Date: Sat, 24 Jun 1995 22:28:07 -0800
From: Anita F Hales <JSAFH.ACAD1.ALASKA.EDU>
Subject: Thistles

There are several species of thistles in the Pacific Northwest (Circium ssp).
Has anyone ever compared the properties of the various species? Are they all edible? How do the medicinal properties compare? Etc. I found some Cirsium Edule nearby and hve seen Bull thistle too. Has anyone had experience eating any of these?

From: Deborah Duchon <antdadx.GSUSGI2.GSU.EDU>

Yes, I have eaten thistles. They're good. You've probably eaten thistles, too. After all, artichokes are the bud of a large thistle flower.

I've also eaten thistles in the wild. All thistles are edible. While other plants have protection from predators in the form of chemicals, thistle's only protection is from thorns. They have a very mild flavor.

You can boil the roots of all thistles, as varous Indian tribes did, usually as survival food (I've heard that Indians considered thistles a gift from the heavens). You can also eat the stems of the young plant after peeling away the thorny outer layer and leaves. I've hear of boiling the leaves, but have not tried it.

Despite the thorns, thistles are benign, useful plants that are important to wildlife, especially song birds, who use the down (which makes the seeds fly like little parachutes on the wind) for nesting material, and seeds as a major food source. Those expensive niger seeds that you buy to feed finches are the seeds of a thistle. You can just encourage thistles to grow in a corner of your yard to attract song birds. --

From: Deborah Duchon <antdadx.GSUSGI2.GSU.EDU>

> Do you eat the roots only from young plants or can you eat them anytime?

As far as I know, you can eat them anytime. The Indians considered them a survival food, and you can't always schedule when you'll need a survival food. There is nothing poisonous about thistles at all. The worst that might happen would be that they would be tough and woody, or bitter.

From: Deborah Duchon <antdadx.GSUSGI2.GSU.EDU>

Mr. Collins asked if thistle seeds were ok for human consumption. Well, I've never heard of that, but it doesn't make it impossible. Everything I've read, heard, and experienced says that all parts of the thistle are edible. --

From: Howie Brounstein <howieb.TELEPORT.COM>

Thistles - the crown - where the root connects to the stem, is also edible on all the Cirsiums I have encountered. They're not as fibrous as the roots and often very juicy.