A modest bit of re-branding would I’m sure lead to many people enjoying foraged food much more. Hand someone a hairy bitter cress leaf and (understandably) they look at you with the horror of one expected to gulp back a rotund fury caterpillar. Give them the same leaf, referring to it as ‘wild cress’ and it’s straight in the mouth with no questions asked! Thistles are the same. No one wants to eat them because they are associated with pain and sore bums on childhood picnics, but it’s a shame as creeping thistle stem tastes exactly like the related globe artichoke and is common beyond belief. However, were it put on a restaurant menu as ‘wild stem artichoke’ , I have no doubt that people would rave about it.
Creeping thistles are in peak condition for harvesting now, their flower heads just beginning to form. Gabriel and I gathered a few stems whilst out checking cattle for my good friend S, whose father and farming partner is unable to work for a while, owing to fracturing his neck! Having de-leafed, peeled and steamed them Em and I devoured the delicate morsels for lunch, dipped in a simple vinaigrette.