Celery seed is the dried fruit of the Apium graveolens which is related, but not identical, to the vegetable celery plant. The tiny brown seeds have a celery-like flavor and aroma.
Used in pickling, vegetables, salad dressings, breads, soups, and tomato items. Celery seed is used in celery salt, bouquet garni, pickling and curry spice blends, and in the ethnic cuisines of Germany, Italy, Russia and the Orient.
The principal sources of celery seed are India and China, but France also produces a small quantity. Indian and Chinese celery seed are similar in appearance while the French variety is slightly darker. Indian celery seed has the strongest flavor and the French type is milder. Indian seed, because of its color and taste, is considered the premium seed. Chinese seed is smaller and has a slightly milder flavor.
Celery actually dates back to "smallage," a wild, bitter marsh plant. The ancient Greeks and Romans used celery for its medicinal purposes and there was a popular belief that it was an aphrodisiac. In the Middle Ages, Italian farmers began to cultivate smallage. Once begun, this cultivation steadily improved the quality of the celery, and it has become a popular item. It is difficult to say when the seeds were first used as a spice. It was not until the early 19th Century that celery seeds began appearing in American cookbooks, usually in pickling recipes.
Flavor & Aroma
The flavor and aroma of celery seed is generally described as being similar to fennel and anise. The flavor notes are characteristically hay-like and grassy.