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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. This plant has much thinner stalks and a stronger taste than its European relative, and it can range in color from white to dark green. The Chinese variety is rarely served raw, but it 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 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. The plant can be used dried as well as fresh to add flavor to food.
When purchasing Chinese celery, shoppers should look for crisp stems and fresh, vibrant leaves. Consumers should not choose celery with any yellowing or wilted portions. Before cooking, a cook should 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 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. The plant has also been used to treat such various conditions as high blood pressure, rheumatism, digestive problems, and scurvy.
One of the many things we hear about plain old "American" celery is that it is great for dieters because you do get some vitamins and it takes about as many calories to chew it as are in a stalk of it. Is the same true of Chinese celery?