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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Edible Wild Plants - Bull Thistle

DISCLAIMER: Don't believe anything I or anybody else tells you about edible wild plants. Don't eat edible wild plants based on what you see in a book or on the inter-net. Get a qualified instructor to show you the plants, and don't eat them until the instructor shows you how to prepare them, and then eats them him or herself. Be aware that you may be allergic to a plant that someone else can eat without harm. Be sure that any plants that you gather have not been sprayed with pesticides or herbicides. Pictured below: Bull Thistle

One of the edible plants that appears in the early spring in East Texas is the Bull Thistle (Cirsium vulgare). Bull thistle is not native to North America and is believed to have been introduced from Europe in colonial times. Bull Thistle is pretty easy to recognize. It pops up, seemingly overnight, out of pastures, fields, and other disturbed areas. It has a round, hollow, green, stem that has ridges on the outside kind of like celery. It has spiney leaves. The stem grows up out of a rosette of these spiney leaves. The stem or stalk can grow up to 7 feet tall, but most of the one's I see are around 3 or 4 feet. The Bull Thistle will have several flowers on it. The flowers are purple and have the classic thistle shape, and are maybe two inches tall. When the plant is mature the flowers open and release a white down. The down is excellent for fletching blowgun darts, but that will be the subject of another post. If you want to collect some thistle flowers for making blow darts, be sure and collect the flowers before they open and then use a short length of string to tie them shut. Otherwise the flowers will open, and you will have a useless bag of loose down. Pictured below: Bull Thistle flower

The stalk is the edible part of the Bull thistle. It has a pretty good taste; a little bit like sugar cane, a texture kind of like celery, and maybe just a hint of honeydew melon. You want to collect the stalks while they are still young. They become tough and more bitter as they grow older. To harvest the stalk, cut it off just above the bottom rosette of leaves. Be careful, these things will stick you. Trim off the side leaves and the top of the stalk. Pictured below: Trimed stalk

If you turn the stalk up and look at the bottom you will see that there is a dark green outer layer and a light green inner layer to the stalk. The outer layer is very fibrous and needs to be peeled off. Pictured below: End view of Bull Thistle stalk showing outer and inner layers.

Once the outer layer of stalk has been peeled off, you can cut the stalk into strips, wash it off, and eat it. Pictured below: Bull Thistle stalk with outer layer removed and Bull Thistle stalk cut up and ready to eat.

3 comments:

Mike said...

thats cool. i don't know if the ones at my dads work are good to eat its really oily their at his work and a little bit outside so do you think they would still be good enough to eat or should i leave them be

and i been wondering is any kind of thistle plants good to eat or is it just one kind thats ok to eat the thistles at his work the flower colors are light-purple and light-pink in color and they look like the spear-thistles

and if they are the same as yours would it be ok to eat the roots and the leaves if i cut the spikes off.

Mike said...

thats cool. i don't know if the ones at my dads work are good to eat its really oily their at his work and a little bit outside so do you think they would still be good enough to eat or should i leave them be

and i been wondering is any kind of thistle plants good to eat or is it just one kind thats ok to eat the thistles at his work the flower colors are light-purple and light-pink in color and they look like the spear-thistles

and if they are the same as yours would it be ok to eat the roots and the leaves if i cut the spikes off. you can email me back at painter_in_oils_925@yahoo.com

Sensible Survival said...

The thistles pictured in the post are the only ones I have ever personally eaten. Don't eat any plant growing in or near contaminated soil. I have never eaten the leaves. They have too high a cellulose content and would probably be very hard on the digestive tract. The roots I don't know about, but I do know that some plants have one part that is edible and another part that is very poison, so don't take a chance. Your best bet is to find a botanist that has experience with edible wild plants and let them teach you. Books and the internet are not a good way to learn. I have see information about wild plants on the internet that I know from personal experience is dead wrong, so get help from a professional before you eat anything.
Good luck and thanks for reading,
Hank