What is a stalk?

rvs053063May 21, 2011

I saw a recipe that called for 4 rhubarb stalks. I figured that meant 4 'legs' if you will that you break off from the bundle. However, I made split pea soup last weekend and it called for 3 stalks of celery. I again assumed the same. But then after chopping up 3 'legs' it didn't seem like enough. I looked at the celery bag and it said contents: 1 stalk. So I chopped up the whole bag. It seemed like too much, so I took some out. However the recipe called for THREE stalks. I couldn't imaging cutting up three bags of celery and putting all that in. I though it would be way too much. So what exactly is a 'stalk' when a recipe calls for it? Thanks.

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teresa_nc7

Where celery is concerned, I have always called the entire celery plant a "stalk" and each stalk is made up of a number of "ribs" with some having celery leaves attached at the top of the rib.

Your recipe was probably wrong - what they probably meant was for you to chop of 3 ribs of celery from the stalk. I've never heard of celery or rhubarb having legs. (grin)

Teresa

    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 7:26PM
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coconut_nj

Yes, it can be very confusing. The whole celery is a head, the ribs are the leafstalks, so they're called both ribs and stalks. You can figure when they ask for stalks they mean the individual stalks. Maybe you just like more celery than the 3 stalks, but apparently not as much as three heads.lol. Like Teresa said though some people do call the whole head a stalk but it's really only the ribs/leafstalks/stalks that are stalks in recipes. Hope this helps.. lol Btw, some people think too much celery in soups overpower it so that might be why 'only' 3 stalks, plus size does vary so you have to take into account how much celery you and yours like.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 7:50PM
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KatieC

We've always called it a bunch of celery, and the stems are ribs or stalks.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 8:07PM
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lindac

Another who says "head of celery"....meaning the amount that grows from one root....like head of cabbage or lettuce.
A rib or stalk is just part of the whole head.
A stalk of rhubarb is the stem part with the leaf on top.
Linda C

    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 8:12PM
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sally2_gw

I've never thought of the whole bunch, which I guess is what I've always called it, as a stalk. I've always thought of each individual rib as a stalk. But I've never thought of the term rib for celery, either. But "legs" is a really new term to me. Very interesting. I love language.

Sally

    Bookmark   May 22, 2011 at 8:14AM
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chase_gw

I call the entire plant a bunch and each individual "leg" a stalk or rib.

Most recipes will call for a specific quantity, eg 1 cup, diced, but soups, stews and stocks generally call for chopped stalks, maybe because we all tend to alter to fit our tastes when making these dishes.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2011 at 8:32AM
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cynic

I've never heard of legs on rhubarb or celery either, nor called a head. Rhubarb stalks are the, well, stalk (think cornstalk) from which the leaf grows. The whole thing, we call a plant. I've also heard the term "celery heart" and "celery root" but that's different.

Celery around here is called stalks and refers two different things but most people can easily tell what it means. "A stalk of celery" on the grocery list, you buy the, well, plant. "2-3 stalks celery" in a recipe, some, but not many, might clarify as "ribs" but still know which, unless you're making a quantity for hundreds of people, and even so, probably will know the difference.

Language is strange. Someone is "stoned". Are they intoxicated, or have they been pelted with rocks? Words can mean different things.

I remember Justin Wilson's joke Told da guy to bring me a stalk of celery - he brung me da whole d@mn bush!

    Bookmark   May 22, 2011 at 11:36AM
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Rusty

I've never heard a bunch of celery called a "head".

Many MANY years ago, in Home Economics,
I was taught that a 'bunch' of celery
is a 'stalk',
(even though 'bunch' makes more sense to me).
And the individual pieces are 'ribs'.

Individual pieces of rhubarb
were always referred to as 'stems'.

Yes, language is strange and interesting.
The same words and/or sayings
can also have very different meanings
depending on what part of the country you are in.

Rusty

    Bookmark   May 22, 2011 at 12:40PM
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hawk307

Want to be more confused? Look it up in a Dictionary.

LOU

    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 1:33PM
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jimster

Is a cook who is prepping celery a stalker?

Jim

    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 10:09PM
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dcarch7

"Is a cook who is prepping celery a stalker? Jim"

LOL. Sure.

If you make celery with eggs, you need a stalker and a poacher.

dcarch

    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 10:44PM
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foodonastump

I was wondering the same thing a short while back when I made beef stock. The recipe that David (Lakeguy) uses calls for "1 root end of a whole celery stalk, 4 inches long, plus 2 celery stalks" and I didn't know quite what that meant. So I used Sharon's (Chase) recipe, LOL!

So how would you interpret that? I was thinking the base of a whole bunch, and two individual ribs.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 6:23AM
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jimster

The only clear thing in this discussion is that stalk, rib, bunch and the like are imprecise measures which leave much to the discretion of the cook.

Jim

    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 11:36AM
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publickman

When I am writing a recipe that has celery, I use the cup measurement, since stalks vary in size.

What I discovered when I tried to find out what "stalk" meant was that the USDA has decided that stalk means the whole bunch even though common usage is bunch, and the single piece is called a rib, even though most people call that a stalk. So the industry standard ignores common usage and uses its own terms which it arrogantly expects everyone else to follow. Language does not work that way, however, and generally common usage wins out. There is a similar issue in the lighting industry which insists that "lamp" means "light bulb", and they refuse to use the words "light bulb" even though in common usage, lamp means something like a table lamp - not a light bulb. If you ask someone to buy you a lamp, what do you think you will get?

Like most people, I use "bunch" to mean a head of celery and "stalk" to mean a rib (although I also use the term "rib"), and I don't care what the USDA thinks. Accurate recipes will specify the amount of celery in cups or in weight.

Lars

    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 3:17PM
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jimster

FWIW, there is a somewhat famous 1940 recording by Will Bradley and His Orchestra of a riff based tune called "Celery Stalks at Midnight". The only lyrics are the words "celery stalks along the highway" shouted near the end of the tune.

I think of this when celery stalks are mentioned. Just the way my mind works. :-)

Jim

Here is a link that might be useful: Celery Stalks at Midnight

    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 5:55PM
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dcarch7

Posted by publickman "When I am writing a recipe that has celery, I use the cup measurement, since stalks vary in size. �"

Makes a lot more sense. Or even better by weight.

"What I discovered when I tried to find out what "stalk" meant was that the USDA has decided that stalk means the whole bunch even though common usage is bunch, and the single piece is called a rib, even though most people call that a stalk. ---"

The leaf structure should be called a petiole, if they want to be technical. Celery came from the French, I think, wonder how they do it?

" There is a similar issue in the lighting industry which insists that "lamp" means "light bulb", and they refuse to use the words "light bulb" even though in common usage, lamp means something like a table lamp - not a light bulb. If you ask someone to buy you a lamp, what do you think you will get? ---"

I am not sure. The first electric light source is a carbon arc, and it was called a lamp. Of course, there are people calling it light globe. Luminaire? Light fixture? What would you call LED lights? :-)

dcarch

    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 7:10PM
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annie1992

Here a whole plant of celery is called, well, a "plant" or sometimes a "bunch", and a single stalk is called a "rib".

Celery comes from the French word celeri.

Here in Michigan we are the third largest producer of celery in the U.S., with only a 4 month growing season. California can grow celery year round and Florida grows it for 6 months.

Kalamazoo, Michigan, is also known as Celery City, and there's a Celery Museum in Portage, Michigan. (grin).

In 1847, a group of religious refugees from The Netherlands settled in Kalamazoo at the same time a Scotsman named James Taylor was experimenting with celery seeds imported from England. Taylor could not convince the townsfolk of the joys of eating celery because they thought it was poisonous. Ten years later a Dutchman named Cornelius De Bruin began to cultivate celery in the black muck along the Kalamazoo River and the De Bruin children sold the celery door to door. Before long, the celery fields of "Celery City" were flourishing. In the 1890s, farmers would board the trains at the Kalamazoo train stations and hand out ribs of celery to the passengers, trying to promote sales. People that didn't remember anything else remembered the Kalamazoo celery, LOL.

So, we've been eating celery and growing it for a long time and I'm darned glad it isn't poisonous, whatever it's called.

Annie

    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 9:39PM
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hawk307

I guess if you prepare Celery stalks at night , you are a night stalker ?
LOU

    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 9:52PM
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ntt_hou

Hey-hey-hey, what are you cooks trying to do to this foreigner here? All I know is a bunch of celery has many stalks and that's about it!

LOL... This is a very interersting discussion.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2011 at 3:43AM
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teresa_nc7

So I know now that I got my use of celery stalk and rib from the USDA. Glad to know those undergrad and graduate courses were not wasted.

While I've always used celery in cooking, it is only in the recent years that I have come to really appreciate celery. I sometimes use it in greater quantities than the recipe calls for and I like to just eat it by itself - often when I'm chopping it while cooking. Now it seems I'm buying celery almost every week!

Many thanks to all for enlightening me about celery. You can call it what you will and I will do the same, just as long as we agree it is good stuff!

Teresa

    Bookmark   May 25, 2011 at 6:45AM
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sally2_gw

I'm so glad I came back to read more of this thread. It's been very interesting. I can't imagine being on a train and having someone hand me a stalk-rib-leg of celery. How funny.

That's interesting about the lamps, too.

Sally

    Bookmark   May 25, 2011 at 9:45AM
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cynic

foodonastump, I'd interpret it as you did. The only thing slightly unclear is whether the two stalks should be from the leftover, which I'd presume it is, or full-sized stalks/ribs, so I might add an extra one, but frankly it wouldn't make much difference. If you like a lot of celery, which I do, the more the merrier. To some, celery can be overpowering so some might use less. Recipes are guidelines many times and need to be adjusted to tastes.

What I find frustrating about using cup or weight measurements is few, if any will give an idea of how much. How many cups are in a stalk of celery? It's like recipes that say to use kernels from 2 ears of corn. That varies a lot and if you want to sub frozen or something it's difficult. If they'd say x cups, about __-__ cobs, it'd help, same with celery or for that matter anything else. Often when I'm adding to a recipe, coleslaw for instance, I look at it and see if it looks like it needs more, so I don't measure it. I look at the ratio. Sort of the same in a stew or soup. Cooking isn't always precise.

I might have come across sounding insulating before and apologize if I did. I appreciate that it can be confusing and didn't intend to suggest everyone should know the intent. I was just saying that usually it's pretty clear to me, even with the same name, given the experience I have with the terminology. It's never caused me any issues. Like I said, words can be confusing!

I was looking at a number of recipes, on videos, and all that I've seen using a stalk measure in a recipe mean the rib or portion rather than the "bush".

    Bookmark   May 25, 2011 at 9:45AM
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