Celtuce is a type of lettuce that is appreciated for its tasty stems. It is supposed to have originated in Europe and then around the Tang dynasty between 600-900 AD it was brought from the Mediterranean to China. Since then it has become very popular in both mainland China and in Taiwan.
I’m growing some in my garden this year for the first time , and the lettuce leaves are very nice. Usually when planted in April or May, within 4 or 5 weeks the lettuce leaves are ready to eat and then by mid july and september the stems are 30cm or more and ready to harvest. The stems are great sauteed, pickled, raw (usually in salads), grilled and more. The flavor is exceptional with similarities to sweet corn and cucumbers. They tend to remain crunchy, tender and juicy. The leaves tend to wilt quickly and can be hard to get fresh when buying at the store. but when picked from one’s garden they are excellent in many ways.
When using the stem in recipes it is good to peel off the outer skin and to then slice or shave the rest of it into noodle like shapes with a peeler or slicer.
Nutritionally celtuce is very low in calories but packed with nutrition. It is filled with iron, calcium,, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin C and many types of vitamin B as well. It is especially rich in manganese, which can be very helpful at regulating blood sugars, metabolism, and calcium absorption. One cup of Celtuce provides 30% of the daily requirement of manganese.
The cultivated lettuces used today seemed to originate from the wild lettuce Lactuca Semola. This was used often as a medicinal herb, and became popular in ancient Egypt around 4,500BC and later in the Greek and Roman civilizations too. Around 600-900 AD this got introduced to China and this stem lettuce evolved there. It became popular in China, especially near Tibet. Then it was referred to as Ou sen. It first made it’s way into the western world around 1890 and was called Asparagus lettuce. Today in China it is usually called Wo-Sun, Wo-ju or Wo-chu. In 1938 Celtuce seed were introduced to W. Atlee Burpee company , the great seedsmen of the USA, by Reverend Carter D. Holton, a missionary, who sent them from China near the border of Tibet. Then in January 1942 celtuce was first offered in the Burpee catalogue, referred to as a ‘novel’ vegetable