Thistle, recipes and properties of the queen of winter vegetables

The thistle is one of the vegetables par excellence of the winter season. / photography

The pantry

Healthy and of great culinary value, cardoon is in full season, so we have discovered two popular dishes to make with this product

Tuesday, January 24, 2023, 7:35 a.m.

January sets the stage for the start of the year and also the peak splendor of thistle season. It is a very popular vegetable in Basque and Navarrese gastronomy, of Mediterranean origin and which has spread throughout the state and in other countries such as France and Italy, where its gastronomic value has not stopped increasing.

Learn more about the thistle, this vegetable that we find in wild or cultivated version, generally exceeds the meter in height and also belongs to the Asteraceae family, in the same way as other popular vegetables such as endive, lettuce, chicory, escarole or artichoke. Before cooking it, it is convenient to go over all sides and remove these fibers lengthwise (as is usually done with green beans).

How is the thistle?

The thistle not only has great gastronomic value, but it is also a truly healthy food, as it stands out for favoring 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.

Cleaning and cooking the cardoon are two essential steps in any recipe that includes this vegetable.

How to use thistle in the kitchen?

Regarding the culinary part, it should be remembered that in any preparation that includes this vegetable, the cardoon must have been carefully cleaned beforehand (remove the hard parts and the leaves with a knife, and eliminate the threads on each of the stems thistle) and cooked. To avoid this process and make cooking easier, you can opt for canned cardoons. Although there are many ways to cook thistle, below we present two of the most popular recipes to prepare with this product.

Thistle in Navarre

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

Ingredients: to prepare this typical Navarran recipe, you will only need four ingredients: garlic, onion, diced ham and, above all, cardoon.

preparation: Start by chopping and poaching the garlic and onion until tender. Pour the diced ham into the same pan, then the pieces of thistle, adding a little broth. Finally, it will have to be cooked a little longer by controlling 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 cardoon and reserved broth, the recipe begins by poaching the garlic and onion over low heat. Once browned, add a generous spoonful of flour and mix well to completely eliminate the taste of raw flour. To this mixture, add a pot of water used to cook the cardoons and a dash of milk, to cook for a few minutes.

During this time, we are going to prepare the almonds, grind them using a mortar, and put them in a container with a little broth. Later, this mixture will be incorporated into the sauce already prepared and finally the pieces of cardoon will also be added. cook over low heat. To give it the final touch, you can fry some almonds separately, placing them as an accompaniment and decoration of the dish, without forgetting the touch of salt. Enjoy your meal!

Thistle properties

  • The thistle acts on the
    liver functionsuch as chicory, endive, artichoke or chicory, which means it can help protect and detoxify the liver.

  • has many
    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.

  • The thistle contains
    anti-inflammatory compounds which can help reduce inflammation in the body, which can be beneficial in the treatment of inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and asthma.

  • Some studies have shown that eating thistle seeds can help
    reduce cholesterol levels In the blood.

You have to cook them a little so that they don’t lose all the nutrients they have. And, above all, always take advantage of the broth for any other preparation. When cooking a vegetable, a good part of its properties (especially if it is cooked for a long time) passes into the water. This is why it is necessary to take advantage of it for other preparations such as rice or mashed potatoes.


It should also not be forgotten that there is a special relationship between the Basque Country and this vegetable. The dried flower of its wild relative is the “Eguzkilore” which drives away evil spirits and is traditionally placed on the doors of houses.


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