The BULL about Bull Thistle

Bull Thistle in Bloom

Bull Thistle in Bloom

Bull Thistle, that prickly, pokey, spiny plant that hurts to even think about touching.  We did though.  We touched it a lot.  We got poked, ALOT!  Then we got smart and brought leather gloves and gardening pruners with us.  We gathered more, many many more of those beautiful purple blossoms.  Why? you ask.  To eat them of course!

No, seriously.  We ate them.  It was a pain in the patootie, but we did it.  Was it worth it?  Not really.  Here’s why:

  • They hurt me, repeatedly
  • It’s a lot of work for a thumbnails worth of food
  • It takes a tremendous amount of thistle blossoms to make any sort of a side dish
  • They hurt me, repeatedly
  • Did I say, they hurt me?

Supposedly you can eat the stems.  Only stems from the first years growth because after that they get way to tough.  We found that out the hard way, David and I.  Bull thistle can be prepared by boiling it and then extracting the good stuff.  They are rather like an artichoke in how the look, taste, and are prepared.  Just like and artichoke you don’t want the “choke” part, just the meaty fleshy part underneath all the hairy stuff.  The hairy stuff is the flower.  Unlike artichoke, it’s just not worth it.  You boil the thistle heads whole for about 20-30 minutes.  They actually turn black and get soft when they are done.  After retrieving them from the cooking water with tongs or a slotted spoon, you need to cool them a bit so you can handle them.  The spines are softer now but you will still get poked if your not wearing gloves.  I found it easiest to cut the head in half lengthwise.  I then used a spoon to get in between the choke and the flesh and scraped the good stuff out.  It’s so small.  I did this about 20 times before I got sick of it and stopped.  David and I each ate about 10. We agreed they taste like globe artichoke but that we would rather just eat the artichoke.

You can also eat the leaves of the Bull Thistle.  We aren’t even going to go into that aspect of it.  David and I decided that that was not happening.  You have to pick all the spines off.  That in itself would be such a monumentous task.  We couldn’t see it being worth it unless we were absolutely starving and couldn’t find anything else to eat.  Then we might consider it.

I think that the beautiful Bull Thistle flower is best left to the bees.Honey Bee on Bull Thistle Bee on Thistle   If You decided you just have to try eating the Bull Thistle plant, BE CAREFUL! Protect your hands by wearing some sort of protective covering.  If you decide to eat the leaves , remove all spines.  You can fry them up like any other greens. 

Honey bee getting pollen off of a Bull Thistle plant

Honey bee getting pollen off of a Bull Thistle plant


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