Silybum marianum, commonly known as milk thistle, Mary thistle, and holy thistle is a flowering plant in the daisy family. The plant derives its name from the milky sap it produces when the leaves are broken. It is native to the Mediterranean region but is now naturalized around the world. Milk thistle is edible and has been used as food for more than 2,000 years. Basically, all parts of the milk thistle have been used as food with no substantial reports of toxicity for centuries. Apart from being used as food, the plant is also known for its medicinal capabilities as it has tonic properties.
While milk thistle is considered an invasive weed in some regions, years ago, this flowering plant was cultivated as a culinary delight in Europe. Its leaves, flowers, seeds, stalks, and roots were cooked or used to spice up salads. Milk thistle seeds are the most beneficial parts of the plant because they have a high concentration of silymarin compounds, however, this article will concentrate on milk thistle blossoms. These are normally boiled or steamed as lettuce and are great artichoke substitutes.
Milk thistle flowers are light purple in color. In the northern hemisphere, the plants bloom from June to August and from December to February in the southern hemisphere. Here is how to eat milk thistle flowers:
Milk thistle soup
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6 thistle flowers
½ pounds of meat
½ pound of fish
2 cups of peeled chopped potatoes
½ cup chopped cattail stems or celery stalks
Salt to taste
Process: Start by chopping and boiling the flowers over medium heat until the water has absorbed most of the juice from the blossoms. As the mixture boils, add water until you have about 2 quarts of the milk thistle stock.
Add the onions, meat, fish and potatoes, plus the cattail stems or celery. Bring the mixture to a boil, season with salt as desired and simmer for about 2 hours.
Taste the soup before removing from heat and add salt if desired. Serve on its own or with rice.
Milk thistle tea or infusion
½ cup of milk thistle flowers
2 cups of water
1 teaspoon of organic honey (optional)
Process: Boil water in a saucepan and remove from heat. Toss in the flowers and allow to steep for about 5 minutes. Strain to get rid of the flowers and add honey for extra flavor as desired. Enjoy!
Milk thistle flowers have been a delicacy for more than 2,000 years and there is no sign of this flowering plant slowing down in its culinary drive. So, if you cannot grow these flowering plants in your kitchen garden, consider ordering some from a specialty store, Amazon or farmer’s market.