A native of China, this variety of stem lettuce became a staple of Chinatown groceries across the United States. Contrary to what the name might lead one to believe, this green is not a celery-lettuce hybrid. It is also called AA choy, stem lettuce, asparagus lettuce, wosun, woju, and Chinese lettuce and is traditionally stir-fried in Sichuan cooking. Prized for its woody stem, which looks like a thick asparagus stalk or wasabi root, celtuce (Lactuca sativa angustana) has a nutty, cucumber-esque flavor. The leafy tops are also edible and are lightly bitter and sweet. Celtuce is high in vitamins A and C and potassium.
Season Late spring to early summer
How to choose Choose celtuce with a sturdy stem (bumps are ok) and with sprightly dark green tops. Don’t buy if the stem or leaves are limp. Also avoid celtuce that is yellowing or has dark spots on the stem or leaves.
How to clean Peel the stalk with a vegetable peeler, then cut into rounds or planks before cooking. Immerse the leaves in water and agitate with fingers. Drain; spin or pat dry.
How to store Cut off the tops and keep separate from the stems. Store the stems and leaves in separate ziplock bags or airtight plastic containers. In the crisper drawer of the refrigerator, celtuce will keep for 2 to 3 days.
How to refresh Immerse in ice water for 15 minutes. Drain and pat or spin dry.
Pairings Dairy, nuts, tomatoes, vinaigrette, eggs, fish.
Cooking methods Cook the stems as you would asparagus: stir-fry, roast, grill, braise, steam or sauté. The stems are a great candidate for pickling, too. Try a Celtuce Frittata for an easy first recipe.
Adapted from The Book of Greens by Jenn Louis with Kathleen Squires
Lettuce tell you more about the differences between celtuce and other greens! Jack Algiere digs in to the crop in this video: