April is National Fresh Celery Month and Arkansans can mark the occasion by taking advantage of the vegetable’s special flavor when cooking soups, stews, pot roasts or vegetable stocks, said Marilyn Burch.

Burch is an Extension associate for foods and nutrition for the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, according to a news release.

“Celery is a good source of nutrients, antioxidants and fiber,” she said. “It’s also a low-calorie, fat-free food that helps with weight management. If you eat a medium-sized celery rib of about six calories, your body will burn one calorie.”

The plant contains vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B6, vitamin C, potassium, folate and vitamin K. The dietary fiber it contains enhances digestion.

Burch said the part of the celery plant most commonly eaten in the U.S. is not a stalk or stem as it is commonly thought – it’s actually part of the plant’s leaves. The stem is the small, disk-shaped part in the center of the plant.

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, celery did not start out being used as a food. In ancient Greece, celery leaves were used to make wreaths or crowns that were given to winners of battles.

“The plant was used for medicinal purposes prior to 850 B.C.,” Burch said. “The use of oil extracted from celery seeds can ease symptoms of illnesses. It is commonly used to cure gout and to lower inflammation, arthritis and muscle spasms.”

Burch said celery is a versatile vegetable that can be cooked in a number of ways or eaten raw.

“Children can learn to prepare a quick go-to snack by topping fresh celery with peanut butter or cream cheese,” she said.

Families can gather in the kitchen and prepare the following recipe for cranberry almond wraps, Burch said.

Cranberry almond wraps — Ingredients: 3 cups chicken or turkey (cooked, shredded, or canned), 1/2 cup almonds, sliced, 2 ribs celery, diced, 1/2 cup dried cranberries, 1/4 cup light mayonnaise, 6 (8 inch) whole wheat tortillas.

Instructions — Combine chicken or turkey, almonds, celery, cranberries and mayonnaise in a bowl. Cover. Assemble and eat straight away or refrigerate until ready to assemble. Spoon one loosely packed cup of filling into each tortilla. Roll the tortilla. Tip: Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to four days. Recipe source: The 2018 Healthy and Homemade Nutrition and Fitness Calendar

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