Celtuce is a very unique looking and interesting tasting Chinese vegetable that is slowly gaining popularity in the West. This is due, probably, to how easy it is to prepare and eat. While some Asian vegetables can be intimidating to gardeners and cooks who aren’t familiar with them, Celtuce is worth braving the unknown.
What is Chinese lettuce? Celtuce goes by many names, including Chinese lettuce, stem lettuce, asparagus lettuce, celery lettuce, Wo Sun, and Kaki-Jisha. From its variety of names, you can start to get a feel for what it’s like. So many names include “lettuce” because it is, technically, a variety of lettuce. All those lettuce modifiers are referring to its shape, which consists of a long, thick, gnarly stem (it looks a lot like a broccoli stalk) with a few small lettuce-like leaves on top.
Believe it or not, it’s actually the stem that’s the most prized part for eating. Strip away the tough outer skin with a vegetable peeler, and you’ll find a crisp, green center that has a nutty, almost smoky, flavor to it. It’s delicious raw, but it can also be prepared in stir-fry recipes or pickled. It has a texture similar to a water chestnut. The leaves can also be eaten, though they are quite bitter unless picked young.
How to Grow Celtuce Plants
Growing Chinese lettuce is very easy. Celtuce is native to China, and while it is grown mostly in southern China, it prefers cool temperatures. It’s a good crop for autumn (or winter in very warm climates), and it will tend to bolt in the heat of summer. Sow seeds directly in the ground and cover lightly with soil. If you’re planting in the spring, start the seeds indoors very early. The stems take 80 days to reach maturity, but the leaves can be harvested much earlier.