Thistle is a perennial herbaceous plant in nature, annual in cultivation.
It belongs to the Asteraceae family, but compared to the wild thistle, from which it descends, it is larger, with long and tender ribs and harder and more robust outer stems, sometimes covered with thorns. Generally the external parts and the leaves are eliminated and the internal part is kept more tender and tasty. It is often grown by partially covering it with soil: growing in search of light, the plant curves and for this reason in many areas of Italy thistles are called humpbacks.
Recommended in low-calorie diets (10 Kcal per 100 g), it has diuretic and laxative properties (thanks to the high fiber content) with a protective effect on the liver thanks to the presence of a substance called silymarin which favors the disposal of toxins and has an antioxidant action. By analyzing the nutritional properties of thistle, it turns out that it is a vegetable rich in vegetable fiber, mineral salts (sodium, potassium and calcium), B vitamins and vitamin C.
Its taste is quite reminiscent of the artichoke and like the artichoke it should be put in acidulated water, with the addition of lemon, so that it does not blacken.
Italian cuisine is full of recipes that involve the use of thistles, from the first, to the second, to the side dishes, and practically every region has its own typical dish that involves the use of this leathery vegetable.
In addition to being the king of Piedmontese bagna cauda, in Romagna they are cooked stewed, frying them with lard, while in Tuscany they are eaten au gratin or parmesan.
They are excellent in combination with fish.
Curiosity: did you know that in the extract of thistle flowers, generally wild, there are also particular enzymes that are used as vegetable rennet for the production of cheeses?
The Nutritionist Biologist Dr. Giancarla Monticelli