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Sword lettuce resembles a long-leafed romaine. It has long, thin leaves that grow straight up from a central stem and taper to a point. The bright green leaves are slightly serrated along the edges and can grow up to 30 centimeters in height. Leaves can be harvested loosely or as a whole head and are sometimes harvested at a shorter height. Sword lettuce has a long, crisp spine, with the texture of a butter lettuce. The distinct taste of Sword lettuce is mildly bitter with notes of almonds and cloves.
Sword lettuce is available in the early summer months.
Sword lettuce, or Sword leaf lettuce, is an Asian variety of Lactuca sativa. The aptly-named, sword-like leaves are more commonly found in hot dishes served in Taiwan and southern China. In Taiwan, Sword lettuce is known as Yu Mai Tsai. It is also known as Chinese lettuce, Pointed leaf lettuce and Taiwan Sword leaf lettuce. The cool-weather lettuce is also popular in the cuisine of the Guangdong Province (formerly Canton) of China.
Sword lettuce contains many of the same nutrients in romaine lettuce. It is a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamins A, C and K, as well as B-complex vitamins. The lettuce contains folate, and the minerals iron, potassium, copper, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. Overall, the bitter green is a nutrient-dense vegetable.
Sword lettuce can be used in both raw and hot applications. The long-leafed lettuce adds texture and a unique flavor to garden salads. Young leaves are used in stir fry dishes throughout southern China and Taiwan. The long leaves are cut into 8 to 10-centimeter-long sections and sautéed in oil with garlic, a bit of water or stock, and a little salt. Add Sword lettuce to soups or stews. Sword lettuce does not keep long after harvest, it can be refrigerated in a perforated bag for just a few days.
In Taiwan, Sword lettuce is known as “A choy” or A-Tsai. The bitter green is one of the more popular greens traditionally used in stir-fries and soups in the country. In Taiwan and parts of southern China, fresh lettuce is not eaten, therefore neither are salads. Fresh green salads are not common in southeastern China and Taiwan due to a history of less than sanitary growing conditions. With advancements in cultivation and more commercial production, salads have become more popular in recent times.
Sword lettuce has its origins in Taiwan and is widely cultivated there by both home gardeners and commercial producers. The plant is a hardy producer and is resistant to disease. The Taiwanese lettuce is sometimes confused for another type of long-leaf lettuce called a-choy sum or celtuce. Some confusion lies in the botanical classification of the lettuce, as well as the similarities in the appearance between the two. Sword lettuce does not produce the asparagus-like stem that celtuce develops. Sword lettuce is most commonly found in Southeast Asia, but is also popular among the Tawainese living around the world. It may be spotted at local farmers markets in Southern California or in backyard gardens in cooler climates.
People have spotted Sword Lettuce using the Specialty Produce app for iPhone and Android.
Produce Spotting allows you to share your produce discoveries with your neighbors and the world! Is your market carrying green dragon apples? Is a chef doing things with shaved fennel that are out of this world? Pinpoint your location annonymously through the Specialty Produce App and let others know about unique flavors that are around them.