Celery is a popular vegetable that adds crunch and flavor to many dishes. It’s often used in soups, salads, and as a snack with peanut butter or other dips. Celery is quite perishable and can go bad quickly if not stored properly. So what happens if you leave celery sitting out on the counter or forget it in your fridge? Can you still eat celery that’s been left out? Let’s take a closer look.
How Long Does Celery Last?
Fresh celery that’s properly stored will generally last around 1-2 weeks in the refrigerator. The exact shelf life depends on a few factors:
- Freshness when purchased – newer celery will last longer
- Storage temperature – colder is better, aim for 32-36°F
- Packaging – loose celery wilts faster than bagged or wrapped
- Preparation – chopped/cooked celery has a shorter shelf life
Here are some general celery storage timelines at optimal fridge temperatures:
|Celery Type||Refrigerator Shelf Life|
|Fresh, whole heads||1-2 weeks|
|Chopped celery||3-5 days|
|Cooked celery||3-4 days|
Proper storage helps prevent spoilage and limp celery stalks. Don’t crowd the crisper drawer, wrap celery in damp paper towels, or place in plastic bags with just a bit of airflow.
Signs of Bad Celery
It’s easy to tell when celery has gone bad both visually and by smell:
- Limp stalks
- Wilting or yellowing leaves
- Brown or black spots
- Slimy texture
- Mold growth
- Unpleasant sour or bitter odor
Discard any celery that shows these signs of spoilage. But what if you left perfectly good celery out on the counter overnight or for a few days? Is it still safe to eat? Let’s look at room temperature storage times.
How Long Can Celery Sit Out?
Celery is highly perishable and does not fare well when left out at room temperature for extended periods:
|Room Temperature||Usable Life|
|Counter, up to 2 hours||Safe to eat|
|Counter, 3-5 hours||Risk of spoilage|
|Counter, 6+ hours||Do not eat|
As you can see, celery should not be left out more than 2 hours before refrigeration. The longer it sits, the greater the risk of bacterial growth.
Here are some visual signs that celery has been left out too long:
– Limp, watery stalks
– Slimy texture
– Strong bitter/sour smell
If you see any of these warning signs, it’s best to discard the celery. When in doubt, throw it out.
What About Refrigerated Celery?
Properly refrigerated celery can last 1-2 weeks (or even longer) without spoiling. But over time, it will gradually lose moisture and crispness.
Some of the first signs that refrigerated celery is past prime include:
– Slight limpness
– Slight wilting
– Loss of that crisp crunch
At this stage, the celery is still safe to eat – it just might not be as pleasant texture-wise. The flavor will also become increasingly bitter.
Once refrigerated celery shows more severe limpness, mold, or other rotten spots, it’s best to discard.
Here are some general guidelines for refrigerated celery:
|Refrigerator Storage||Usable Life|
|1 week||Peak quality|
|2 weeks||Edible, but limp|
|3+ weeks||Do not eat|
For maximum freshness, use refrigerated celery within 1-2 weeks. Promptly remove any spoiled pieces.
Can You Freeze Celery?
Freezing is a great way to extend the shelf life of celery for several months. To freeze:
- Wash and chop celery stalks.
- Blanch in boiling water for 2-3 minutes.
- Cool completely in ice water.
- Drain and pack chopped celery into airtight freezer bags or containers.
- Freeze for up to 6 months.
Thawed frozen celery is best used for cooking in soups, stews, and casseroles. The texture will be softened so it’s not ideal for salads or raw snacking.
Food Safety Tips
To safely store celery for the longest duration, follow these best practices:
– Purchase fresh, crisp celery and use within 1-2 weeks. Choose heads with bright green leaves.
– Wash celery before use to remove dirt and bacteria. Trim the very end of the stalk as it’s more prone to mold.
– Refrigerate celery in hydrator drawer or plastic bag with a paper towel to retain moisture. Don’t crowd the fridge.
– Only leave washed celery out at room temperature for up to 2 hours before refrigeration. Discard if left out longer.
– Cook or freeze celery that’s reaching the end of its prime to extend usability. Compost the rest.
– Check refrigerated celery weekly and remove any slimy, discolored or moldy stalks promptly.
Following proper storage methods will give you the most time to enjoy fresh celery’s crunchy texture and mild flavor. Only eat celery that still appears wholesome. If in doubt, remember the old adage – when in doubt, throw it out!
Celery’s shelf life depends largely on storage conditions. With optimal refrigerator temperatures, fresh celery will last around 1-2 weeks before spoiling. It should not be left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Over time, refrigerated celery will gradually lose its signature crunch, but it can still be safely eaten for up to 2 weeks as long as there is no mold growth. For maximum freshness and food safety, store celery properly, check for signs of spoilage, and never eat celery that has been left out for more than 2 hours or shows rotting. With proper handling, you can enjoy celery’s crunchy goodness for its entire refrigerated shelf life.