Collecting bull thistle is not for the faint of heart (or tender-fingered.) But if you’re willing to brave the spines, the payoff is delicious and one of a few crunchy, mild-tasting wild vegetables that you can eat raw. Of course you can cook it too, but the leaf midribs are sure to be a hit (and a huge conversation piece) on your next veggie party plate. Here’s how to get to those wild, crunchy slightly-fuzzy veggie sticks:
1. Find a good patch of bull thistles with large leaves. Wearing gloves (or not if you don’t mind a prick or two), cut the leaves as close to the basal rosette (where they appear to branch out of the center) as possible – you can use scissors but might find that small garden pruners work better. The larger leaves will provide the longest, thickest midribs though the smaller leaves will have the tenderest. Throw the leaves in a bag for processing – paper or cloth bags are best to avoid getting poked through the bag.
2. Use scissors to strip the spiny parts off the leaf until you are left with a stiff, light-green colored veggie stick that you can wash, chop and set out on a plate for dipping. You might want to strip the leaves while you’re out in the field to avoid bringing all the spines into your kitchen.
note: All true thistles are edible and have many edible parts though some will be more palatable than others.