Best Way to Store Celery (and why!) post image

Best Way to Store Celery (and why!)

Four weeks. Thirteen packages of celery stored. What worked best for TipBusters?

Was it Cook’s Illustrated’s recommendation to store celery in foil? Was it WHFoods’ recommendation to seal it in a container, damp cloth or plastic bag? Was it storing it in water?

First of all, I want to emphasize what did not work for us, because it’s all over the Internet as a great way to store celery: storing it upright in a container with a couple inches of water in the bottom. Sure, it worked great at first. Nice, crisp celery. Then it started getting overly big. Weirdly big. Then it went limp, with yellow, shrivelled tops. I almost felt cruel storing it this way. On top of that, it took up room in an awkward location in the fridge. The tall area in the bottom; right where the milk and juice eyed it with disdain. Just don’t do it.

Let’s set the scene first. Although I bought bunches of celery, I cut off the ends with a sharp knife before storage. This was for a couple reasons. One: convenience. I don’t know the size of your crisper drawer, but mine is just a bit too small to take the whole bunch, unless I jam it in awkwardly. Two: sometimes we just buy celery stalks; the storage method has to work for all celery.

Even if you buy precut stalks, still trim the ends with a sharp knife before storage. Why? Celery has an incredibly efficient system of drawing water up through its cells, but the cells at the bottom of the stalk must be in good condition for this to happen. In fact, some pre-cut celery stalks will store very poorly unless cut; perhaps the original cutting was done with a dull blade or a chopping mechanism that crushes the cells; if not trimmed, these stalks tend to split, curl, brown and decompose quickly.

I washed and dried the celery before storage.

Here are the methods I tried (all in the crisper except the one that was upright in a container):

Foil (3 methods: simply wrapped in foil; wrapped in dry paper towel then foil; and wrapped in wet paper towel then foil)
Paper bags (2 methods: loose in a bag out of the crisper; and wrapped with damp paper towels in a bag)
Plain plastic bags (4 methods: loose in a bag; wrapped with dry paper towels; wrapped with wet paper towels; and just for fun, wrapped in foil in a bag)
Perforated plastic bags (3 methods: loose in a bag; wrapped with dry paper towels in a bag; and wrapped with damp paper towels in a bag)
Upright in a container (1 method) with a couple inches of water in the bottom

What did TipBusters find?

The results were measured in terms of how crisp the celery was, how well it retained its colour, and how little browning there was. And just for fun, there was a taste test for each batch.

#1 – BEST – A tie! Our celery stalks fared best when they were wrapped in dry paper towels, and stored in either a plastic bag or a perforated plastic bag. These were the crispest with no browning.  I should remind you that this was after 4 weeks. I pushed the time for storage, and they still looked and tasted fresh.

#2 – Wrapped in foil. This method fared remarkably well; in the end there was no decomposition; the celery stalks were just not quite as crisp as the above method.  After numerous times opening and closing the tin foil, there was a bit of shredding of the foil, compromising its seal; however, the result was still quite good.

The method that fared the worst was the celery that was stored upright in water (enough said earlier). The celery stored in the paper bag was limp and dry. Any celery that was stored in damp paper towel (within foil or within a plastic bag) had browning that started at the edges and worked its way up.

So why did these methods work? It appeared that the trick, as with many vegetables, is not just keeping the vegetables damp, or dry, but rather keeping them at their ideal humidity. Fresh celery has the right amount of moisture in it. Wrapping it in paper towel, then plastic appears to keep the balance of moisture where it’s needed, without having enough moisture to trigger decomposition. The paper towel between the celery and plastic allows the celery to breathe a little, but not lose too much moisture. Tin foil seems to also do a very good job of keeping moisture in for a while, while not being too airtight.  Some sources state that the foil is a good method because it does not trap ethyelene gas, which is a substance produced naturally by fruits and vegetables as they age, and if trapped near a fruit or vegetable, promotes more rapid ripening.  However, any ethylene gas that may have been trapped in a plastic bag with celery did not appear to affect the storage at all.

And why is storing the ends in water ineffective? Our speculation is that it appears to be just too much water at the stalk end, and it causes decomposition after a while. Perhaps if the celery were constantly trimmed, with a freshly-trimmed end exposed, it would be okay; however, that’s a lot of work, and after a while, you would work the stalks down to nubbins.

So in a nutshell, based on my results: wash and dry the celery, trim the edges with a sharp knife, and store it wrapped in a paper towel inside a plastic bag.  And enjoy (for a few weeks!)

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{ 29 comments… add one }

  • Jim Oberg February 6, 2015, 5:35 pm

    I had never heard of the paper towel in a plastic bag before. It does make sense however. it works for my grapes after I pull them off the stems and store them in plastic bags. They keep for quite awhile. So….. why not celery! I will give it a shot. I have put the cut celery in water in a sealed plastic container and it lasts a little while but have never tried this new way. First time for everything.

    • Beth March 28, 2015, 8:20 am

      Which is it? Wrap it in dry or wet paper towels? You did not specify, at the end.

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  • Tara July 24, 2014, 3:04 pm

    Thank you for the tip on storing celery. Have you tried storing the celery wrapped in a paper towel and then into either a Rubbermaid plastic bin made especially for storing vegetables or in a mason jar? I think that would be a neater way to store than plastic bags. I purchased the Debbie Meyer bag for veggies and fruit but ended up throwing them away since I would wash them and had to wait till they dried!

  • Patricia July 11, 2014, 5:10 pm

    Wow, thanks for the detailed recommendations – I was just about to throw a whole head of celery out – you saved me money (I HATE throwing food out – it pains me…). Thanks again!

  • UncleSim May 27, 2014, 12:08 pm

    Mine is full stalk, upright in a glass near the window. It was actually rubbery and over a month old when I took it out of the fridge, but after only one day, was fresh and crisp again. After several days, it’s greener, stronger, and seems to be sprouting roots. I will be planting it for perpetual harvest, if it does well.

  • Laurie April 15, 2014, 7:04 am

    thanks for the wonderfully thorough explanation of which way is the best way to store celery. I’ve previously tried the foil storage, ok, but not perfect. Growing up in a family restaurant we would clean then cut and dump into water overnight to crisp them up, then on to the salad bar. Never needed long term storage! Nice change to actually have choices and so thoroughly investigated! Thanks!

  • Michelle February 22, 2014, 7:37 am

    I’ve never heard of perforated plastic bags. What are they? When you say plastic bags are you referring to ziploc style or open ended, bread bag style?

  • Vivian February 20, 2014, 7:00 pm

    Can you freeze celery? I’m thinking not because of the water content but figured I’d ask!

    Thank you for the tips!

  • Sunny January 14, 2014, 1:39 pm

    Just bought the celery and wondered how to keep it fresh longer. So then came across your brilliant experiments. Thanks for being just like America’s Test Kitchen. I had heard about the aluminum foil and it did work for a while. I got lazy and didn’t change the foil as it got ripped from opening and sealing.
    Will try your method of paper towels which I have also done and not with any luck. I sort of attribute that to probably not drying the celery dry enough.
    Will let you know how new celery fares.

  • Stephanie October 20, 2013, 8:21 am

    Thanks! It’s celery harvesting time here, & I was looking for the best way to keep my celery. I was planning on doing a similar experiment when I found your’s online. Thanks for saving me the effort!

  • Betty October 7, 2013, 3:27 pm

    So many times “how-to” responses are shallow and incomplete. And that is without the testing which you did to compare methods of storing celery as opposed to giving us only the method you prefer. Your testing appears to have been thorough and your instructions were excellent. I had only one question, And luckily that was asked by Mike as to whether to leave the plastic bags closed or left open. Thank you so much.

  • Penelope July 27, 2013, 11:21 pm

    Please, WHERE can I find the perforated vegetable bags you mention? I used to buy the Ziploc brand by SC Johnson & Sons, Inc., a Canadian Company. About 10 years ago they stopped being available in stores. I have been washing the few I have left so as to reuse them. Would really love to find them available again. 7 28 13. I would very much appreciate any input re these bags. Thank you.

    • Sara November 26, 2013, 4:06 pm

      If you buy the combo pack they still have them at Walmart. It comes with medium and large ziplock bags. All 3 boxes for $10 or something.

  • mike March 8, 2013, 9:50 pm

    Are the plastic bags closed or left open to let the gas escape?

    • Christene Hubbard March 9, 2013, 2:14 pm

      Hi Mike, I sealed the bags (folding them over to let the air out first), but in the case of the perforated bags, the gas would escape through the perforations. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  • Jan March 1, 2013, 1:12 am

    Woke up tonight wanting to know best way to store celery..went on line and found you.. Thrilled to find the secret..can’t wait until am to do this…Thanks

    • TipBusters March 1, 2013, 9:54 am

      That’s great, and I hope it works out for you, Jan!

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  • Jeannie February 19, 2013, 11:01 am

    Thanks! I’m trying the dry paper towel/storage bag method! :-)

  • Jen January 16, 2013, 11:26 am

    I personally only eat celery as sticks for dipping. Which means they have to be SUPER CRISPY to be yummy to me.

    I’ve found that if I take the celery, chop it up into sticks, and then keep them floating in water in a big covered bowl in my fridge, they stay crispy and awesome for a longgggg time. (don’t think we’ve tried four weeks, but I’ve eaten them after more than a week or so before)

    • Robin March 3, 2014, 8:27 pm

      Hi Jen, I’ve kept my celery completely submerged in water too and thought it nice and crisp as well. Do you find that you need to change the water, and if so how often? Thanks.

  • Yeren November 11, 2012, 7:08 pm

    Grocery Stores sell celery in a full branch, wrapped in a nylon bag. A single person would need to keep this amount of celery last for a couple of weeks until the quantity is fully consumed. This is the reason storing celery fresh for 4 weeks is essential.

    I frequently cook with celery — and towards the end of 4 weeks the few stalks left on the branch get brown and limp,

    I always believed my celery branch stayed fresh for long time because I kept all the stalks attached to the branch. Now I am going to experiment with a stalk or two cut up and stored the way described here.

    Thanks for the article.

  • Bianca September 16, 2012, 7:44 pm

    Best article for storing celery!!! Thank you for the time and effort you spent on this. I truly appreciate it!

  • Ann Sharp July 17, 2012, 10:01 am

    Thank you for the helpful research into keeping celery, I am living alone at the moment and my celery might last me 4 weeks. I just bought a new bunch and thought I would check on line to see if there was a better way to store it.
    Thank You, Thank You :)

  • triscia February 16, 2012, 12:23 pm

    I found this very helpful. Thank you for being thorough. I store my lettuce leaves in a bag with a damp paper towel, but never considered that storage for my celery. I will now. I have a crisper clean out vegetable soup that I throw everything in at the end of the week (just before all the veg gets funky) and serve with delicious bread of some kind. My family loves it and it saves $.

  • Otir May 17, 2011, 1:15 am

    That’s a nice and useful tip – for me! Although I seldom reach the need for 4 weeks of storage for vegetable! Why wouldn’t we eat fresh vegetable when fresh? But I guess a week will certainly do good. Thanks for the research! 

    • Christene May 26, 2011, 9:34 am

      True – I’m not sure any of us need 4 weeks of storage, but it’s kind of nice to know we can forget about what’s in our crisper for a while, and it might still be edible!

      • Earnestine July 19, 2013, 5:58 am

        I agree, Christene!

        • Jeanne May 1, 2014, 1:39 pm

          I have used the foil, and agree its not the best. Since I do buy the bunch, at .99 cents why buy the pre cut celery. But I’m on person, I would love to keep my veg. for four weeks. Most of the time, I end up freezing everything before I can use it up.


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