Thistle, recipes and properties of the winter vegetable

Wednesday December 13, 2023, 10:32 a.m.

January marks the start of the year and also the peak splendor of the thistle season. It is a very popular vegetable in Basque and Navarrese cuisines, of Mediterranean origin and which has spread throughout the state and to other countries such as France and Italy, where its gastronomic value has increased.

Knowing more about thistle, this vegetable, which can be found in a wild or cultivated version, generally exceeds one meter in height and also belongs to the Asteraceae family, the same family to which other popular vegetables like thistle belong. endive, lettuce, chicory, escarole or artichoke. Before cooking it, it is advisable to go through all sides and remove these fibers lengthwise (as is usually done with green beans).

How is the thistle?

Thistle not only has great gastronomic value, but it is also a truly healthy food, since it stands out for promoting digestion, regulating cholesterol and strengthening the intestinal flora, among other properties. In addition, it should be noted that it is a product rich in water and therefore low in calories.

Properties and benefits of thistle

  • Benefits for the liver: Thistle works on liver function, like chicory, endive, artichoke or escarole, which means it can help protect and detoxify the liver.

  • It contains a lot of fiber and a significant amount of calcium, as well as magnesium and other minerals to a lesser extent. It seems that its potassium content far exceeds the content of other products usually considered basic in this mineral, such as bananas.

  • Thistle contains anti-inflammatory compounds that can help reduce inflammation in the body, which may be beneficial in treating inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and asthma.

  • Some studies have shown that consuming thistle seeds can help reduce blood cholesterol levels.

  • Antioxidant benefits: Silymarin also has antioxidant properties. Antioxidants help protect the body’s cells from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable compounds that can cause cellular damage, contributing to the development of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

How to use thistle in cooking?

As for the culinary part, it should be remembered that in any preparation including this vegetable, the thistle must first have been carefully cleaned (removing the hard parts and leaves using a knife, and removing the sprigs of each of the stems). thistle) and cooked. To avoid this process and make cooking easier, you can opt for canned thistles. Although there are many ways to cook thistle, below we present two of the most popular recipes to make with this product.

What can I cook with thistle?

Thistle Recipes

Navarre thistle

A traditional dish of the Foral Community, as simple as it is delicious, which is why it has become a classic of Christmas menus. This must already be clean and cooked (45 minutes minimum, in salted water and a little lemon), as well as the reserved cooking water.

Ingredients: To prepare this typical Navarra recipe you will only need four ingredients: garlic, onion, ham in tacos and, above all, thistle.

preparation: Start by chopping and sautéing the garlic and onion until soft. Pour the diced ham into the same pan then the pieces of thistle, adding a little broth. Finally, let it cook a little longer, checking the cooking, and all that remains is to serve and enjoy.

Thistle with almond sauce

Ingredients: cooked thistle and its broth, garlic, onion, flour, milk, almonds

preparation: Starting with a cooked thistle and the reserved broth, the recipe begins by poaching the garlic and onion over low heat. Once golden, add a generous spoonful of flour and stir well to completely eliminate the taste of raw flour. To this mixture we add a ladle of cardoon cooking water and also a little milk, to cook for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, we will prepare the almonds by grinding them with a mortar and putting them in a container with a little broth. Subsequently, this mixture will be integrated into the sauce already prepared and finally, the pieces of thistle will also be added. let it cook over low heat. To give it the final touch, you can fry a few almonds separately, placing them as an accompaniment and decoration of the dish, without forgetting the touch of salt. Enjoy your food!

You need to cook them a little so that they don’t lose all the nutrients they contain. And above all, always use the broth for any other preparation. When cooking a vegetable, a good part of its properties (especially if cooking is long) passes into the water. This is why it must be used for other preparations such as rice or mash.


We must also not forget that there is a special relationship between Euskadi and this vegetable. The dried flower of its wild counterpart is the “Eguzkilore” which chases away evil spirits and is traditionally placed at the doors of houses.

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