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Chinese celery, or khan choy, is the same species as the European variety most people in the West are familiar with, Apium graveolens, but it has a number of important differences. Chinese celery has much thinner stalks and a stronger taste than its European relative. It can range in color from white to dark green. Chinese celery is rarely served raw, but is a common ingredient in cooked Chinese and Vietnamese dishes.
Celery is an ancient plant with a long history of use in China, where it has appeared in cuisine since at least the Han Dynasty (206 BCE to 220 CE). Chinese celery is closer than European celery to the wild variety, called smallage. It looks and tastes more like an herb, somewhat like parsley.
The thin stalks of Chinese celery are hollow and crispy, and both the stalks and the leaves may be added to cooked dishes. The seeds of the plant are also used in cuisine and in traditional Chinese medicine. Chinese celery can be used dried as well as fresh to add flavor to food.
When purchasing Chinese celery, look for crisp stems and fresh, vibrant leaves. Do not choose celery with any yellowing or wilted portions. Before cooking, wash the celery and remove the tough outer strings. It can be stored in the refrigerator in a well-sealed plastic bag for weeks.
While all celery is good for the health, being rich in iron, potassium, and vitamins A, B1, B2, C, and D, Chinese celery is said to have a number of medicinal benefits. Warm Chinese celery juice is traditionally used to cure jaundice and low fever. It is a diuretic and may be used to promote healthy urination, as well as to replace electrolytes when a person is dehydrated. Chinese celery has also been used to treat such various conditions as high blood pressure, rheumatism, digestive problems, and scurvy.