Wild Edible Bull Thistle

Wild Bull Thistle: Cirsium species

The bull thistle may look like a formidable foe but in fact is one of the most substantial wild edibles available.  Like Garlic Mustard, it is a biennial plant.  The first year produces a big round rosette of prickly toothed leaves.  A tall 5-8’ stalk grows the second year and is adorned with purple puffer-fish looking blooms.  In this second year I call the Bull Thistle the Cactus of the Midwest because it is protecting a vital resource – WATER.  The thick juicy core of the Bull Thistle is not only edible but lush with water.  It has been called survival celery because of its texture and refreshing fluids.  The root becomes too hard and fibrous during the second year growth but is an excellent root vegetable during the first year – especially in spring and fall when the large tap root is packed with nutrients.  Cook it like a potato or parsnip – boiled, baked or fried.  It is one of the rare wild edible plants with enough substance to be filling and serve as a full survival meal.