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Thistle Wild Edible Food


Bull Thistle Identification:

Herb, two to five feet high, basal and stem leaves lobed, lower stems leaves can be 4 to 9 inches long. Leaves are very spiny. Leaves can be hairy or wooly, second year stems topped with old style shaving brush shapped flowers like you would see in old western movies barbershops scenes. Flowers are usually purple.

Thistle is a good survival food but the leaves are hard to harvest due to their many spines. But despite the spines the leaves and stalks edible once the spines have been trimmed away, maybe with scissors. Roots and unopened flower bud bottoms are also edible.

Michael Shephard, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org The bull thistle has a two year growing cycle. The first year the plant is just a root and a rosette, a ring of leaves. The thistles second year it will send up a stem with a blossom on top.

The first year you can ead the roots and the leaves. The root however will not be worth the effort until after the spring because it will take till then for the root to grow to a significant useable size.

In first year (or second year) plants remove the spines and rub off the hair/wool from the leaves when harvesting. They can be eaten raw or cooked. There are a number of species of thistle that you might mistake for bull thistle but they are all edible although they may not taste great.

In the second year plant the inner core of the flower stalks (best in spring) is the easiest and quickest part of the plant to get to. Peel the stalk of the outside fibrous coat. The leaves are still edible as are the bottom of the flower buds if picker early, though the bud bottoms arenít much more than a nibble. Both stem and leaves can be eaten raw or cooked.

Oil Extraction:

The seeds are also edible and can produce oil that can be used in lamp or cooking. First pan roast seeds stirring constantly until seeds are toasted. Then allow them to cool. Next place the seeds upon a hard, flat, smooth surface and crush them into a paste. Fill a pot/container with water and seed paste and bring to a slow boil. The oil will rise to the top where you can skim off with a spoon. into its own container.

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