Have you ever cut open a piece of celery and noticed that the stalks are brown inside and along the edges, particularly close to the base? This might leave you wondering if it is safe to eat celery or not.
Brown celery is not generally okay to consume, especially raw. This is because a toxin called psoralens is often present in celery, and this is caused by a fungal infection known as pink rot. Pink rot can cause brown patches to appear on your celery, and the toxin it produces will make your skin more sensitive to sunlight.
In this article, we’re going to explore more about brown celery, what the risks are, and how you can minimize these risks.
Is Brown Celery Safe To Eat?
Brown celery is often not safe to eat, although some very minor browning around the tops or on the leaves may not be dangerous. Unfortunately, brown celery may contain psoralens, and there is a risk that this toxin will make you sick.
Old celery also lacks nutrients and may contain mold spores that could give you stomach pain or other problems. Good celery should be:
- Light green in color
- Firm and crispy
- Brittle, and not bendy
- Juicy if you break a stalk
It should also have tightly clustered stalks. As celery ages, the stalks tend to spread, get bendier, and lose their color. They often become yellow or brown, and this indicates that they are no longer safe for consumption. If in doubt, get rid of old celery, rather than taking the risk of consuming it.
Unfortunately, celery that has gone bad can give you food poisoning if you eat it, and in serious cases, food poisoning can result in vomiting, nausea, or sometimes even hospitalization. Treat any foods like celery with caution, especially if you plan to eat them raw.
What Is Pink Rot?
Pink rot is a brown-colored fungus that will attack celery and can introduce a toxin known as psoralens. This increases your sensitivity to the harmful UV rays in sunlight and may put you at a greater risk of getting sunburn or other skin damage from the sun
Fortunately, however, psoralens can be broken down by cooking the celery. You may still wish to cut off any brown parts of celery before doing this to increase the safety, and it is better not to use celery that has gone very brown, even if you are cooking it.
Once it has turned brown, celery has lost most of its vitamins and minerals anyway, so you won’t get much nutrition from eating celery in this state. You should therefore discard it, rather than risk making yourself sick by eating it.
If only small parts of the celery have gone brown, you can cut those parts off. Separate any stalks that are brown and throw them away, and then use up the fresh stalks as soon as you can. If some of the celery has started to go off, the rest is likely to do so fairly quickly, so don’t put it back in the fridge if you can avoid it.
How Do You Tell If Celery Is Off?
Although browning is a good indication that the celery has started to go off, there are also some other key indicators. For example, if your celery has turned very pale or yellowy, it is not good to eat anymore, although it is less likely to contain harmful bacteria than brown celery.
Any celery that has turned slimy needs to be thrown away, as bacteria have spread through its tissues and started breaking them down. Similarly, if your celery has a sour or sharp smell, or if any mold spots are appearing on it, you need to get rid of it. Do not risk eating celery in this state as it could be harmful.
Bendy stalks are a further sign that celery is past its best, although on their own, they are not dangerous. If your celery has lost its crisp “snap,” it is going off and will need to be eaten very soon if it is going to be eaten at all. Shrunken and shriveled leaves, a bitter flavor, or a complete lack of flavor are further indications that the celery is no longer good.
If you bite into celery and find that it tastes odd, spit out the part you have eaten and throw the rest away. Do not eat celery that tastes strange, as this is a clear sign that the celery has gone bad and may make you sick.
How Do You Store Celery?
Good storage will help your celery to keep better, and there are a few suggestions on the best ways to store it. It is generally agreed that celery should be stored whole. Wrap the ends in aluminum foil to help keep them damp, and then place the celery in the crisper drawer of your fridge.
You should be able to keep celery stored this way for between 2 and 4 weeks, but it is a good idea to check on it every so often. If you see signs that it is turning yellow or limp, going slimy, or developing brown spots, it needs to be either used up quickly or thrown away, depending on how far the problem has spread.
Don’t put your celery in a plastic bag in the fridge, as this will trap ethylene gas in with the celery. This gas increases the ripening process and will make your celery go off more quickly. It may also cause too much moisture to build up around the celery, and this will make it moldy.
Celery that has gone brown inside is not generally safe to eat, especially if you prefer your celery raw. If you are going to cook celery that has gone brown, cut off the brown parts first and then cook the rest. Be wary of any celery that has an unpleasant flavor, a bad smell, or pale, slimy stalks or leaves.