Sea Celery

Sea Celery

The common name of this plant, sea celery or parsley (Apium prostratum), is apt. Not only is it found growing along the coastal areas of eastern Australia but it has stems that taste like celery and leaves similar to that of parsley.

Apium prostratum – Photograph courtesy of Louis O’Keefe

This biennial herb grows to about 30 cm tall but can spread to about a metre across. It has divided leaves, that may be narrow or broad, on slender stems that grow directly from a long tap root. During spring and summer, it produces clusters of tiny white flowers followed by prolific seeds from which it self propagates. The flowers attract butterflies.

Although coastal in origin, the plant will grow in any moist, well drained soil either in direct sunlight or dappled shade. It can recover from light drought and frosts. It, like its close relative the European parsley, makes an excellent potted specimen or as a cascade down an embankment.

Sea celery was a significant survival food during the early days of colonial settlement. Both leaves and stems can be eaten. The stems when lightly blanched provide a pleasant base to a salad. The leaves give a slightly peppery zing to flavour soups, white sauce and stews or as a garnish to meats. The dried leaves and seeds can be used in spice mixes.

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