How to identify and use sow thistle, the perfect edible weed

The Sowthistle, also known as milk thistle, is found all over the globe in many different living conditions. These include tropical, arid, and backyard gardens. It is found all over the globe. The plant can produce thousands of seeds, each with a 90% chance to germinate. Although this is a skilled invasive, it isn’t necessarily bad. Sowthistle can be used as food by many ethnicities.

It is amazing to me how many people are passionate about this plant. When I present this plant to the public, many people are familiar with its traditional edible uses and are very knowledgeable about it. This is usually a Greek person who offers a simple solution to this common weed: “a quick boil, some oil, lemon, and salt”! Enjoy!

Despite its unpredictable behavior and variable leaf shape, Sowthistle is easy to identify. It is easy to spot as you pass it daily. You will soon notice it in your garden, along your walks, at the back of your school, and around the school if you pay more attention.

It is easy to get to know the style of the plant and you’ll never be able un-see it.


Sowthistle excels at adapting. When grown in good soil, it can reach a height of 30 cm to 2 metres. It can adapt to any environment.

This CSRIO research (on how best to kill the plant) revealed three types of sowthistle species in Australia. One is a native Sonchus Hydrophilus, and two are introduced Sonchus Asper and Sonchus Oleraceus .

All edibles are delicious, some say.

The flower is the best way to identify all sowthistles. The flower is very similar to the dandelion’s shape, colour, and behavior. It opens up at dawn, then closes down at night. It has the same puffy seed head as the Dandelion, and the seed ‘parachutes” blow in the wind when they are ready. The only difference is how many flowers are per head.

Each stalk of Sowthistle will have multiple flowers.

Dandelion can only have one stalk per flower.

For a comparison, see the video that shows the plant’s flower. Also, the image.

Milk is visible in all sowthistles, and can be seen when the plant is broken. The sap (or milk) is sticky and used for chewing gum and medicinal purposes (see below). The white sap is another common name for this plant. The sowthistle name comes from the tradition of giving the plant (or milk thistle) to female pigs (sows) when they are lactating new litters of piglets.

You can see the leaves to distinguish between the three Australian species.

Sowthistle-Sonchus Olearceus: Leaves are larger, wider, and have less pricks (tooth-like margins) and indentation.

Prickly Sowthistle Sonchus asper- leaves have prickles along the margin.

Native sowthistle-Sonchus Hydropjillus- has sharper prickles but is visually indented.

However, there are signs that cross-breeding occurs between species. This makes it difficult to identify and lock down traits and populations.

Sowthistles are available all year on this side. You will find a genus that is either flowering, sprouting, seeding, or dying at any given moment. Look below at the seasonal map image to see if there is a sowthistle in bloom.

Young plants taste best. The leaves are soft and remind me of lettuce or radicchio. It will become more bitter as it grows older, and when it flowers it will taste better.


Sowthistle is a beloved bush tucker plant that many Aboriginal mobs across Australia have loved. This includes Victoria, where the Yorta Yorta Mob knows it under buckabun or in New South Wales, known as diinyaan.

The best part about the plant are the young leaves . These can be used raw or cooked. These can make soups, salads, or cooked as spinach. The stems can be used to cook rhubarb or asparagus. Maoris in New Zealand used the milky sap as a chewing gum.

Oliver, a good friend, allowed Sowthistle in his garden to germinate naturally and use it as a microgreen. After letting it grow for a few weeks, it can be used as a microgreen in a salad bowl or as a general green when paired with stews or roasts. This is an amazing idea. Oliver capitalizes on the plant’s high germination rate to exploit its weedy potential.

This simple, yet delicious Salsa Verde recipe is a good place to start if you want to make a new recipe.


It is rich in vitamins and minerals, making it an excellent tonic. It is extremely effective at removing warts. Just apply the sap daily to the affected area and it will dry and fall away. This was something I taught a friend. Every time we went to walk our dog, we would search for Sowthistle to apply to the wart. It was gone in less than two weeks.


Sowthistle is often pulled out of gardens by most people who consider them unwanted weeds. Some people consider them prolific and excellent green, while others use them in their gardens. The Sowthistle is attractive to aphids. This is good news for organic gardeners, as it can be used as a host plant for pests. Ladybirds and hoverflies will then attract the beneficial predatory insects needed in the garden ecosystem. These predatory insects can help maintain a healthy balance among your vegetables.

It turns out that Sowthistle is your friend after all.

Weeds are a great thing!

You Might Also Like

Leave a Reply