The Man who Tried to Eat Canada Thistle

Randy Does It Again

randy holding mouth small

I have had various experiences with the wild plants in my yard and garden. Some of them are pleasant experiences, and some of them are not.  This story falls into the second category.

During our recent set of interviews with Health Tribe Forum, Diana was talking with Stephen Buhner, a world plant expert. He explained that THISTLES are actually quite good for your health. He also explained in the same breath, that Chickweed (or Lamb’s Quarters) is just wild spinach. 

It happens that Chickweed and Canada thistle are some of the healthiest plants in my garden.  I like eating chick weed so was very interested in the thistle idea. I was intensely curious whether you could actually take away the prickles. I couldn’t imagine how this could happen.  Visions of millions of happy Canadians feasting on enormous salad bowls of this prickly plant filled my mind. I wanted to ask about Canada Thistle in particular but didn’t want to interrupt. Perhaps I should have.

I had also heard that you can either cook or blend thistles.  Blending is easier so that is what I tried. I pulled out several young plants (because that is what you are supposed to do) and just threw them in water and blended.

Amazing – the prickles were gone.  I could not feel them with my fingers in the blender or the few cautious drops in my mouth.

But the SMELL! It started drifting up even when I first started blending and got even stronger as I went along. Imagine blending up someone else’s smelly socks knowing you were going to eat the mixture! How does your body feel as you imagine this?  This is how my body feels several hours after I tried this.

bad smell food

The taste was not AS bad. It didn’t have a lot of taste to begin with but the aftertaste closely resembles the smell. BAD!  I did not throw up but was well on my way!

OK so I’ve learned I can’t eat Canada thistle like this.  But what was Stephen talking about? I will certainly ask him and do some research but perhaps you, as a member of the Health Tribe Forum or Real Food for Life, can help me?  Please leave your comments below. (You can even comment on how dumb I have been.)

This is what the Health Tribe Forum is all about – combining our own direct experience and inner intelligence with the knowledge gleaned by mankind over the ages and combining it with modern scientific understanding.

Questions that come up in my mind:

  • Does my reaction mean Canada thistle is not good for me, ever?
  • Would cooking or blending with something else balance this effect?  Maybe if the thistles were fried in butter and onions and a dash of salt!
  • Is there some particular compound in Canada thistle which causes this kind of reaction?

What do you think?

vital healt assessment

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15 thoughts on “The Man who Tried to Eat Canada Thistle”

  1. Annie Sylvan

    I have read many references to Milk Thistle preparations like tablets and capsules in health publications, but not Canada Thistle.  Could be that there is a big difference.
    Good for you for experimenting! Sorry to hear of the results :~)

  2. I too am very curious about this. I have been weeding these out of my garden perpetually all spring and early summer. I found a website that states to cook them first:

    I haven’t tried it yet, but I may soon.


  3. Hi, I juice my thistles and find the juice about on par with wheat grass juice taste wise. The yield is better. My body LOVES the juice!!

    1. Hi Ross. I agree – its almost like drinking wheat grass. I think I basically ate my thistle TOO STRONG or too much. With wheat grass you quickly drink one or two ounces. I was drinking 16 ounces of the thistle. Thanks

  4. Spear Thistle
    Cirsium vulgare
    Take care here because the flowering heads are the bit you want to pick! Take a purple flowering head, pull it open carefully removing all the downy material. At the base right down in the middle is the fleshy part that you can eat, it’s a bit like the principle of the globe artichoke, you can eat it raw or steam it gently, though nutritionally it is probably superior raw.

  5. chicweed is not lambs quarters. lambs quarters is an erect plant that may grow to 4 feet, chicweed is sprawling plant. both are edible and delicious.

    i have not yet found a good way to cook canada thistle. when it is very young (infantile, maybe 2 inches high) you can eat it raw in a salad, its not that bad that way. i have tried sauteing the flower buds before they bloom with no success in taste.

    however, there are many types of thistles out there, and i believe that the whole sonchus genus is edible, not sure about cirsium though.

    i liked the comment about eating it like an artichoke. i had given up on the plant, but i will try it again. also, when steaming things like cirsium, just drink the water as a tonic tea, no loss of nutrition.

    thank you

  6. Cynthia Patterson

    Ive been making Canadian Thistle juice. I blend it with an apple and lemon juice and a splash of maple syrup, and tadaa! Tasty juice with all the benefits of thistle, and then some, and delicious! I strain out all the hard matter for a smooth pulpless juice.

  7. I just picked from my yard what I’ve now learned is Canadian Thistle. You frightened me at first Randy with your reaction to smell and taste. But, as I read that it is more as lemon grass and the last post for blending with apple and lemon juice I thinking to give it a try. I also pulled up dandelion. I’ve planted them in my sun room and hoping they’ll take root. We’ll see. Just to share: My mother was give a plant years ago 1970’s that was known as the Canker Sore Vine. We never suffered from canker sores but we grew it anyway. A little neighbor girl did suffer from this and I’d see her every now and then picking leaves and eating them. I assume it worked. However, when my children were all grown and my husband and I moved to Colorado I did take a plantlet with me. Finally, one day I decided to research to find out the actual name of this plant. Voila! It’s called Madeira Vine. As I researched I discovered that this plant is good for infections of all kinds. For instance, as I tested, my grandson came down with a fever and sore throat. His mother was questioning sending him to school. I ran home and got three leaves and told him to eat them. Within one half hour his fever was completely gone and by the next day his sore throat vanished as well. Like the thistle most of the info found on this plant is on how to get rid of it. If this plant grows up a tree it will take it down. Presently a huge problem in Australia as it is indigenous to the southern hemisphere. It is very tenacious, hence believed to be the reason for it great medicinal properties. Consequently, I’m giving this plant away like nobody’s business. I have to grow it indoors as it will not take the winter cold here. As you can surmise, I’m very interested in natural means for healing. The thistle and dandelion I’m just discovering today. From what I’ve learned so far, I’m hoping this could be of help to my brother who suffers with severe liver problems. He’s been hospitalize a few times already, this last time with fear of death. Thank you for Real Food For Life Site. I’ve enjoyed the sharing.

  8. I steam Canada Thistle leaves, then puree them in the blender with a little water or broth. Then I freeze the puree in ice cube trays and use a couple cubes in stews or soups in the winter when greens are not available (we live in central British Columbia, Canada) It has a pretty bland taste so goes with just about anything – would do well in a green smoothie.

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