Edible Weeds: Sow Thistle

There are some great foods that are free and you will be doing people a service by eating them as they are considered weeds.

A
member of the daisy family the sow thistle derives its common name from
the fact the stem when cut exudes a milky sap. The plant was once fed
to lactating sows in the belief it would assist in generating milk.
They are well loved by rabbits too and another common name for this
plant is hare thistle. The good news it is edible for humans being rich
in antioxidants and iron

In fact, it’s culinary history is old. “It is recorded by Pliny that before the encounter of Theseus with the bull of Marathon, he was regaled by Hecale upon a dish of Sow Thistles.” It is eaten in Europe in as a component of salads. In New Zealand the Maori call Sow Thistle “Puha” and a classic dish they make is called Pork Bones and Puha.

Just on identification, Sow Thistle is an annual and has a tap root. You want the one without prickles on the leaves. A look a like is a perennial and has an extensive root system. Forget that one.

Use the youngest plants, up to a foot high in salads or cook briefly like spinach.

Or you can make this salad if you can find enough: a large bunch of thistle leaves, a quarter of a cup of ground sesame seeds and two tablespoons of shoyu soy sauce or light soy. Cut the thistle into 2 – 3cm lengths and blanch briefly in boiling water. Drain immediately and then leave for a couple of minutes for any excess water to run off – do not squeeze. Mix it all in a bowl.

Pork Bones and Puha:

A kilo of pork bones or if you can’t find these, a chunk of pork shoulder. Simmer in water for 1.5 hours then add chunks of potato and sweet potato. Simmer for a further 20 minutes or until almost done to your liking then add as much young puha as you have. Cook for a further 5 minutes. Season to taste. If you have older puha, obviously wash and then give it a light bashing with can, rolling pin whatever. This can be added at the beginning to the boiling water but you will remove it either prior to serving or before adding the spuds and things. Whatever is easiest. Serve in soup bowls with some slabs of bread.

And if you don’t want to eat sow thistle, throw it to your chooks, they love it!

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  1. Yummy! Free food is good.

  2. I always thought this weed was ‘milk thistle’ and still use it raw, in salads, for liver health (for which milk thistle is renowned).
    Phew, glad it’s not toxic!!!

  3. I’ll have to try pork and puha sometime. Is it good curried?

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