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Asparagus lettuce consists of dark green leaves resembling romaine lettuce atop a long, thick stem that grows to around 20 centimeters long and 4 centimeters in diameter. It is primarily cultivated for its large stem, which is crunchy, juicy, and has a flavor similar to celery, but with earthy notes. When cooked, the stem's flavor changes to resemble asparagus, and offers notes of bok choy and water chestnut. The leaves at the top of Asparagus lettuce are tender with a mild flavor, while the leaves that grow along the stem can be tough and bitter, and are often removed at harvest.
Asparagus lettuce is available in the spring months.
Asparagus lettuce is botanically classified as Lactuca sativa var augustana, and is a member of the Asteraceae family, along with artichokes and other lettuce like romaine and butterhead. Asparagus lettuce is popular in Sichuan cooking, and is known as Wosun in China. In the West, it may be referred to as Celtuce and Stem lettuce.
Asparagus lettuce is high in manganese and vitamins A, B9 and C. It also contains small amounts of potassium, iron, magnesium, and some essential amino acids.
Asparagus lettuce stems can be eaten raw or cooked. They must be peeled before use, as their outer skin can be fibrous, tough, and bitter. Asparagus lettuce stems can be used in stir-fries, or as a substitute for celery in soups or salads. When cooked, the stems retain their crunchy texture and have a flavor comparable to asparagus. They pair well with flavorings like chillies, spring onions, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil and Sichuan peppercorns. Other flavor pairings include nuts, citrus fruits, and oils. The tender leaves at the top of the stems are commonly steamed or stir-fried, or added to soups and pastas. To store Asparagus lettuce, remove the leaves from the stems and store them separately in the vegetable crisper, where they will last for several days.
Asparagus lettuce is used in traditional Chinese medicine. It is said to have cooling properties, and is used to flush toxins and clear excess heat from the body and the organs. It is common for the Chinese to pickle Asparagus lettuce, and to use them to accompany congee, a popular rice porridge dish in China.
Asparagus lettuce is native to southern China. Its exact origins are unknown, but it is thought to have originally come from the Mediterranean coast, and was brought to China around the time of the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE). It first appeared in the United States in the 1890s, and was sold in seed form under the name Asparagus lettuce with little popularity. It was David Burpee, founder of Burpee Seed Company, who brought the vegetable to fame about 50 years later. After receiving Asparagus lettuce seeds from an American missionary in China, Burpee decided to rename the vegetable Celtuce, a combination of “celery” and “lettuce”, and began selling Celtuce seeds in the United States in 1942. Asparagus lettuce is an annual vegetable that is harvested in early spring because it grows best in cooler seasons, as its thick stems allow the plant to thrive even during harsh winters. In America, Asparagus lettuce is mostly found in Asian grocery stores.
Recipes that include Asparagus Lettuce. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Paleo Flourish||Ginger Apple Celtuce Paleo Stir Fry Recipe|
|China Sichuan Food||Stir-Fried Celtuce Stem|
|Teczcape||Celtuce and Pasta in Fried Shallots and Pan-Seared Scallops|
|Soy, Rice, Fire||Celtuce Ribbon Salad|
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