How to know if celery is spoiled? (5 ways)

In this brief article, we are going to answer the question “how to know if celery is spoiled”, discuss the different methods of identifying spoiled celery and the potential side effects of eating spoiled celery.

How to know if celery is spoiled?

There are few easy ways to tell whether your celery is spoiled or not. Here you can find five common signs of celery spoilage:

Important: Eating spoiled celery can be risky and potentially harmful to your health (1-3). You should not eat spoiled celery!

  • Discoloration: you can easily identify spoiled celery just by looking at its color. Fresh celery should have a vibrant, pale green color with light green or white stems. 

When celery is spoiled it shows yellow, darker or brown color. You should always inspect your celery stalks for any noticeable discoloration. 

You should also check the stem of your celery and see if its color begins to change from green to brown or reddish-brown as this could be a signal of fungal contamination.

  • Slimy texture: you can easily identify spoiled celery by its texture. Fresh celery should have a crisp and firm texture, while a slimy feel typically indicates bacterial growth and spoilage. 

If you touch your celery and notice a slimy or slippery texture, this is a strong indication of spoilage, be careful and throw it out immediately! 

If you cut the stem and it feels rubbery then it means that it has absorbed too much moisture in it and it is on the way to spoiling.

  • Wilted or limp stalks: you can also check the celery stalks for any signs of wilting or limpness. Fresh celery should be taut and rigid. 

If the stalks appear droopy or lack crispness, it suggests that the celery is past its prime and likely spoiled.

  • Foul odor: just take a sniff of your celery. Remember that fresh celery should have a mild, clean aroma. 

However, if you detect a strong, unpleasant smell that is pungent or foul, this will be a clear sign for you that your celery has gone bad.

  • Mold or visible decay: it is very important that you inspect your celery thoroughly for any signs of mold growth or visible decay. Look for fuzzy patches, black spots, or signs of rotting on the stalks or leaves. 

If you notice any of these signs, it is best to discard the celery to avoid potential foodborne illnesses. 

You should remember that mycotoxins produced by molds could cause severe food poisoning (4). So, you should not eat celery contaminated with mold!

It is crucial to rely on your senses and personal judgment when evaluating the freshness and quality of your celery, the signs of spoilage above-mentioned will serve as general guidelines for you.

Can you get sick from eating spoiled celery?

Yes, eating spoiled celery can pose several dangers to your health, primarily due to the presence of harmful microorganisms, viruses, or parasites that can contaminate the celery during spoilage (1-3).

Here, you will find a list of potential symptoms and examples of pathogens that can cause illness if you consume celery contaminated with them:

  • Gastrointestinal issues: consuming spoiled celery contaminated with bacteria like Salmonella or Escherichia coli can lead to gastrointestinal infections (3). 

Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever.

  • Listeriosis: if spoiled celery contains Listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium commonly found in soil and water, it can cause Listeriosis (3,5). Symptoms may include fever, muscle aches, nausea, and diarrhea. 

Listeriosis is particularly dangerous for pregnant women, newborns, older adults, and individuals with weakened immune systems (5).

  • Foodborne viruses: viruses like Norovirus or Hepatitis A can also contaminate your celery. If consumed, they can cause gastroenteritis, leading to symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fever (2). 

Be careful as these viruses are highly contagious and can spread rapidly in various food settings.

  • Parasitic infections: parasites such as Cryptosporidium or Cyclospora can also contaminate your celery and cause different parasitic infections (6). Symptoms may include watery diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, and weight loss.

It is important to note that the specific microorganisms or parasites present in your celery may vary depending on the source and conditions of contamination.

Remember that it is always best to avoid consuming spoiled celery and discard it if there are signs of spoilage. Your health comes first!

What should you do if you suspect you have eaten spoiled celery?

If you have accidentally consumed spoiled celery, here are some recommendations:

  • Monitor your symptoms: you should pay close attention to any symptoms you may experience after eating spoiled celery. Common symptoms of food poisoning include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fever (7). 

If you notice any concerning or persistent symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention promptly.

  • Contact and visit your doctor: if your symptoms are severe, persistent, or if you have any other concerns, it is best to consult your doctor directly.
  • Rest and recover: you should give your body time to rest and recover. If you feel unwell, it is advisable to take it easy and allow your body to heal. 

You must get sufficient rest and avoid strenuous activities until your symptoms subside.

  • Stay hydrated: if you experience diarrhea or vomiting, it is crucial to stay hydrated (8). 

You should drink plenty of fluids, such as water, clear broths, or oral rehydration solutions, to replenish lost fluids and prevent dehydration.

  • Prevent further contaminations: you should take all necessary precautions to prevent the spread of any potential foodborne illness. 

You should always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after using the bathroom, before preparing food, and after handling spoiled food (9). 

In addition, you should clean and sanitize any surfaces, utensils, or containers that came into contact with the spoiled celery to prevent cross-contamination (9).

How to properly handle celery to avoid spoilage?

To properly handle celery, maximize its shelf life and avoid its spoilage, you can follow the next tips:

  • Always purchase fresh celery: when buying celery, choose firm and crisp stalks with vibrant green leaves. You should avoid celery with visible signs of wilting, discoloration, or damage.
  • You should store your celery away from fruits like apples, bananas, or tomatoes, as they release ethylene, which can accelerate the celery’s spoilage.
  • You should avoid washing celery before storing it, as excess moisture can lead to faster decay. Instead, you should wash it just before using.
  • You should always check your celery periodically and remove any stalks showing signs of spoilage to prevent the spread of decay.
  • For Short-term storage (refrigerator):
  • Trim and remove any leaves attached to the celery stalks.
  • Wrap the celery tightly in a plastic bag or aluminum foil to maintain moisture.
  • Place the wrapped celery in the vegetable crisper drawer of your refrigerator.
  • Stored this way, celery can typically stay fresh for about 1 to 2 weeks.
  • For Long-term storage (freezer):
  • Wash and chop the celery into small pieces or slices.
  • Blanch the celery by briefly immersing it in boiling water for a couple of minutes, then transfer it immediately to an ice bath to stop the cooking process.
  • Drain the blanched celery thoroughly and pat it dry.
  • Place the celery in an airtight container or freezer bags, removing as much air as possible before sealing.
  • Label the container or bag with the date and place it in the freezer.
  • Frozen celery can maintain its quality for up to 10 to 12 months.
  • Finally, it is important to note that while freezing celery could help to preserve it, its texture may change, making it more suitable for cooked dishes or soups rather than raw consumption.

We hope that these guidelines can help you to extend the shelf life of your celery and enjoy it safely!


In this brief article, we answered the question “how to know if celery is spoiled”, and discussed the different methods of identifying spoiled celery and the potential side effects of eating spoiled celery.


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