When it's fresh and crisp, a stalk of celery can be a great addition to a bloody mary. But sometimes—and, if we're being realistic, more often than not—that celery is wilted and limp and chewy and just sad. And that's a tragedy, both because your brunch cocktail is less-impressive than it could've been, and also because it's actually fairly easy to keep celery fresh and crispy. All you have to do is store celery correctly, and with a little bit of know-how, you can learn how to keep this often-finicky and misunderstood vegetable at its best.
The main reason celery why celery wilts and goes limp is because it has lost water, and that's when it becomes hard to chew. As Harold McGee writes in On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, "A vegetable that is fully moist and firm will seem both crisp and more tender than the same vegetable limp from water loss."
So the trick to keeping celery fresh is keeping it hydrated, and you can do that in a few ways. The first is to wrap up stalks of celery in aluminum foil. According to the editors at Cook's Illustrated, you want the foil to be tight enough that moisture can't get out, but be sure not to crimp the edges shut; that way, ethylene gas, the hormone that causes fruits and vegetables to ripen, can escape.
Stalks of celery cut into smaller pieces can also keep well, especially when "submerged in water in a tightly covered container," according to the Washington Post. However, the folks at Cook's Illustrated note that the water isn't strictly necessary in keeping pieces of cut celery crispy, as long as the container is air-tight. But either way, these smaller sticks of celery will "very slowly deteriorate," and you can prep them up to two days in advance of eating or use.
And whether you store the stalks whole or cut up, be sure to store the celery in the fridge, because the cold will also help keep the stalks fresh. (Just be sure not to let it get so cold that the celery freezes. Frozen celery will lose all moisture—and therefore crispness—when it dethaws, and the texture will be all sorts of wonky.)
If you do find yourself with a few stalks of wilted celery on your hands, the good news is that "water loss is largely reversible," explains McGee. All you have to do to revive celery is "soak a limp vegetable in water for a few hours and its cells will absorb water and reinflate. Crispness can also be enhanced by making sure that the vegetable is icy cold."
So store your veggies correctly, keep that celery fresh, and finally start to enjoy that garnish on your bloody mary.