Plants that look like lettuce can be a great addition to your dining table. However, you should be aware that some lookalike plants might be dangerous and even toxic.
This complete guide will tell you about 9 plants that look like lettuce and whether they’re safe to eat or not.
List of Plants That Look Like Lettuce
From a distance, you might mistake some types of kale for coral lettuce. However, since there are several varieties of kale, you might want to wait until the plant matures so you can easily identify it.
– Why You Should Grow It
The kale plant isn’t just an excellent addition to your kitchen because it’s packed with antioxidants, but it’s also an ornamental plant that adds beauty to your garden. And the good news is that it’s one of the fastest-growing vegetable plants, so it can go from seeds to harvest in just three months.
Growing kale from cuttings is the easiest way to spread this plant. You can either serve it raw, cook it with pasta, or use it to make kale chips.
Kale has distinctively curly leaves that can come in shades of green, purple, and yellow. It’s a biennial that you can harvest twice a year, and it prefers low temperatures, so you can plant kale in spring or wait for fall to enjoy a winter harvest. It grows the leaves in one year and then grows the flowers in the next, completing its cycle in two years.
2. Swiss Chard
Swiss chard doesn’t look like lettuce from a distance, but when you examine the leaves, the Swiss chard’s leaves look very close to the leaves of romaine lettuce, albeit they can be darker.
This vegetable is biennial, completing its growing cycle in two years, and it’s straightforward to grow in your vegetable garden, thriving in similar conditions to beets and spinach. The leaves are broad with easy-to-notice veins and come in contrasting shades adding to the beauty of this vegetable.
In the second year, the plant grows tiny yellow flowers. You can plant this vegetable in the late summer for a fall harvest as it tolerates the cold weather. It does well in partial shade but thrives in full sun, mainly if it’s grown in well-draining, organically rich soil.
– What You Need To Know
The leaves of Swiss chard are always green and are usually dark green, yet the stalks come in various shades of green, yellow, purple, bronze, and orange. People usually eat the young leaves raw in salads, but once the plant matures, it’s cooked in stews or added to casseroles and quiches.
The leaves of beets look a lot like loose-leaf lettuce and butterhead lettuce. Although beets are known to be root vegetables, all parts of the plant are edible. People usually eat beets in salads, cook them with hummus, or use them to prepare healthy smoothies. The greens are cooked or served raw in salads.
– Special Features
Known for their bright red color, some golden and even striped varieties of beets are available. The vegetable is extremely fast to grow and is known as a cold-season crop, so it will keep your vegetable garden alive when other crops can’t grow.
– When and Where To Plant
You can plant beets in the spring if the temperature is below 75 degrees Fahrenheit. In warmer climates, you can grow beets in the fall for a winter harvest. Growing beets in containers is possible.
Spacing your seeds about one to two inches apart in the garden is essential, and the plant doesn’t need a support structure. The plant loves the sun but can still grow in partial shade. You can serve it raw or steam it to enjoy its valuable nutrients.
Cabbage is an excellent addition to your vegetable garden, especially if you live in a colder climate, because this vegetable can’t withstand high heat. However, when grown as an annual, it can be harvested during the same season.
– How To Identify
There are several cabbage varieties that look like iceberg lettuce, although cabbage is dusty green with very prominent white veins. Some types look a bit different with curly leaves, and others even have purple leaves. The seedlings usually have round leaves that get thicker and become slightly toothed as the plant matures.
Although most types of cabbage are edible, there are several ornamental varieties that are mainly grown for their flowers. The center of the plant opens up to reveal an enormous and attention-grabbing flower, and its color depends on the variety. Some varieties grow greenish-white flowers, while others grow purple or even red flowers.
Cabbage seeds need to be started indoors at least two months before you plan on planting them. Then, you should plant them in late summer, when the weather begins to cool a little bit. Cabbage is usually buttered, boiled, steamed, or roasted, and some varieties can be eaten raw.
Kohlrabi is native to Northern Europe and is not that common in North America, but it’s one of the veggies that you can easily notice in the produce aisle in your supermarket.
You can eat kohlrabi raw or cooked, and it tastes a little peppery when it’s eaten raw in a salad. Some varieties are rather sweet, but these are less common. It softens when it cooks and is usually added to stews, soups, and stir-fries.
While growing, the kohlrabi seedlings look a lot like cabbage seedlings, and then they grow rounded leaves with protruding veins, so you might mistake them for some types of lettuce. However, once it matures, the vegetable looks more like a green turnip. The leaves are usually large and toothed and have white vines.
– Growing Conditions
The sun helps enhance the flavor of the kohlrabi as it grows. It’s not a root vegetable but grows in the same conditions as root veggies like carrots. It thrives in warm weather and needs to be watered regularly.
There are numerous varieties of beans, but the ones growing from low bushes look a lot like lettuce. Most beans are green, but some varieties can also be red, purple, yellow, and streaked.
Although most types of beans are edible, raw or undercooked beans can be toxic to humans and some animals. You can use beans in stews or dips, and they will be delicious with the right seasonings.
– Care Tips
Beans grow in various zones and are tolerant of many weather conditions. However, it’s best to plant them after all the dangers of frost have passed because they’re not tolerant of cold weather.
When the soil is too cold, the seeds will rot as they need to grow in damp, warm, and fertile soil.
– Special Features
Beans’ leaves come in three clusters, and two leaves usually grow opposite each other, with the third one above them in the middle. The flowers look like elephants’ heads and can be white, purple, or pink. During summer, these flowers turn into bean pods.
Bush beans need to be planted about three inches apart. They need to grow in full sun for the best harvest. In shady conditions, this plant will be prone to fungal diseases.
Although carrots are root vegetables like turnips and beets, their shoots look very much like frisée lettuce, especially from a distance. When they’re young, carrots have grass-like leaves, but as the plant matures, the foliage becomes fern-like. You can chop them and toss them over your salad or use them as a garnish for various dishes.
– What You Need To Know
Most people believe that all carrots are orange. While the orange roots are the most common ones, carrots actually come in different colors, including white and purple. This vegetable has a fast-growing rate, and its seeds usually germinate within 20 days.
Carrots are harvested in their first year before they overwinter, and most of the time, they take between 50 to 75 days to harvest.
– Growing Conditions
Carrots can grow well in cool weather, so you can start sowing the seeds two or three weeks before the last frost. However, in a hot climate, you might want to grow carrots in the fall.
In most cases, gardeners follow the succession planting method, planting more carrots every two weeks as long as the weather is cool. These veggies need to receive between six to eight hours of direct sunlight and grow well in loose, sandy, and slightly acidic soil.
Rocks in the ground will cause the roots of carrots to break, and they will become deformed. You need to water your carrots regularly and add mulch to retain the moisture in the soil.
8. Sow Thistle
Sow thistle is an edible weed that spreads fast, growing more than 25,000 seeds per plant. This plant inhabits disturbed lands, where other plants struggle to grow, and it looks a lot like wild lettuce with its broad leaves, which can be eaten raw or cooked.
During the seedling stage, it’s pretty challenging to distinguish this plant, so you’ll have to wait until it matures. The plant has bluish-green edible leaves and dandelion-like yellow flowers when it’s mature. The upper leaves are usually smaller than the lower ones, and the leaves are prickly.
Although the flowers of sow thistle are easily mistaken for dandelions, you can tell them apart by looking at the stems. Dandelions grow one flower per stalk, while the sow thistle grows multiple flowers per stalk.
– Special Features
There are two varieties of sow thistle, the annual and the perennial one. Both look similar, but the annual sow thistle leaves are smoother. The flowers are also smaller. The roots, flowers, and leaves of sow thistle are edible, and it’s best to eat the plant while it’s still young. The older the plant gets, the more bitter it becomes.
This plant can survive in almost any habitat, including driveways, cracks, gravel banks, lawns, and meadows. However, perennial sow thistle grows best in fertile soil.
9. Horse Nettle
Horse nettle is a perennial herbaceous plant that can be three feet tall. It looks a lot like Belgian endive, which is an edible type of lettuce, but all parts of the plant are highly toxic. This plant is considered a weed, but it’s actually a native wildflower of the prairies.
The upper stems grow star-shaped white or light-violet flowers. Each flower has five petals and grows five anthers. When they mature, the flowers turn into yellow fruits, which are highly toxic to humans and can easily be fatal to a child. The stems have white and yellow spines and broad leaves that are rectangular along the margins.
– What You Need To Know
Horse nettle belongs to the family of tomatoes and eggplant, but their fruits contain a higher percentage of carbohydrates, neutralizing the effects of toxic alkaloids.
It grows in several soil conditions, including disturbed land. But it thrives in prairies, areas along railroads, abandoned fields, and vacant lots, so you might see it growing in your garden or yard if it’s neglected. Because of its underground rhizomes, the horse nettle is challenging to pull out by hand.
Many plants look like lettuce, and some even share the same growing conditions, so they can be good companion plants in your vegetable garden.
- Kale, Swiss chard, beets, and cabbage closely resemble different types of lettuce.
- Kohlrabi, beans, and carrots look like lettuce at different stages of their lives.
- Sow thistle looks like wild lettuce.
- Horse nettle is a non-edible lettuce lookalike.
So, with your next gardening plan, which lettuce lookalike will you pick for your vegetable garden?
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