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This item was last sold on : 10/08/22
Asparagus lettuce is medium to large in size, averaging 3-4 centimeters in diameter and 15-20 centimeters in length, and consists of dark green leaves resembling romaine lettuce atop a long, thick stem. The leaves are soft, pliable, and slightly wrinkled near the prominent midrib. 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. The thick, pale green stems have a fibrous, outer layer and inside, the flesh is aqueous, delicate, and translucent green-white. Asparagus lettuce is crunchy, succulent, and juicy when fresh and has a flavor similar to celery, but with a stronger earthy tone. When cooked, the stem has a nutty, green flavor and smoky aftertaste with notes of bok choy and water chestnut.
Asparagus lettuce is available in the spring.
Asparagus lettuce, botanically classified as Lactuca sativa var augustana, is varietal of lettuce that is a member of the Asteraceae family, along with artichokes, romaine, and butterhead. Also known as Chinese lettuce, Celtuce, Celery lettuce, and Stem lettuce, Asparagus lettuce is popular in Sichuan cooking and is known as Wosun in China. Predominately used for their fleshy stems, Asparagus lettuce is extremely versatile and can be used both raw and cooked in stir-fries, salads, and main dishes.
Asparagus lettuce is an excellent source of fiber, potassium, manganese, and vitamins A, B9, and C. It also contains small amounts of iron, magnesium, and some essential amino acids.
Asparagus lettuce stems are best suited for both raw and cooked applications such as stir-frying, grilling, roasting, boiling, and sautéing. They must be peeled before use, as their outer skin can be fibrous, tough, and bitter. Asparagus lettuce stems can be used fresh in salads, peeled in thin ribbons, or spiralized and used as a noodle substitute. When cooked, the stems retain their crunchy texture and have a flavor comparable to asparagus. They can be used in stir-fries, soups, slow-simmered stews, minced into wontons, or sautéed and tossed with sesame oil. Asparagus lettuce can also be pickled and is commonly served with rice porridge to create a salty, sweet flavor. The tender leaves at the top of the stems are steamed, stir-fried, or added to soups and pasta. Asparagus lettuce pairs well with chilies, spring onions, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, olive oil, Sichuan peppercorns, lemon, wood ear mushrooms, yams, pork, tofu, poultry, tomatoes, avocado, lotus root, cucumber, and walnuts. They will keep for a couple of days when the leaves are removed from the stem and stored separately in the vegetable crisper drawer of the refrigerator.
In traditional Chinese medicine, Asparagus lettuce is said to have cooling properties and is used to flush toxins and clear excess heat from the body. It is also common in China to pickle Asparagus lettuce and use the pickles to accompany congee, a popular rice porridge.
While the exact origins of Asparagus lettuce are unknown, 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. The lettuce 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 fifty 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. Today Asparagus lettuce can be found in fresh markets in Asia and at specialty grocers and Asian markets in Europe and the United States.
Recipes that include Asparagus Lettuce. One is easiest, three is harder.