The Really WILD Food Guide


Thistle Stroganoff

Thistle leaves can be time-consuming to prepare but if you want to experiment with dining off the wilds then ... Thistles also happen to be generally plentiful in the wilds. In this case the spring basal rosette leaves and roots of a 2nd year Dwarf Thistle [Cirsium acaule] were used.


The LEAVES: Best way to tackle Dwarf Thistle leaves [apart from wearing gloves] is to cut off the main outward facing spine at the end of each leaf lobe. Once these have gone nip out the smaller side facing ones with fingertips or pair of scissors. The young leaves have little of the 'welt' along their length and this can be scraped off with a knife [the leaves and leaf ribs can also be downy]. It's essential that ALL prickles are removed as they will do serious damage to your insides ! And cooking will not soften them. Best way is to feel over each 'prepared' leaf with bare hands and nip out any small remaining prickles. Lastly, soak leaves overnight or several hours in water to help remove some bitterness.

The ROOTS: The roots are much easier to handle
but have constituents which can cause in flatulence in some folks. But then you're in the wilds so who cares?

The main tap root can be a bit tough but if sliced thinly and then cut into julienne-type strips it's passable when cooked. The rat's tail lateral roots are generally more tender. In both cases scrape off the skin with a sharp knife - or something like a clean pan scrubber - and then soak in water for several hours. Keep root pieces submerged as they tend to discolour in the air.

   Thistles - good handful leaves / roots
1 small onion or a shallot
½ -1 garlic clove [optional]
Oil or butter
1 tsp. paprika
Water or stock
Salt and pepper

[Main ingredients above are approx. per person, but obviously variable according to taste and circumstance.]



· Drain the thistle leaves and roots, place in
a pan with fresh water and bring to the boil. Take off the heat and allow to steep in the hot water. Taste a bit of leaf for bitterness.
If not to liking discard water and repeat process, or pour in boiling water and steep again.

· Meanwhile... Slice the onions and crush the garlic clove.· Gently fry the onion and garlic until they become softened and lightly golden. · Reduce heat to a gentle simmer and stir in paprika and a little water or stock. Cook for a couple of minutes.

· Drain water off the thistle leaves / roots
and add these to the sauce. · Stir in some cream, season to taste, and continue to simmer for about 2 - 3 minutes [cream will curdle if heat too high]. · Serve with potatoes, couscous or rice.

The ingredients call for garlic but that isn't essential if you don't have access. Possibly you could use wild garlic / ramsons, but the garlic flavour of that really tends to diminish when cooked.

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