How To Tell If Celery Is Bad

Determining the freshness of celery is crucial for maintaining food safety and enjoying its optimal taste and texture. In this guide, I’ll walk you through the common signs of bad celery and provide practical tips on evaluating its quality. Let’s dive in and learn how to tell if celery is bad!

Visual Indicators of Spoiled Celery

Fresh celery has distinct characteristics that indicate its quality. Look for the following visual cues to determine if celery has gone bad:

  1. Discoloration: Check for any unusual color changes, such as brown or yellow spots on the stalks or leaves.
  2. Dark or mushy spots: Feel the celery for soft, dark, or mushy areas, as these can be signs of decay.
  3. Dry or wilted appearance: Healthy celery has crisp, firm stalks with vibrant green leaves. If the celery appears dry or wilted, it may be past its prime.

How To Tell If Celery Is Bad

Evaluating Celery’s Smell

The scent of fresh celery is refreshing and slightly earthy. However, spoiled celery emits unpleasant odors that indicate spoilage. Watch out for the following smells:

  1. Foul or rancid smell: If the celery has a strong, unpleasant odor reminiscent of rotting or decay, it’s a clear sign of spoilage.
  2. Fermented or sour aroma: A sour or fermented scent suggests that the celery has started to decompose.
  3. Off-putting chemical-like odor: If the celery smells chemical or off, it’s best to discard it to avoid any potential health risks.

Tactile Clues:

Feeling the Texture The texture of fresh celery is crisp, crunchy, and slightly fibrous.

However, when celery goes bad, it undergoes noticeable textural changes. Pay attention to the following tactile clues:

  1. Sliminess or excessive moisture: If the celery feels slimy or excessively moist to the touch, it’s an indication of bacterial growth and decomposition.
  2. Soft or mushy consistency: Press the celery gently. If it feels soft or mushy, it has likely lost its freshness and is no longer suitable for consumption.
  3. Stringiness or fibrousness: Celery that has become overly fibrous and stringy can be a sign of age and diminished quality.

How To Tell If Celery Is Bad

Testing Celery’s Freshness:

The Float or Sink Method

The float or sink test is a simple technique to assess the freshness of celery. Follow these steps:

  1. Fill a bowl or container with cold water.
  2. Place the celery stalks into the water.
  3. Fresh celery should sink in the water, indicating its high water content and freshness.
  4. If the celery floats or remains partially above the water, it may have lost its freshness and should be discarded.

Moldy Celery:

Identification and Handling Mold is a common issue that can affect celery, especially if not stored properly. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Mold occurrence: Mold can develop on celery due to moisture, improper storage, or exposure to contaminated surfaces.
  2. Types of mold and risks: Gray, green, or black mold can indicate spoilage, and consuming moldy celery may lead to health issues.
  3. Spotting moldy celery: Inspect the celery for visible mold growth, fuzzy textures, or patches of discoloration. If you spot mold, it’s best to discard the entire stalk or head of celery.
  4. Precautions: To prevent mold growth, store celery in a ventilated bag or container in the refrigerator and avoid washing it until ready to use.

Summary of Signs and Solutions

To recap, here’s a quick reference guide to determining celery’s freshness and ensuring food safety:

  • Visually check for discoloration, dark spots, and wilted appearance.
  • Evaluate the scent for foul, sour, or chemical-like odors.
  • Assess the texture for sliminess, softness, or excessive fibrousness.
  • Conduct the float or sink test to determine celery’s freshness.
  • Look out for mold growth and discard moldy celery promptly.
  • Store celery properly in the refrigerator to prolong its shelf life.

How To Tell If Celery Is Bad


Q: Can I eat celery if it has a few brown spots?

A: Minor brown spots on celery are usually harmless and can be trimmed off before consuming. However, if the spots are extensive or accompanied by other signs of spoilage, it’s best to discard the celery.

Q: How long does celery typically last?

A: When stored properly in the refrigerator, celery can retain its freshness for about 1-2 weeks. However, its quality may start to decline after the first week.

Q: Can I freeze celery to extend its shelf life?

A: While you can freeze celery for later use, note that freezing can alter its texture. Frozen celery works best in cooked dishes, soups, or stews rather than for fresh consumption.


Being able to tell if celery is bad is crucial for maintaining food safety and enjoying its crispness and flavor. By examining visual indicators, evaluating the scent and texture, conducting the float or sink test, and identifying mold, you can confidently determine the freshness of celery.

Remember to prioritize proper storage practices to prolong its shelf life and minimize waste. Stay vigilant, trust your senses, and savor the best of fresh celery while ensuring a healthy dining experience.

Remember, when it comes to food safety, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

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