How Are Lettuce and Sunflowers Related?

Lettuce and sunflowers are both part of the Asteraceae family, one of the most diverse and largest families of flowering plants. Many of the members of this family are grown as food crops, including lettuce and Jerusalem artichokes. Others are considered ornamental, including asters, daisies and marigolds. This family also includes medicinal flowering plants such as chamomile and plants that are used to produce oils used in cooking, such as the sunflower and safflower plants.

More facts about lettuce and sunflowers:

  • Lettuce has been cultivated for centuries. The earliest reports of lettuce being used as food date to the 6th century B.C. Several cultures, including those in ancient Egypt, Rome and China, are known to have cultivated lettuce for many years before its introduction into the Americas.

  • There is controversy over exactly when lettuce was introduced into the Americas. Some traditions hold that it was among the foods introduced by Christopher Columbus. What is known is that by the time of the American Revolutionary War, lettuce was firmly established as a food item in the American colonies.

  • The sunflower is native to North America and was first domesticated around 1000 B.C. Early American Indians would grind the flowers into meal for use in making bread, and the seeds were boiled to collect the oil for various tasks, including cooking.

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