Apium graveolens

Apium graveolens

Celery (Apium graveolens L.) is a biennial herbaceous species of the Apiaceae family.

Systematics –
From the systematic point of view it belongs to the Eukaryota Domain, Kingdom Plantae, Magnoliophyta Division, Magnoliopsida Class, Apiales Order, Apiaceae Family and therefore to the Apium Genus and to the A. graveolens Species.

Etymology –
The term Apium is the name by which the Latins called celery. The specific epithet graveolens comes from grávis heavy, annoying and oozing odor: which gives off an intense or unpleasant odor. The term celery derives from the Greek “selinon”.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
The Apium graveolens is a species native to the Mediterranean area and known as a medicinal plant since the time of Homer. In Italy it is found cultivated throughout the territory but rarely subspontaneous. Its natural habitat is that of the vegetable gardens, ruins and uncultivated, from 0 to 1500 meters.

Description –
The Apium graveolens is an herbaceous species characterized by angular stems that can reach one meter in height. The leaves are pinnate, divided into segments ovate-lobed and serrated at the edge. The flowers are white and gathered in umbrellas at 6-12 rays. The fruit (called seed) is made up of two achenes with vertical ribs. It has a dummy root. The Antesi is between May and September and the plant cycle is 6-7 months.

Cultivation –
Celery is grown all over the national territory and the most used varieties are the “celery from costa” (Apium graveolens var. Dulce) of which the long and fleshy foliar petioles are used, and the “celeriac rapa” (Apium graveolens var. rapaceum) of which the root is consumed.
The cultivated celeries are classified in:
1) Ribbed celery, of which the petiole of the leaves is used, very developed and fleshy;
2) Cutting celery, of which the leaves are used for seasoning.
3) Celery-turnip, of which the large root is used;
The horticultural crop begins with sowing in seedbeds employing 1-2 g of seed per square m even at the end of January in a heated greenhouse or warm bed in order to have the seedlings ready for transplanting at the end of April and to obtain useful production already in the month of June. In June-July, winter-grown celeries are transplanted.
There are many varieties cultivated; among these: Rod with full barrel, Goldenrod, Sedano di Trevi, Resistant Pascal. One of the most important agronomic techniques for celery is the whitening that can be obtained by leaving the plants in place or transplanting them.

Uses and Traditions –
Celery was a sacred plant for the Hellenes; in fact his effigy was also represented on the coins of the Sicilian town of Selinunte, which seems to be an important center of production and trade of the vegetable. The juice and root of celery, for its digestive, stimulating, fortifying and anti-rheumatic properties, were among the remedies of the ancient pharmacopoeia. Hippocrates said: “For the upset nerves, celery is your food and remedy”.
According to Pliny, the Greeks refrained from using celery in the kitchen as a common ingredient, because they believed it was a sacrilege towards an exceptional plant. Homer himself attributed to him divine properties, as evidenced by the passage of the Iliad where Achilles, thanks to the celery, heals his horse from the grave illness.
It was the Romans who used it abundantly in the kitchen, and even during the banquets they prepared crowns for the guests, since they thought that its aroma would have contrasted the alcoholic intoxication. Later, during the Middle Ages, this vegetable played an important role especially for its therapeutic virtues. Among these stood out his aphrodisiac qualities of which there are traces written in the fifteenth century with Michele Savonarola, who warned women against eating it, because it instigated coitus even those who wanted to remain chaste. For these qualities, it became fashionable in eighteenth-century France. In the Middle Ages celery was used to drive away melancholy.
In the medical texts of that time, celery was classified as an aphrodisiac and represented the basic comparison to evaluate the influence on the eros of other foods. Celery is the main food source of androsterone, a precursor of testosterone. Contains apigenin.
Today, both in the ribbed and in the turnip variety, richer in nutritional and therapeutic factors, many of the virtues attributed to it in the ancient pharmacopoeia are known to the celery.
Infusion and root tincture can stimulate diuresis and digestive processes. The infusion of the fruits is instead indicated for meteorism and it also has an emmenagogic and stimulating action of the pelvic circulation, a characteristic that has contributed to giving the plant an aphrodisiac action. We also remember the spasmolytic, sedative and bactericidal properties of the fruits.
For external use it can be used as a cicatrizant on sores, ulcers and chilblains, it is to be practiced with extreme caution for the photo sensitizing power of coumarins.
Be careful, however, because due to the presence of some allergenic proteins (Api g 1, Api g 4, Api g 5), it can cause serious food allergy. In addition, the administration of medicinal preparations of the plant is to be avoided in the case of acute or chronic kidney disease and during pregnancy.
Its main constituents are:
– in fruits; essential oil (consisting of limonene, selinene, various terpenes), coumarins, flavonoids;
– In the plant; essential oil, apiina;
– In the root; essential oil, asparagine, choline, tyrosine, glycolic and glyceric acids, feruclear and caffeic acids, p-coumaric acid, organic acids, bergaptene.

Preparation Mode –
The food use of the plant is interesting because the celery is rich in fiber, calcium, phosphorus, iron, sodium, potassium and a fair amount of vitamins B1, B2, PP, A, compared to a low caloric content. In the kitchen both stems and leaves are used as side vegetables, salads, soups, or to flavor cheeses and stews.

Guido Bissanti

Sources
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Pharmacy of the Lord, Advice and experience with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Publisher
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (edited by), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.

Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only and do not in any way represent a medical prescription; there is therefore no liability for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.




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