How To Tell If Celery Is Bad

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I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been grocery shopping, picked up a bunch of healthy celery with the intention of using it, and then totally forgot about it. Celery is one of those vegetables that can last for a while in the fridge, but do you know how to tell if celery is bad?

The best way to tell that celery is bad is by its overall look and feel. Celery should be crisp, have a fresh green color, and have a slight smell of “vegetable green.” If your celery is limp or wilting even after a cold water bath, has changed color, or moldy, do not consume it and dispose of it in the garbage or compost bin.

Thankfully, there are some telltale signs to look out for so that you can avoid eating rotten celery. In this guide, I’ll outline some of those signs so that next time you’re grocery shopping or find a bunch in the bottom crisper, you’ll know exactly how to spot bad celery!

How To Know If Celery Is Bad

It’s Limp And Wilting

When celery starts to dehydrate, it becomes limp. This means that the water inside the celery is leaving and not being replaced. This often happens when you store celery in a container without moisture, such as leaving it exposed in the crisper.

I wrote a guide on how to store celery that shows you everything you need to know to keep it fresh longer. These methods include cutting and storing it in water or in a sealed container with paper towels.

Similar to spinach, if you see celery wilting or drooping, this is a sign that it’s no longer fresh. You need to give it attention right away because once spoilage starts, it snowballs quickly, and you’ll quickly end up with a decomposing mess that is not safe to consume.

It Changed Color

Celery that is starting to go bad will change color as the green chlorophyll starts to break down. It will become much lighter and pale in comparison. An overall color change doesn’t mean that it’s bad, but it’s close.

If you notice any patches of color changes, it could be rotting or a bacteria bloom, so it’s best to throw the entire bunch away.

Yellow Leaves

Young celery leaves will often be a mix of white and yellow, but when they are green and start fading back to yellow, your celery is going bad. Again, chlorophyll is breaking down, a sign of spoilage.

Make some decisions to use up that celery or prepare to toss it within the next few days.

fresh celery leaves
Above is how fresh celery leaves should look.

A cause for premature yellowing can be caused by ethylene gases expelled by either the celery itself or nearby decomposing vegetables and fruits.

The ethylene gas produced is designed to ripen fruit and veg faster but will also accelerate the decay of your produce. So, it’s important to store them correctly and keep them separated.

If the leaves are dry, brittle, and falling off, the celery is severely dehydrated and probably not good. At this point, you’ll see other signs combined with this one. It is a great item for your green compost.

It’s Turning Brown

If you notice your celery has patches of pink, red, or brown, it’s probably caused by a toxin called psoralens, which results from a fungus called pink rot.

It’s hard to get a definitive answer if it’s safe to eat, so I go by the old saying, “when in doubt, throw it out.” If it’s unsightly, and could possibly make me sick, then it’s going in the garbage.

It’s White Or Hollow Inside

Inside, fresh celery should be translucent green and sometimes have a little white in the center.

celery white inside

Sometimes celery will be white inside because of an overgrowth of pith. If the center has a large amount of white pith, your celery may taste a bit woody. This is not bad, but not appetizing either.

Fresh celery that is hollow may indicate poor growing conditions, such as a lack of water or nutrients. But if your celery was once full inside but now hollow, it’s a combination of dehydration and decomposition.

If there are no other signs of spoilage, I might consider adding it to a soup, but eating it raw is off the table and into the garbage.

It Tastes Bad

You might find that celery loses flavor as it ages and may become bitter and stringy.

There’s no better sign than a bad taste which is your body’s way of telling you to stop eating it and get rid of it.

It’s Moldy

Any sign of mold, white, black, or fuzzy patches is your cue to bag all of it up and toss it out.

It’s also a good reminder that when storing celery in water, you should change the water often to prevent stagnant water issues such as mold from forming.

At the same time, check all your produce for signs of spoilage because once mold gets started, it spreads quickly.

What Does Bad Celery Look Like?

Bad celery looks like any other vegetable that’s close to the end of its life. The color changes, the texture changes, and it may have mold or other signs of decomposition.

rotten celery

The bottom line is that you should pay attention to the signs of spoilage and use your best judgment when deciding if celery has gone bad. If there are any doubts, it’s probably time to throw them out. Better safe than sorry!

Bad Celery FAQs

Does Celery Juice Go Bad?

Yes, fresh celery juice goes bad in just a few days after it was made. The color of the juice will start to darken and smell soon after. You should always use celery juice immediately after juicing.

Is Limp Celery Still Good?

Limp celery may still be good to eat if it doesn’t show any other signs of decomposition. Try bathing it in cold water for 30 minutes to bring back its crisp texture.

Can You Get Sick From Eating Old Celery?

Yes, you can get sick from eating old celery, depending on how it is stored. Bacteria and molds that cause foodborne illness can grow on and inside celery even while refrigerated. The combination of plant matter and moisture is a great breeding ground for these problems.

Written By Justin Micheal

Justin is not just the creator but also an author and editor for KitchenSanity. He does the majority of the cooking at home with his wife. His friends and family look forward to eating his delicious creations, which often leads to many questions about how they can replicate his meals at home. In his writing, he shares his passion and knowledge as a home chef from his kitchen to yours.