Tips For Preparing, Cleaning, and Storing Celery { Ask the Readers}

A few weeks ago I received an email from a reader that I knew would be perfect for an Ask the Readers question. You see it involves celery and celery is right up there on my list of least favorite foods.

In fact, celery is probably in the top ten of least favorite foods for me. And really I have no idea why except that it tastes like dirt. Not that I really know what dirt tastes like, but it has that dirty type taste to me. It also has a bitter taste. Add the stringy texture and that makes it even worse. Just keeping it real for you all.

I know many people love it raw, in salad, or with peanut butter or another filling, but not me. I know it is healthy. It is also the base for many recipes especially in the south and creole type cooking.

I just leave it out, yes, yes I do……

In fact, I don’t think I have any recipes on this site that contain celery. Yes, I know that is bad, but really I don’t use it. I can’t remember the last time I even bought it. I think it was quite a few years ago for a homeschool project, so it was not even to eat.

When it comes to tips for using celery I am clueless. So, I am hoping some of you can help this reader with her celery question.

What is the best way to clean celery? I usually use a veg brush, but it’s time consuming & what about all those strings? I’m sure there is an easier way. Also can you freeze it for later use in recipes? I hate to waste food, but celery often gets thrown away in my house because it goes bad. Thanks for any advice you can give me.

Do you have any tips for cleaning and storing celery? 

Lynn's Kitchen Adventures


  1. I think you have the method! I do have some hints for getting it used up. We have salad almost every day. On a new stalk, I run water over the top. It’s usually not too dirty. Clip off the leaves and chop for adding to my salad. I do this with the nice little inner parts, too. We also have raw veggies every day. Break off a rib or two and use the vegetable brush. Fill with peanut butter or cheese spread (we get alouette 1/2 off). Cut into bite size pieces. For later use in cooked dishes: chop and saute or blanch and put into freezer bags.

    • I noticed that several do not like the taste of celery so here is a tip I got from a chef on t.v.:
      The lighter the celery, in color, the better it is raw. The darker celery should be used for cooking. What a difference in taste? I also de-string my celery and have received many compliments on my raw celery.
      I plan to try the foil idea soon.

  2. I do not like the taste of celery that has been frozen and thawed…and it doesn’t keep the crunch. As for washing, cut the bottom off the entire stalk, under running cool water put your thumb in the groove(don’t really know how to describe this) and fingers around the other side and pull down, shake excess water off and lay on papertowel, when you have cleaned all the ribs bunch them up in the papertowel and put in a zip top bag. The paper towel which is damp will keep the ribs crisp and from drying out. When you want to use and want to get rid of the strings take a veggie peeler to the rib.

  3. They say if you wrap it in foil it stays good for a long time. I haven’t tried it personally but many have and say it works.
    Sure you can freeze it for later use after washing and cutting to desired size.
    I don’t use a brush to wash it unless there is a lot of dirt on the side with the strings – it gets in the grooves and be hard to remove completely. I just use my hands and rub the dirt off under running warm water.
    Too remove the strings try using peeler like you use on potatoes and carrots it works well. I just use a paring knife starting from the top, grab the strings between knife and thumb pull down slowly or it could break continue pulling down to the end of the rib. Note: The whole thing you buy is the stalk each piece is a rib.

  4. Cheryl Newton says:

    Wrapping it in foil does work. I was skeptical too at first, but encase it in foil and it keeps for weeks.

  5. Brandette W. says:

    Good question! I buy celery mainly to add to recipes, I don’t eat it raw. Sometimes I cut some up for my husband’s lunches, he will eat it. But, I too always found that the celery would go bad in my crisper drawer before I usually got through it all. In the trash it went and off to the store I would go to get a fresh one for upcoming recipes requiring it.

    A couple weeks back I read about the foil trick and decided to try it because I hate wasting stuff. I am very happy to report that this works wonderfully! I leave the celery together and in it’s plastic bag from the grocery store. I then take the whole thing and wrap it tightly in a large piece of foil. Back into the crisper it goes and it hasn’t gone bad yet. I am on the last of the stalks and just bought a new bag tonight. I wrapped the new bag up in foil too to safely wait in my fridge until I need it.

    I definitely didn’t think this easy trick would work. But it so does. It keeps the celery crisp and from going bad. Mine would always just become a watery mush, now it stays crisp for so long.

  6. My Gran says that if you take it out of the plastic and wrap it in foil before you put it in the fridge it will last a long time.

  7. My husband’s cousin, a former Army cook, taught me a wonderful trick years ago. He would wash the entire stalk, and then, fos that had it chopped finely, he would hold the entire stalk vertically and make several parallel cuts into the top of the entire stalk, held together tightly, about an inch deep. Turn the stalk 90 degrees and do the same thing. Then he’d lay it on the chopping block and, using a very sharp knife, cut through the entire stalk, producing the size pieces desired. Much to my surprise, I could absolutely not even tell that he had not taken the strings off! But when the strings are 1/8″ long or so, you never notice them!

  8. After I clean the celery I cut off the leafy ends, chop them and put them in freezer bag for soups. Into the freezer the bag goes, I do label and date the bag.

  9. There is absloutely nothing wrong with separating the stalks of celery and washing them under the tap water. Also I will soak celery in a sink of cold water before washing it. This is good to re-crispen it using cold water. Drain well and wrap in foil. As JD says it can be chopped and frozen for vegetable soup. My mother and mother in law both used this method(where I learned it), and I have been doing this for 40 years. I can’t imagine homemade chicken salad or tuna salad without celery! Regarding those strings, a vegetable peeler works wonders.

  10. Wow, that foil trick sounds neat. I’m going to have to try it. As for cleaning, I like to chop off the end of the stalk and run the ribs under cold water, rubbing any dirt off with my thumb. Then drain, dry, and cut into the size you need. I usually leave the strings, but you can strip them out fairly easily if you catch them between a knife blade and your thumb. Frozen celery loses it’s crunch so I never freeze it.

  11. Yes, wrap it in foil completely after cleaning and it will keep a long time in the refrigerator. Works with lettuce too–at least some cut butter lettuce I bought from Trader Joe’s.

  12. I dry mine, I slice it and put it in a dryer. It keeps for a long time so I can use it through the year in several food dishes.

  13. Betty Sievert says:

    Celery, oh my. I can’t imagine cooking without celery. I love the taste it imparts to salads, chicken and tuna salad, soups, and raw. Love, love, love me some celery. However, my family hates it! I have to hide it in the food. Put in in the food processor and hide it in spaghetti sauce and meatloaves and such. They don’t hate the taste, just the texture and appearance. How do you make potato salad or macaroni salad without celery? It kinda tastes naked without it to me. I have learned to dice it up micro small. I refuse not to use it, so if I dice it up small enough they will eat it without trying to pick it out or spend the meal fussing about celery. I grew up in West Virginia, I never saw a day that one of my mother’s kids sat down at her table and said “Eww, I don’t like that.” I follow her example. I’ll cook, you will eat. Nuff said. I didn’t know about the aluminum foil trick. I will definitely try that!
    Betty Sue

  14. I had never heard of using foil; I’m going to have to try that. Once mine starts getting limp I always trim it and cut it to fit into a container which I then fill with water and put back in the fridge. Keeps for a couple of weeks if you change the water once in a while. Foil sounds easier :)

    I have also read that if you cut off the bottom of the stalk and plant it, it will grow (as will anything from the onion family, and ginger root)… just harvest what you need and it will keep growing. Have not given this a shot yet but it’s on my “need to try” list.

  15. These are all great ideas, I just thought I would add that if you have left over celery leaves and you have a guinea pig or rabbit, they absolutely love celery leaves!! I have to buy extra celery just so my guinea pig is happy! He cant have them all because I use them in stocks as well.

  16. Last summer I read about planting the end of celery in your garden. I tried it with a stalk I bought at the store and it did grow. The plant requires A LOT of water so mine never grew to the point of being able to harvest ribs but I am going to try it again this year.

  17. I can’t believe you do not buy celery. You are missing that important rite that I observe. Buy celery, store in fridge, throw away rotten celery.

  18. Rebecca R. says:

    I have done the foil for a long time, since I usually only use celery in a few recipes. It keeps a lot longer. I would add one more thing…I remove all the leafy parts BEFORE wrapping in foil. That seems to extend the life even further…as you know, the leafy areas have more moisture and get soggy faster, so removing them helps to retain the crispness longer! I too think raw celery tastes bitter, but have often wondered if organic celery would taste differently? Has anyone tried both to know if there is a taste difference? We do not get organic, as with a family of 11 on a grocery budget of $100 a week, there is not money for that! :-)

    • Kay Deely says:

      Yes. Since I first tried organic, I don’t buy anything else. It’s much sweeter tasting. I’ve also noticed that anything organic seems to keep longer, too. Even though I live alone now, on a fixed income, I watch for sales and by wrapping it in foil I can buy several stalks and they keep a long time.
      The lighter the celery is, the less bitter.
      Thanks for the tip about the leaves.

  19. I’m just another voice here, echoing many thoughts left. I really like celery, and like someone else said, can’t imagine not having it for certain recipes. I’m out right now, and can’t wait till I get to town again so I can make some favorite recipes. :-)
    I’m 100% convinced of the foil method. IT WORKS!!! Make sure it’s completely wrapped, allowing no air in. Lasts for weeks. I, too, take the strings off quickly with a knife blade, starting at the top, pinching it tween my thumb and blade.

    • Adding to my post, I also wanted to say that when it comes to using cream of soups, I generally prefer cr. of celery above mushroom. It adds a such a great flavor. And, to be honest, my children do not care for the bits of mushroom in the soup. :-)

    • I know, I think I am one of the few that don’t like it. :-) The foil trick is new to me, so I am glad to know it works.

  20. Jen @ Happy Little Homemaker says:

    I just use my fingers under water to clean celery. I’ve never found it to be super dirty, but I’ve never grown it either :). I’ve heard that you can use a veg peeler to get rid of some of the strings if eating raw but I haven’t tried it yet. I DO know that you can chop up celery and freeze for use in soups, casseroles, and such. I probably wouldn’t try to freeze it to eat uncooked.

  21. julie hart says:

    I take the whole veggie and chop off the bottom and top (get most of the leaves of). separate the stalks and run water over them. I either chop some in little pieces and freeze them. I use that for recipes where you are going too cook them and the crunch is not needed. the remaining stalks I store submerged in a long container so they are standing up, in the fridge. they last a long time in water.

  22. Sometimes our store runs a terrific sale on celery, and being one to never pass up a sale on something we regularly use, I tried to think of ways to keep my celery. ( I will have to try the foil trick to keep the fresh celery!)

    But sometimes, I have purchased so much, I will saute some onions, celery and carrots in butter. Cool the mixture and freeze in batch sized containers. This mirepoix is the basis for so many of my recipes, and all I have to do is pull the frozen container from the freezer and voila – one preparation step saved!

  23. Lynn, I have found the best way to clean celery and keep it would be to start with a good fresh stalk. I then cut the bottom off, wash each piece individually, and wrap it in a piece of damp paper towel then store in a zip lock bag opened in the crisper. The towel will keep the freshness in it without having to soak it in cold water to revivie it. If you have problems with the strings, just use a potatoe peeler to “de-string” the celery stalks. I personally love the flavor of celery. And I use it in a lot of my dishes. I can keep it for up to a month if it was fresh when I started.
    I hope this helps.

  24. Susan CsiszerSue says:

    I clean my celery by taking off the bottom of the stalk, just a little off and then separate the stalks. I trim the stalks just a tiny bit on top to remove the dryness. I then cut the ‘arms’ away from the stalk. Take a knife and hold the celery ribbed side out or in depending if you are left or right handed. Take a partial slice from the tip and stop the knife at the edge of the ribs. Grasp and pull the little slice down the ribs. This procedure pulls the strings away and discard them. So much more palatable without the strings. I hope I explained well enough. Good luck and happy celery eating!

  25. I have been extremely successful in storing celery by wrapping it securely in heavy duty aluminum foil and storing it
    In the vegetable crisper in my refrigerator. It keeps for weeks.

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