Asparagus lettuce, a curiosity in the vegetable garden

Asparagus lettuce (Lactuca sativa var. angustana), also called “Celtuce” or “Lettuce stem”, is a particularly atypical type of romaine lettuce. It is easy to recognize because it does not form an apple, but develops a thick, swollen and fleshy stem that is prepared in the kitchen in the manner of asparagus, hence the name “Asparagus Lettuce”! The long, narrow, lanceolate leaves are eaten as a “classic salad”. A very fine and highly appreciated oriental vegetable, still little known in France, which deserves the full attention of gourmets and gardeners.

Lettuce spears in the kitchen, a two-in-one vegetable!

It is a somewhat special type of vegetable, because it can be used as a salad as well as asparagus! Indeed, the plant produces a large and swollen stem, 3 to 6 cm in diameter, both tender and fleshy, which is harvested when it reaches 20 to 30 cm in height.

It is this stem that is eaten after cooking. Soft, but firm, it takes on a nice translucent color when cooked. The preparation consists of stripping and then peeling to remove all the skin, which is fibrous. The refreshing, crunchy and juicy flesh retains its beautiful green color during cooking. It is steamed as asparagus is fried or fried, cut into strips or slices. The taste is fine and delicate.

In Asia it is also eaten raw in the form of a salad, leaving a nutty taste, a touch of bitterness and a lot of freshness in the mouth. Finally, the leaves are consumed as the plant grows, harvest the youngest to make salad, the others quickly become a bit tough and are only used cooked.

Asparagus lettuce salad

How to grow asparagus lettuce in the vegetable garden?

For its cultivation, asparagus lettuce appreciates sunny situations in humus-rich, cool and drained soils, and also supports clay soils very well. Sowing can be done indoors from February, otherwise it is done directly in the ground between March and June, depending on the region (after the last frost). It requires the same maintenance as salads in general. If the seedlings are too dense, it will be necessary to thin out as with classic lettuce varieties. Ideally, it is recommended to keep 25 to 30 cm between each plant, in all directions.

It should be noted that the harvest is fast for this vegetable, it happens about 2 months after sowing, between 8 and 10 weeks. To benefit from it for a good part of the season, sow successively every 3 weeks from April to June, this will allow you to spread your harvests out longer. Harvesting is done by cutting the stem at ground level, when the stems have reached the desired size, usually between 3 and 6 cm in diameter and 30 cm in height. Asparagus lettuce can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days after harvest.