"Celery is among a small group of foods (headed by peanuts) that appear to provoke the most severe allergic reactions; for people with celery allergy, exposure can cause potentially fatal anaphylactic shock. The allergen does not appear to be destroyed at cooking temperatures. Celery root—commonly eaten as celeriac, or put into drinks—is known to contain more allergen than the stalk. Seeds contain the highest levels of allergen content. Exercise-induced anaphylaxis may be exacerbated. An allergic reaction also may be triggered by eating foods that have been processed with machines that have previously processed celery, making avoiding such foods difficult. In contrast with peanut allergy being most prevalent in the US, celery allergy is most prevalent in Central Europe. In the European Union, foods that contain or may contain celery, even in trace amounts, must be clearly marked as such" (Info. from Wikipedia, emphasis added).After living free of allergies for over fifty years, I seem to have developed the above allergic reaction to both raw celery and raw carrots. This blog post is the result of my quest to figure out why my throat was suddenly and painfully constricting after every celery or carrot stick. An hour or so of googling revealed that there are those who have it much worse, for I came across plenty of cautionary advice to avoid all celery, always checking which products contain dried celery, and so forth.
I, however, haven't noticed a reaction to dried or cooked celery; nor have I known myself to suffer from any of the various tree and plant allergies that often precede the raw celery / carrot allergy. Likewise, the wide range of symptoms such as rashes around the face, tingling and itching of lips and gums have never bothered me. What has happened is the restricted breathing and the horrible feeling that no matter how much air I try to gulp, I am going to keel over and have some kind of heart attack right in the middle of making the spaghetti sauce. In fact, these incidents have occurred more often than not when I was home alone, chopping up celery / carrots for a recipe and sampling a few fresh bites while cooking.
But not anymore.
I know it seems a shame to give up such a healthy low - cal snack, and it feels almost ridiculous or even rude to decline the crudities. On the other hand, if you've experienced that hard knot in your chest and that terrible, scary, helpless feeling in your throat more than once or twice, you won't be the least bit tempted, despite the risk of appearing persnickety or the enticing beauty of the celery heart!
And now a poem -- for there's bound to be a poem about everything, even celery! -- from Ted Kooser's book of Valentines
THE CELERY HEART
CELERY HEARTS: 98 CENTSSurely it misses those long fly balls of light
—Placard at Hinky Dinky
its leaves once leapt to catch, or longs to run
its roots out into the salty darkness.
What once looked like a Roman fountain
is now a ruin of fallen columns
bedded on ice. Its only consolations are,
at regular intervals, the hiss of mist,
and at times the warm and reassuring squeeze
of passing hand. But better this, by far,
than to be the sullen heart of artichoke,
stripped of its knives and heavy armor
and mummified for eons in a jar of brine.
Ted Kooser (b 1939)
American Poet Laureate from 2004 to 2006