Useful Plant Guide
Wild Camping

Lightweight Backpacks
Sleeping Bags

Wilderness Survival
Hiking Adventures

Edible Wild Plants
Survival Kits



Cirsium species


This plant may grow as high as 1.5 meters. Its leaves are long-pointed, deeply lobed, and prickly.

Habitat and Distribution

Thistles grow worldwide in dry woods and fields.

Edible Parts

Peel the stalks, cut them into short sections, and boil them before eating. The roots are edible raw or cooked.

Peeled Thistle Stalk

The photo here is of a thistle stalk I just finished peeling. It was tender enough to eat raw, and the taste was milder than celery.

CAUTION: Some thistle species may be poisonous. Avoid those that taste too bitter.

Other Uses

Twist the tough fibers of the stems to make a strong twine.

Steve's notes:

The stalks are a good thirst-quencher if you peel them and simply suck the moisture out. These are especially useful at high altitude, because they often grow well above the tree line.

Raw roots contain inulin, a relatively indigestible sugar, so it is best if you cook them. Some varieties will even turn somewhat sugary when cooked.

The seed fluff of many thistles makes a good fire tinder.


The Ultralight Backpacking Site | Thistle