Eating Weeds: Sow Thistle

Sow thistle (Sonchus oleraceus) is one of my family's favorite weeds to eat. The flavor varies somewhat between raw broccoli and raw radish - although I've heard some people describe it as tasting more like spinach. It makes an excellent addition to salads - or you can saute it like dandelion leaves or other greens. And while the plant is edible all year (until the frost kills it back), I think the young leaves of spring taste the best. As the plant ages, the leaves become bitter and tough.

Not only does sow thistle taste really great, but it's also high in protein, iron, vitamin C, and essential fatty acids. This is a wild edible worth seeking out.

Around here, many people confuse sow thistle with dandelion - but if you pay attention, the only similarity between the two plants is the cheery yellow flower. sow thistle grows tall, quite unlike dandelion, and the leaves are shaped completely different. In addition, sow thistle has many flowers on each stalk; dandelions have a single flower on each stalk.

Sow thistle is also sometimes confused with wild lettuce. However, wild lettuce has a line of hairs (sometimes quite sharp, depending upon the variety) on the underside of the leaves, whereas sow thistle  does not.

It's not just the leaves of sow thistle that are edible, either. The stems can be peeled then steamed or sauteed. The roots are also edible, though quite bitter. Usually they are prepared just like dandelion roots for tea or "coffee."Also like dandelions, some folks pickle the buds.( Just pick them before they start opening and dump them in pickling brine. It's fine to use brine from store bought pickles.) Or pop the buds in a salad. Even the flowers are edible, and are sometimes used to make wine (much like dandelion wine).

As with all wild edibles, use caution. Examine the plant carefully, using a good field guide - and ideally with an experienced forager at your side. Do not eat any plant you can't identify with 100% accuracy.

You May Also Be Interested In:


No comments