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Thistle: Perfect complement to meats and fish

This plant is a part of the Compositae family, species of different genera having in common leaves and branches with thorns. The variety called ‘Cynara cardunculus’ usually appears as an edible species, although there are many kinds of thistles.

Found in northern Africa, the possible birthplace of this delicious plant, worthy ancestor of the artichoke. Its Mediterranean origin makes it an ideal dish and appreciated in many countries. For its widespread occurrence in Europe which it received in the Middle Ages, the cultivation of thistle in South America began in Argentine where it was brought by Spanish conquerors.

Key Features

 Key Features

Key Features

Its perennial character does not prevent its annual growth. The height of this plant in some cases exceeds one meter, requiring more than a meter between bushes and other growth to be problem free.

The leaves of the plant are prized because of its meaty taste. To prove that these pads much more pleasant to taste, thistle harvesting techniques include methods which give it a more tender and juicy texture. These techniques are called milling and ridging.

Fall is the season for the beginning of harvesting. The stems are gradually collected plant by plant and harvesting continues.

We can find several species of this plant, but the most appreciated is presented without prickles and with the stem of a color similar to silver. The pads are characterized by their slightly bitter taste due to the cynarin it contains. It is preferable to sautée it with garlic, like a stew, to make it a perfect accompaniment to meats and fish. You can also top it with bechamel and cheese for example, and even its browse can be served raw in salads.


The first step to consider before growing thistles is that the soil is preferably to be fertilized with manure. Thistles need much sun to grow properly. Irrigation must be plentiful at first but then you should ration it not to create the excess moisture. Finally, we must also grub up weeds.

Planting seeds for the days before the beginning of spring is the first step in the cultivation of thistle. Once the plant reaches a height of approximately 15 cm, proceed to transplant seedlings from the original seedbed. If we have a large garden, we can choose to make shallow holes which will deposit between 3 and 5 seeds well separated.

The distance between plants is vital because, as a rule, stems demand space and they enter into the closest competition attempting to steal land and substrate. The task is to leave 50-60 cm between the plants.

Nutritional value

Nutritional value

Nutritional value

Water is the essential component of this plant. Its composition is far from artichoke, the thistle’s ‘relative’ which is also appreciated in the kitchen for its countless combinations. The thistle is noted for its high calcium content but has a problem with iron as it’s not well absorbed by our bodies.

As for vitamins, highlights are vitamin C, but its content does not reach the recommended daily amount. Other minerals and trace elements found are magnesium, manganese, zinc or copper.

Usually it is considered when implementing a diuretic diet looking to tone up liver. Thistle increases the amount of bile, facilitating decongestion of your body and avoiding formation of dreaded gallstones.

When choosing it on the market, we should pay attention to the appearance of leaves and stems: no defects or blemishes and solids. Leaves should be shiny green. It is important that it gives the feeling of freshness typical of vegetables in good condition. In terms of conservation, we recommend the use of a breathable plastic.

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