Thistles for Dinner!

Even our four-year-old enjoys the thistle greens

For dinner last night we ate wild sow thistle!  My hubby grew up in the south, eating collard greens.  Sow thistle is similar, but even more nutritious!  In fact, it has higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids and some minerals than any domesticated green (domesticated plants are bred for looks, season, easy growing, etc, NOT necessarily for nutritional content).

A section of our backyard has recently become overgrown with sow (mama pig) thistle, since Silver Oak went along with his wife’s crazy idea to let wild edibles (weeds) grow during this slow growing season here in Central Florida.  Sow thistle is not a genuine thistle, but bears that name because its leaves have a spiny appearance, and the mature, stiffer leaves are prickly because of their pointed tips.

The girls harvest sow thistle from our back yard

As long as buds have not opened, the top six inches of each stalk is very tender and tasty and can be cooked and eaten like asparagus, or even raw in a salad.  Once the buds open, a bitter flavor sets in, although not nearly like dandelion greens.  Boiling more mature stems and leaves reduces bitterness, also relaxing stiffness and prickliness.

Our main entrée last night for eight cost under two dollars; the only store-bought ingredients were seasonings and a box of pasta.  Talk about a frugal menu, tons of nutrients, and harvesting food we didn’t plant!  Sometimes blessings are too close and common to see!  We steamed the tops of the stalks and seasoned them with salt, olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic, serving them like asparagus.

The bounty from one harvest

Our favorite was the pasta with sow thistle leaves sautéed in extra virgin olive oil.  We had chopped the washed leaves so they would tenderize more easily.  We added salt and lots of garlic, mixed it with cooked and drained pasta, and topped it with parmesan cheese.  It was very tasty, and confirmed once again that wild foods are more filling than normal foods.

Sow thistle

We have books about wild edibles, but an interesting one that taught the most about sow thistle is Edible Wild Plants: Wild Foods From Dirt To Plate, written by a PhD in nutrition who has spent time getting all of his vegetables from wild plants.



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12 thoughts on “Thistles for Dinner!

  1. How neat! I would never have thought of weeds as being “yummy,” but I’ve been reading a little about this sort of thing (i.e. yummy weeds). Very interesting. (I’m still not eager to try them, but it’s great to know for when I AM ready. 😉

    Thanks for sharing how to prepare them too. I’m going to share this link on my Facebook page.


  2. Wow it sounds like you do have a bounty of free nutritional vegetables right in your backyard and it looks like your family loved it. It’s always great when we can live off the land and you had a nice frugal meal to boot. Thanks so much for linking up to “The Ole’ Saturday Homesteading Trading Post”!


    • At our new homestead we are still trying to find all the edible weeds as they are different than the last place we lived. But it’s amazing what good things can grow right under our noses with no effort sometimes.


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