foraging invasive species Plants wild food

Thistle Stems!

The hills are green, and the thistles are bursting out.   Not too long ago, I was walking barefoot on the young winter grass and eating baby thistle sprouts.   In a few short winter months, those same sprouts have turned into formidable plants, 2-4 feet high covered with sharp prickles (thorns, spines).   They have sent up their tall flowering spikes and the flowers still remain unopen.   Once opened, usually the stems rapidly get too tough to enjoy.   So now is the perfect time to get them.  Once peeled the tender inner part of the stem or stalk is a spectacular wild vegetable, either raw or cooked.   Crunchy and sweet like a cucumber raw, when cooked (especially cooked in soup, it directly soaks up the flavor the broth) it is much easier to peel and tastes a bit like green beans to me.   Possibly asparagus.    Why aren’t thistle stems sold in markets and found in restaurants?

People say it’s a lot of work.  For a vegetable this amazing I disagree.   Is it more work than, let’s say, harvesting cabbage?   — totally.  With thistles you have to use gloves and cut off the leaves and peel off the prickles, then further peel the fibers down to the core.    However, they required no tilling, weeding, pest control, fencing, planting, digging, mowing, or fertilizing.   Taking that into consideration, you’ll find that producing something edible from cabbage is much more work.    The thistles just grow.   A thistle plant has a more potent life force than cabbage or domesticated vegetable.   The cabbage needs special soil, weed control, protection from slugs and animals, fertilizer, and lots of water.   Thistles just grow in direct competition for other precious resources in the wild environment here.   They just grow.    And are one of the best tasting wild vegetables I know.