are used primarily, while the leaves of celery are often considered an herb for their aromatic properties.

What is a fruit?

Botanically, fruits are the mature, ripened ovaries of plants that develop from flowers. They contain seeds that are essential for the plant’s reproduction and propagation. Fruits are usually designed to be attractive to animals and birds, which consume them and help spread the seeds.
Unlike vegetables, fruits are characterized by a sweet or savory taste. The presence of visible seeds is a common indicator that a food is technically classified as a fruit. Fruits come in a variety of forms, such as berries, citrus fruits, pomes, stone fruits, and more.
Given the botanical definition of a fruit, celery does not fit into this category. When celery stalks or leaves are eaten, there are no visible or edible seeds in these parts. Celery seeds develop later, when the plant bolts and focuses on seed production.

The flavor and culinary uses of celery

Celery has a distinct taste and texture that can be polarizing to some. It has a slightly salty flavor, a mild yet strong flavor, and an earthy undertone similar to kale and lettuce. In addition, celery naturally contains a bit more sodium (salt) than other vegetables.
The texture of celery is crisp and crunchy. However, some people find the stringy parts of the celery stalk unpleasant and prefer to remove them before eating. Celery can be enjoyed raw or cooked, and the cooking process can enhance its flavor and texture.

Using Celery in the Kitchen

As a vegetable, celery is often used in savory dishes because of its inherent saltiness. Here are some popular and delicious ways to incorporate celery into your culinary repertoire:

  1. Base for soups, stocks and broths: In French cuisine, celery is a key ingredient in mirepoix, which consists of celery, onions, and carrots. The mirepoix mixture is often sautéed in butter or oil as the first step in many dishes, providing a basic flavor.
  2. Carrier for dips and sauces: Celery sticks make excellent containers for dips and sauces such as hummus, guacamole, baba ganoush, spinach dip, and ranch dressing. To keep celery fresh, wash and cut into 1-2 inch pieces and store in a container of water in the refrigerator.
  3. Garnish for cocktails: Celery’s natural saltiness and crunch make it a popular garnish for cocktails like Bloody Mary or Caesar. For an extra tangy twist, try pickling celery stalks.
  4. Ants on a log: A classic snack, celery is stuffed with peanut butter and raisins. The combination of rich peanut butter and sweet raisins complements the slightly salty and crunchy texture of celery.
  5. Celery Gratin: Celery can be used to create a delicious gratin dish traditionally made with potatoes. The crunchy, salty texture of celery pairs well with the creaminess of cheese.
  6. Cream of Celery Soup: Cream of celery soup is a savory option that brings out the distinct flavor of celery. Adding cream, garlic, salt and onion enhances the flavor.
  7. Waldorf salad: Celery can be a key ingredient in a Waldorf salad, which typically includes lettuce, celery, apples, grapes, walnuts, mayonnaise, lemon juice, sugar, and salt.


Is celery a fruit or a vegetable?

Celery is classified as a vegetable. It belongs to the Apiaceae family and is mainly used for its stalks in various culinary applications.

How can I tell if something is a vegetable or a fruit?

Botanically, vegetables are generally made up of different parts of the plant, such as stems, leaves and roots, while fruits are the mature ovaries of plants that contain seeds. If a food has visible seeds, it is more likely to be classified as a fruit.

Can celery be considered a herb?

While the leaves of celery are often referred to as an herb because of their aromatic properties, celery as a whole is classified as a vegetable. The stalks are the main part used in cooking and culinary preparations.

Does celery have visible or edible seeds?

When celery stalks or leaves are eaten, there are no visible or edible seeds in these parts. Celery seeds develop later when the plant bolts and concentrates on seed production.

What does celery taste like?

Celery has a slightly salty flavour with a mild but strong taste. It also has an earthy undertone, similar to kale and lettuce. Celery also has a distinct crunchy texture.

How can I use celery in cooking?

Celery can be used in a variety of culinary preparations. It serves as a base for soups, stocks and broths and is often used as a carrier for dips and sauces. Celery can also be enjoyed in salads, stir-fries and as a garnish for cocktails.