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The term "celery stalk" can have more than one meaning, depending on the source. It is common for people to refer to one of the upright branches of a cluster of celery as a stalk, but this section can also be called a petiole, a branch, or a rib. In such cases, the entire grouping of celery branches or petioles may be referred to as a celery stalk, though the term bunch is often used.
A celery stalk typically is one of many long, curved sections that are attached together at the bottom of the plant, just above the root and at the point where the plant enters the soil. They are only connected at the very bottom, and grow separately from that point up to the crown. At the crown, or top, of each stalk are the leaves of the plant, which vary in size from small and delicate to relatively large. Each branch is ribbed on the outside and smooth on the inside.
It is quite common to trim a bunch of celery before it is sold, to help to make the plant more attractive. The larger leaves in particular are removed, as they can become droopy fairly quickly and detract from the overall appearance of the celery. Typically, the root is cut off and discarded or used for animal feed. Celery root is sold in various forms, but that is actually a different plant, also known as celeriac, and not the root from the plants that produce the stalks.
As celery grows in contact with the ground, it is important to be sure it is cleaned thoroughly before being used. The best way to clean it is to separate each celery stalk from the bunch, and then wash it well using a small vegetable scrub brush. It is almost impossible to get all of the dirt out of the plant unless the pieces are separated.
People typically either love the flavor of celery or hate it. A chopped celery stalk is considered a staple in various recipes including stuffing, soups, and stews. Used fresh, it goes well with salads or as an appetizer, especially when dipped in ranch, honey mustard, or another type of salad dressing. Filled with peanut butter or cream cheese it makes a healthful snack for children, combining vitamins and fiber with protein.
Dieters often use this food to help satisfy cravings, especially people who miss the crunch of fried or baked foods. A single celery stalk has very few calories, typically only about six for a medium-sized section. Many people eat celery because it contains negative calories; this means that it takes more calories to eat and digest it than what it contains.