• In 2011, Yuma County growers had about 1,200 acres of celery in production with a value of more than $1.2 million, a crop that has been on the rise in recent years.
• Yuma-area vegetable seed producers also are growing celery seed, harvested in late June. One acre of plants will yield about 500 pounds of seeds. There are about 71,000 seeds per ounce or 1.1 million seeds per pound depending on the variety of celery.
• Celery seed is not well-known in Western herbal medicine, although it has been used medicinally for thousands of years in other parts of the world. During ancient times, Ayurvedic (the ancient medical system of India) medicine used celery seed to treat colds, flu, water retention, poor digestion, various types of arthritis and certain diseases of the liver and spleen.
• Today, celery seed is used primarily as a diuretic (increasing urine output to help the body get rid of excess water). Celery seed is also suggested for treating arthritis and gout and to help reduce muscle spasms, calm the nerves and reduce inflammation. However, there are no scientific studies in humans that show whether celery seed is effective for these conditions or any others.
• A few animal studies suggest that celery seed extracts may help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as protect the liver from damaging substances such as the pain reliever acetaminophen (Tylenol). Preliminary studies also show that celery seed may help prevent the formation of cancerous tumors in mice.
• In humans, researchers have found that people who eat a diet rich in lutein (from celery, spinach, broccoli, lettuce, tomatoes, oranges, carrots and greens) were significantly less likely to develop colorectal cancer. However, celery was just one part of their diet, and no one knows whether the effect is due to celery, another food or some combination of foods.
• Studies show that celery seeds act as a mosquito repellent.
• When Europeans refer to the seed of the wild celery plant as “smallage,” they must be thinking of the size since the flavor and aroma of the celery seed are anything but tiny. In fact, you must take care in seasoning with celery seed to avoid overpowering a dish. Used properly, it will offer a warm taste with a slightly bitter aftertaste.
• Celery seed has been known as a food item only since the 17th century. Prior to that, it was cultivated for medicinal purposes. Romans and Greeks associated the seed with funerals and looked at it as an omen of bad luck. The plant has been found woven into garlands discovered in Egyptian tombs. Today, it is used in India as a nerve stimulant as well as a tonic.
Source: Kurt Nolte is an agriculture agent and Yuma County Cooperative Extension director. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 726-3904.