Kangar or Spear Thistle field in Iran
Some days when my husband and I get out – for our little nature walks and hikes – his knowledge on wild vegetation and how to make use of them simply amazes me. Perhaps his hard life has paid off since he has immense knowledge and skills where others do not. This week for instance, he introduced me to a new and delicious food that grows wild in pastures; not only in Iran but in many parts of the world. Kangar, Cirsium Vulagri ( Farsi name/Scientific name), better known as spear-thistle is a multi-purpose, fully edible, and delicious wild plant that should be at the top of every survivalists’ list.
The Kangar or as it’s commonly known in English “spear-thistle” first catches the admirers’ eye because of its beautiful purple flowers that look like urchins of the sea. However, do not be so quick to pick these magical looking flowers! As soon as it catches your eye and you are drawn to the beautiful, enchanting, fluffy blossoms; kangar catches you in sticky, pointy, cactus like leaves that will leave you bleeding! Ouch! Sounds scary, I know all to well, because this was my first experience with a patch of kangar that sparked my curiosity. Hence, “Lesson one in Kangar” is handle this amazing plant carefully because their sharp defense mechanisms are worse than being caught in Texas prickly pear on a hot summers day! However, if you are a camel you can eat it like sugar, my husband says 🙂 But, once you get to the heart of the Kangar, the pokes and scrapes from the hard work all become worth it. So next tip, be sure to bring an axe, because that is how you will tame and cut the kangar to get what you want from it; whether it be the leaves, the root, the stalk or the flower, all parts are edible!
Yes, you heard right all parts are edible. What is more, all parts have their functions that benefit the herbivore. My husband and I mostly eat the stalk, which one would have to clean and separate really well from the stringy like, rough outer layer surrounding the stem. You may also notice a milky white fluid in the stem’s core – also useful and edible. The stem of the kangar has an artichokey like taste -if picked and selected right- and also has similar health benefits as artichoke. Just to name a few of the stems benefits; it is an antiseptic which strengthens the digestive system, effective in the treatment of jaundice, liver failure and anemia. The stem of kangar can also help the liver fight against chemical toxins. Moreover, researchers believe that a substance similar to artichoke leaf extract, lowers cholesterol and blood triglycerides. According to Iranians and some online data, other parts of the spear thistle can be used to treat an array of health ailments. Please read this link for further information (http://www.docaitta.com/2012/08/foraging-spear-thistle.html). Although, there are many purposes people consume this plant our main interest of spear thistle is the stem.
The stem can be used in many dishes. At home my husband and I eat it raw or add it to a vegetarian salad. The first time I had spear thistle, I had very little to test (to make certain I did not have a bad reaction). I was surprised, it tasted so much like artichoke and I lived! The very next day, we went back to a field of kangar and brought home a few bags of kangar stems to clean and eat. Harvesting kangar has been quite an experience, it is a lot of work, but like I’ve mentioned, well worth it for all the gains. You really can’t go wrong with this plant now considered a super food by many survivalists. That being said, go get you some and enjoy!
The Edible Stem of Kangar, Eat it Cooked or Raw
Tip: Wear protective gear or grab the leaves on the back side while folding in half to avoid pokes
Online sites with information