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Milk thistle and its benefits

Milk thistle and its benefits

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The variety called 'Cynara Cardunculus' usually appears as the edible species, although there are many kinds of thistles.

We find in the north of the African continent, the possible cradle of this tasty vegetable, worthy ancestor of the artichoke. Its Mediterranean origin makes it an ideal and appreciated dish, especially in Germany. Its extension throughout Europe was completed in the Middle Ages while its cultivation in South America depended on Spain and began in Argentine lands.

Main features

Its perennial nature does not prevent it from being grown annually. The height of this plant exceeds in some cases one meter in length, requiring more than half a meter between some bushes and others so that its growth does not present problems.

The stalks of this vegetable are highly appreciated due to their meaty taste. To make these stalks much more palatable, harvesting techniques for thistle include methods that give this vegetable a more tender and juicy texture. These techniques are called whitening and hilling.

The autumn season is the period indicated for the beginning of the harvest. The stems are collected little by little, proceeding from plant to plant, thus the harvest is prolonged.

We can find several species of this vegetable, although the most appreciated among stoves is the one that is presented without thorns and with the stem of a tone similar to silver. The stalks are characterized by their slightly bitter taste due to the cynarin it contains. They are preferred sautéed with garlic, as if they were a stew.


The first step to consider before growing thistles is the soil that will preferably be compost with manure. Thistles need a lot of sun to thrive. Irrigation will be abundant at first but will be rationed later as they can be excessively humid. Finally, weeds must also be controlled.

Planting seeds during the days before the beginning of spring is the first step in growing this vegetable. Once the plant reaches an approximate height of about 15 cm., Proceed to transplant from the original seedbed. If we have a large soil, we can choose to make shallow holes in which we will deposit between 3 and 5 well separated seeds.

The distance between some plants and others is vital since, as a general rule, the stems demand space and will enter into competition with those closest to them who try to steal soil and substrate. Our job will consist of pulling out the remaining ones, leaving one plant for every 50-60 cm.

Nutritional value

Water is the essential component of this vegetable and many others. Its composition is far from the artichoke, ‘relative’ of the thistle, which is also highly appreciated in the kitchen for its countless combinations. The thistle stands out for its high calcium content but has the problem, as with the iron it contains, of not being well absorbed by the body.

As for vitamins, C stands out, but it does not reach the recommended daily amount. Other minerals and trace elements found in this vegetable are magnesium, manganese, zinc or copper.

It is usually considered when putting into practice a diuretic diet that seeks to tone the liver, since thistle increases the amount of bile, facilitating the decongestion of this organ and avoiding the dreaded gallstones.

To choose it in the market, we will observe the appearance of the leaves or stems: without defects or stains and solid. The leaves should be bright green. It is important that it gives the sensation of freshness typical of vegetables in good condition. As for its conservation, it is recommended to use a breathable plastic.

Video: Milk Thistle Guide - (June 2022).