Celery Seeds By Any Other Name, Might Be Lovage
When you go to the store and buy celery seeds you probably think you know what you just purchased. If you say seeds from the celery plant, then you’ve missed the mark. Celery seeds do not come from the leafy stalk that we use in lots of recipes, but celery seeds come from a wild variety of celery called lovage. It is mostly grown in India with some grown in China, France, and California. Celery seeds have a very strong flavor. Because of its robust flavor it should be used sparingly in dishes. The plant lovage may be used in some dishes to replace celery. Lovage is called for in such dishes as Irish Christmas cake. Some spice vendors actually put real seeds from the celery plant into the lovage seeds so that they can feel better about calling them celery seeds. The seeds from the celery plant are at best flavorless and at worst slightly bitter.
Celery seeds have been known as a food item only since the seventeenth 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.
A common ingredient in pickling, vegetables, salad dressings, breads, soups, and tomato dishes, celery seed accents a wide variety of foods. Beyond the typical tomato juice or vegetable salads, think of it for fish, eggs or meat dishes. Celery seed is also used in celery salt, bouquet garni, and curry spice blends, and the ethnic cuisines of Germany, Italy, Russia, and the Orient. Celery seeds are a common ingredient in Southern chicken recipes and a must have ingredient in rubs and spice blends destined for poultry.
The plant is used around the world as a vegetable, either for the crisp stems or fleshy taproot. Celery root is another commonly requested recipe ingredient.
There is no reliable substitute for celery seeds.