State University Extension
Preserving Food Safely - 01600694
Celtuce is known also as stem lettuce, celery lettuce
and asparagus lettuce. It looks like a cross between celery
and lettuce. This type of lettuce is grown for the edible
enlarged seed stalk. The outer leaves resemble loose leaf
lettuce, but are a lighter green. These leaves may be eaten
in salads at a young tender stage. However, they become
bitter and unpalatable rather quickly due to the formation
of a milky sap.
Soon after the development of the outer leaves, a
central stalk bearing tiny leaves at the top starts to
elongate. Allowed to grow, this flower stalk will reach 4
to 5 feet in height. It acts very much like regular lettuce
bolting to seed. The outer edges of the round stem contain
the bitter milky sap.
When the stem is about 12 to 18 inches long, it should
be cut off down into the leafy portion of the plant, being
sure to peel the outer skin, removing the portion containing
the bitter sap. The soft, translucent green central core
is the edible part. It may be eaten fresh, either sliced or
diced into a salad. The flavor is somewhat like a cucumber,
yet different. In China, where it is grown in commercial
quantities, the fleshy stem is cut into sections and cooked
by broiling or stewing.
Celtuce should do well whenever and wherever leaf
lettuce is grown successfully. Since it is a cool weather
crop, it should be planted from seed in the fall, winter
and early spring, spaced at about 8 inches in the row, and
treated about like regular lettuce. Many seed catalogs
advertise seed for sale.