Don’t tell kale or celery, but an underrated green is coming for the throne. And her name is celtuce.
While it sounds like a manufactured hybrid veggie (is it like…celery and lettuce?), celtuce is au naturale, baby. Celtuce is native to China, where it’s called wosun—the veggie is also referred to as stem lettuce or Chinese lettuce. It thrives on its own, in stir-fry, in salads…and soon, your kitchen.
What is celtuce?
“Celtuce is a [leafy] green vegetable,” and it’s been dominating Chinese cuisine for years, says Kelli McGrane, RD. And though it’s the leaves of green veggies that are typically heaped onto plates, when it comes to celtuce, the stem is actually where it’s at. Well—”the leaves are also edible, [but] they’re often wilted by the time they reach the grocery store,” McGrane explains.
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That stem, however, sturdy with its whitish-greenish gnarled outer layer, can be anything you want it to be: the main course, a side dish, or a topping. Depending on how you prepare it—raw or cooked—celtuce maintains its crunch through marinades and heat.
Now that news of its “slightly nutty flavor” and “crisp texture” has gained traction in the last few years, celtuce is gaining popularity and making its mark on dishes all over the world.
The stuff isn’t a big-chain grocery-store mainstay just yet, but it is available at Chinese markets for you to stock up and devour.
What’s up with its nutrients?
Celtuce is low in calories, but it’s packed with vitamins and minerals, including iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin C, and B vitamins, according to McGrane. “In particular, celtuce is an excellent source of manganese, which is important for metabolism, calcium absorption, and regulating blood sugars. Just one cup provides 30 percent of the daily value,” she explains.
Celtuce nutrition info:
Fat: 0.30 g
Protein: 0.85 g
Carbohydrates: 3.65 g
Fiber: 1.7 g
Sodium: 11 mg
So, how do I cook it?
Celtuce’s main attraction is its stem, and one of the best ways to prepare it is to strip the stem down into noodle-like shapes with a peeler or spiralizer. To create the perfect crunchy ribbons, McGrane says to peel off the stem’s outer skin before slicing away at the inside to create thin, translucent strips.
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If you’re eating it raw, “try subbing it in anywhere that you’d usually use cucumbers, celery, or radishes,” McGrane suggests. If you’re cooking it, mix the slices into stir-fry and stew. And if you ever get sick of the strips (you won’t), try chopping the stem and pickling the chunks to mix things up.