So I’ve been watching this particular thistle, out in the pasture, sprouting upwards for the past couple of weeks– intently monitoring it’s progress towards “blossoming”. It is a most wicked looking plant– or weed. And herein lies the conundrum—is it a plant, an herb, a vegetable, or a noxious weed? If you ask any local farmer, they will be quick to say “A WEED!!”, the bane of any pasture to be sure.
I think they are unusual and kind of pretty in an almost deadly sort of way. I come upon them in our yard/pasture (remember we sit in the middle of 5 acres–part yard, part pasture sans any type of farm animals), just as they are coming up out of the ground, looking definitely weedy, I’ve been known to reach down to pluck them right up out of the ground, with that dandelion mentality, but quickly remember why that is such a bad idea. These things are nothing but spines and pokes. Painful spines and pokes. They are even known to cause a type of reaction similar to poison Ivy–a type of contact dermatitis. Not so much a rash but more of an immediate stinging as if you’d just gathered up a handful of fire ants (hate them).
The Thistle is the symbol of Scotland—and as my maternal great grandparents came to the US from Scotland, I am most proud of my Scottish roots (unfortunately Sylvia Kay has no idea as to her real roots…see the post “Who in the heck is Sylvia Kay and what have you done with her?!” but I digress). The lowly Thistle has represented the Scottish people since the reign of Alexander III (1249-1286) with the story going back to the Norse invasions of this northern end of the British Isles.
Seems some unsuspecting marauding Viking, who must have been barefoot, was attempting to sneak up on the Scots in order to do that thing that they do so well, pillage– when he stepped on a thistle, letting out a Viking yell of agony and therefore alerting the Scots of his presence. The pillaging was put to a fast halt. The rest is history.
I’ve not exactly been excited having this particular thistle in my yard/ hay field, but did want to see it through to blooming before taking spade in hand and digging up the whole lot only to remove it to the rubbish pile—all before it has a chance to turn from purple bloom to the infamous white cotton top and spread its deadly little seeds.
You should know however that I’ve done a little research on these pretty little pesky weeds—did you know people actually eat these things?! I suppose it’s rather kin to eating an artichoke—a little pokey but eventually a tasty reward. However, anything I have to go gather wearing combat gloves and “skin” before preparing just isn’t my cup of tea. And speaking of tea, I think it must be sort of like those who gather nettles for tea–beware of the pokes!
Here is a link to a most informative website all about the lowly thistle and how to go about gathering, preparing, adding butter, and digging in—with a fork that is. I’ll just leave the gathering and preparing to others—I’m not ready to sauté a plate of thistle
Loved your article on the thistle!
Thanks Meg–I thought it was pretty interesting—and that people even eat these things! Who knew?! 🙂