Did You Ever Eat A Thistle?

Faye and I felt a need to get out into nature and get some exercise walking the trails. It was a beautiful day and we were the only people in the entire nature preserve, which is just the way we like it. There was enough of a chill in the air that we wore our winter coats the entire time we were there.


We ran across this environmentally friendly graffiti on our walk. It made us smile.



On the way home I spotted some wild thistles growing on the side of the road. They were at just the right stage of maturity for eating. I stopped the car to harvest a few of the plants.

Anyone who knows me knows I am really a twelve year old boy (who will never grow up) hiding in a 63 year old body. Give me an opportunity to experiment (play) with something that interests me and I will play. So you are hereby warned that this is one of my off-the-wall postings.

This brings us to the question I posed, “Did you ever eat a thistle?” If you have eaten an artichoke you have eaten a thistle. Almost all thistles are edible.

The wording of my question is an imitation of the title of a chapter in Euell Gibbons’ book, Stalking The Healthful Herbs. The chapter was titled, “Did You Ever Eat A Pine Tree?” Euell Gibbons was a renowned naturalist and expert on wild edible foods famous in the 1970’s for his television commercials for Post GrapeNuts cereal which he said reminded him of the taste of wild hickory nuts. I was interested in wild edible foods long before I became aware of Euell Gibbons, and I became an instant fan.

Long ago, in the days (years) of my squandered youth, when I spent a few years living in the desert mountain wilderness, I sometimes in early spring ate the stems of wild thistles. Back then I munched on them in their raw state enjoying their slightly sweet flavor before spitting out the pithy fiber as one would after chewing on sugarcane.

I decided to steam the stalks of the thistle plants I harvested today to see what they would  taste like cooked. The thorny spines on the leaves can indeed be thrust through the thick of one’s thumb if one is careless. With the help of tongs in one hand and a sharp knife in the other I removed the leaves and peeled the stems without a single poke to the thick of my thumb.


With added salt, Faye and I both thought the steamed thistle stalks had excellent flavor reminiscent of something we were unable to name. They were tender with very little fiber. I was reminded of the flavor of chayote squash except that I don’t care for chayote and I did like the thistle. As good as it tasted with just plain salt I’m looking forward to eating it with butter, or better still, truffle butter!



Please note that by publishing this post I am not advocating that you risk thistles being thrust through the thick of your thumb by going out into the wilds gathering thistles, that is unless you have a twelve year old boy living inside you who occasionally makes decisions for you against your better judgment. Compare this photo of the discarded portions of the plant with the amount of edible portion on the plate in the previous photo.










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