|Milk thistle in salad with tomatoes, cukes, and peppers |
with dressing made from homemade mayo and
foraged passion fruit. So delicious!
Seriously, if I hadn't read that thistles are a commonly foraged food by the indigenous people to my region, I would have thought the same thing. But if they eat it, it must be worthwhile.
Because, as a foraged food, it has much more nutrition than any green you'll get in the store, as nutritional value of foods decrease dramatically each day they're sitting around before they're eaten. Transporting veggies from the farm to the packaging plants to the distributors to the grocery store to your home takes time, and during that time, the nutritional value of food diminishes with each passing day.
On the other hand, as a foraged food, it goes straight from the ground into your kitchen and will likely be eaten within a day or two. It's a good source of manganese, iron, phosphorous, zinc, and selenium.
|A large milk thistle plant. Not all of them are this huge.|
Younger plants are just short and flat on the
ground without the stem and flower.
Because it's free. Need I say more?
Because the land wasn't harmed, the air wasn't polluted, and the no finite resource (gasoline) was used to bring this green to your table. Which can't usually be said about other greens and veggies.
Because it is very good for your body. Milk thistle has many health benefits, some proven with reliable scientific studies, and others still in the process of being tested, but have been used to treat ailments for over a millennium. It works as an antidote for eating poisonous mushrooms, as a liver cleanser and treatment for liver diseases like hepatitis and cirrhosis, destroys free radicals and is used to fight cancer, helps prevent and heal gallstones, and much else. (You can read more about it here.)
Because it is easy to identify by its unique white and green mottled leaves with thorns along the edges. For more identification information, see here.
Because it is found everywhere. Native to the Mediterranean, it now can be found throughout the world including (but not limited to) Europe, England, Africa, Asia, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, etc. Milk thistle grows not 200 feet from my front door, in an empty lot across the street.
|Foraged milk thistle (with some mallow thrown in). |
Note the distinct white spiderweb design on the leaf,
which easily identifies this as milk thistle.
Because every single part of the plant can be eaten, from the leaves to the roots to the stems to the flowers. I've only eaten the leaves yet, but they're definitely worth the effort. (See more info about eating the rest of the plant here.)
Because contrary to what you might think, the thorns aren't as big of an issue as they might seem. The thorns are only along the sides of the leaves- so long as you hold the leaf by the middle, you won't get pricked, though you might find gloves to be useful while picking the leaves. (I didn't bother.)
To eat them raw, you just use scissors and cut off the very edge of the thistle leaf. (Bigger ones are less work.)
Once you cook them, the thorns soften, and you can eat them, thorns and all. Frying the leaves makes the leaves crispy like potato chips (crisps for you non Americans) and the thorns non irritating. Boiling them also softens the thorns enough that you can eat them like spinach without a second thought. (If you're still concerned, you can whiz it in a blender to make sure no part of the thorn remains, but I find it unnecessary.)
I'm a new milk thistle forager, but I'll never look at this common weed the same way again! It is so delicious, terrific, and nutritious that I'll have an easy peasy time staying away from pesticide and herbicide filled spinach and lettuce!
Have you ever seen milk thistle growing? Have you even foraged it? Would you have the guts to try this one out, should you come across this plant? Does that salad look appetizing to you?