Sunday, August 17, 2008

Bull thistle is edible.... Sort of

You may find some field guides that say bull thistle cirsium vulgare (or some other plant you have to boil and drain 3 times so you don't choke to death or die) is edible. Great! I am picturing a wonderful wild salad or soup now! I don't want to diss any of the field guides, but to say that the thistle "Provide palatable dishes" OK, but at what price?
You can really separate the writers who have actually done it, from the copy and repeat type writers when you come across talking about how GREAT bull thistle is to prepare and eat (it tastes so wonderful, it's so easy, here are 10 recipes for your enjoyment!! blah blah blah).
I mean really, have you ever seen or touched one of these babies?
Come on, by the time you get past all the thistles (and get poked a few times in the process), skin and eat the thing you could have built a really nice green house and grown some real salad food.
Don't get me wrong, I am SURE there is someone out there that will insist that it is the best thing EVER.
I doubt they have a newborn and toddler alongside when they are picking it.
Just a thought

PS- I am thinking the bull thistle has all of this protection for a reason, it must serve a much bigger and better purpose than for us to eat it as food. Considering all the other wild foods there are to choose from, I will let thistle be and enjoy it's lovely purple flowers:)


Henriette said...


I've nibbled on various thistle leaves, de-spined ... scissors are best at removing those spines, and I wouldn't touch the REALLY spiny ones.

They're fairly tasty, one and all, but it's much too much work to pick enough for a whole salad (or spinach-type dish) - I'm staying with wildfood walks, pick a leaf, cut off the spiny edges, ask around "who wants to taste this", and hand it out.

The root of our usual garden weed thistle is long, white, and tasty - and doesn't need de-spining.

And of course, the purple flowers of all of them make a nice anti-inflammatory salve.

Angie Goodloe LMT, Herbalist said...

I have a pretty impressive one out in my yard. Ella and I were out there collecting red clover when it -poked me and Ella the wrong way- LOL which inspired me to write this post (I thought edible, ya right, no thanks LOL). I should be easier on old Bull Thistle, as you said the flowers make a nice salve:)
Really, the post was also not so much to pick on Bull Thistle, but more to illustrate how some of those wild food guides neglect to mention the reality of some of these preparation methods (really I don't think they actually worked with the plant- rather just repeated what someone else said)By the time you get the bull thisle skinned it is only really a mouthful and you just spent a few hours doing it, all the while trying not to get poked-
Making coffee out of cleaver seeds also comes to mind as well- You would have to cover 10 square miles of cleavers to get enough seeds to make a nice cup of coffee LOL

Angie Goodloe LMT, Herbalist said...

Oh.... and cleavers are NOT coffee

Coffee "substitutes" is a whole new post.

chiggles said...

I don't know about Bull Thistle particularly, but in Sam Thayer's 'The Forager's Harvest', he speaks of eating the primary shoot at least, I've seen him do so, and seen that he enjoyed it.
There is no wild foods book I could recommend more, as everything in there is from his own personal experience, not a rephrasing of what others have written but never tried. Really, quite worthwhile.