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Sow Thistle—Sonchus spp.

Caution: Sow thistle is absolutely safe to eat.

Edible: Leaves, young stems, buds, and flowers.

Flavour: Mild to bitter.

Description: Sow thistles have dark green, toothy leaves that resemble dandelion leaves. Leaves are lobed. Early-growing leaves form a basal rosette on the ground. As the main stem shoots upward, leaves grow on the stem as well. The base of each wraps around the stem, and the leaves grow in an alternate pattern. Stems produce white, milky sap. The flowers are yellow and dandelion-like. But while dandelions only have one yellow flower per stem, sow thistles have several.
Uses: Leaves, buds, flowers, and seeds can be eaten raw. You can also steam, sauté, boil, and marinate all parts of this plant.

Nutritional Highlight: Rich in vitamins A, B, and C, plus copper, phosphorus, potassium, iron, calcium, and magnesium (Kallas 2010). Sow thistles are beneficial for the liver, kidneys, gallbladder, pancreas, and spleen.

Helpful Tips: There are several varieties of sow thistle. Some are spiny and others are not. All varieties are edible.

ID Trick: Dandelion-like leaves that have a sharp, well-defined triangular lobe.

Sow thistle is another great mildly bitter green. It has dandelion-like properties that stimulate digestive juices and cleanse organs. I love adding sow thistle to soups and stir-fries.

There is a common misconception circulating that the sap of sow thistle is poisonous; this is not true. All parts are edible.

Recipe: The Foragers Kitchen: Buttered Sow Thistle

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