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Thistles, A Great Survival Food!

Lets talk thistles. There are so many types of thistles that are available in Canada, however, the most available one that I have found in an abundance is Canada Thistle, AKA creeping thistle. Scientific name - Cirsium Arvense. Thistles belong to the subfamily of the aster family, right along with artichokes. If you compare a thistle flower head to an artichoke, you will notice they look very similar!

Lets talk thistles. There are so many types of thistles that are available in Canada, however, the most available one that I have found in an abundance is Canada Thistle, AKA creeping thistle. Scientific name - Cirsium Arvense. There are a few other species that I come across , including field thistles, however Canada thistle seems to be the most dominant plant. Mainly because It is a highly invasive plant that did not originate in Canada at all.

So first, ill talk about thistles as a survival food. Thistle stalks, contain alot of moisture! The bigger the thistle, the thicker the stalk, the more the water content. The edible parts of the plant are the flowers, stalk, leaves, and roots in its second growing season. The stalk and the leaves are the main part of the plant that I like to eat, but you have to get past those thistles first! To get to the delicious stalk, you have to cut the plant from the bottom, near the ground. Use a striong knife and just cut it. Check the bottom for larvae in the stalk, sometimes they do burrow in there in the spring. If you see any, just go farther up the stalk instead. These bugs normally burrow pretty close the the dirt.

Now hold your plant upside down, it may be best to use some sort of glove for protection, thistles sure can hurt!

Starting from the bottom, hold the plant upside down and scrape your knife all the way up the plant stalk, removing all of the leaves and spines that are along the side of the stalk. You can cut the top of the stalk off , removing all of the flower heads. Now you will be left with a long green stalk that somewhat resembles a stick of celery!

He was very happy to try thistles!

This can now be chopped into pieces, just like celery, and fried in a pan, sauted with lemon, garlic, salt and pepper. You can also eat it raw, and suck out all of the water from the stalks themselves. The leaves can also be sauted in the pan, just trim along the edges of the leaves to remove the spines, and throw them right into the pan ! Delicious!

she wanted all the thistles!

During this wilcrafting trip, the kids got to try out their skills, scraping thorns off of thistle stalk and eating them. This late in the season the stalks are a bit chewy and slightly woody, so harvesting earlier is recommended. However in a survival situation, were you need food and water, you can mitigate this issue by chopping them finely and frying them up.

trim and fry the leaves up !

The flowers are also edible. You can eat them raw, traditionally, the flower petals were used as a chewing gum replacement. My kids always say to me, mom, lets go find some gum ! and it is actually a very pleasant gum replacement and can be chewed for a period of time before you feel the need to spit it out.

Canada thistles can be identified by their flower heads. purplish-pink, occasionally white;female plants have sterile synandria (fused anthers); heads are imperfectly dioecious, numerous, often clustered; involucres small (1-2 cm high) about half the size of other members of this genus; involucral bracts (phyllaries) are flattened, pointed and turned out at the tip; cypselae brown, 2-4 mm long; pappi 13-32 mm long. (source)

Now lets talk about the medicinal properties of Canada thistle. The most common way that I like to use thistles are in herbal teas, as a herbal blend for liver function and cleansing. The herbal tea can be used to strengthen the stomach, a fever reducer and to kill worms.

Thistle tea can also be used to increase the milk supply of nursing mothers. The Delware Indians used thistle to treat cancer and hemorrhagic hemorrhoids. Navaho used it to induce vomiting, Canada thistle has been used to coagulate milk. Mohegan Indians used it in a mouthwash for infants and in a tuberculosis remedy for adults. Ojibwa used it as a bowel tonic. A number of different thistle species are listed in Hartwell' s Plants Used Against Cancer, for cancer of the breast and nose, edematous tumors, and scirrhus. Thistles are also used for cleansing the liver.

Some other uses for this plant is that the dry flower top fluff can be used a s a great fire starter ! Lastly, you can always find the seeds floating around the air on a late summers day, remember to catch one in mid air, make a wish and let it go !

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*This information for educational purposes only. This blog post is not intended to cure, diagnose treat any type of disease or condition whatsoever, or replace any prescription medication you are currently taking.

Always make sure to check with your doctor before choosing herbal teas or salves for remedies, as some herbs may not work for all people and may react to certain medications.

This post is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease or illness. It is not intended to represent or replace professional medical advice or prescription medicine. It is not intended to give medical advise either. **

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