MILK THISTLE (Silybum marianum), also known as Blessed Thistle, is an important American native herb with increasingly important medicinal value. It is also a stunning addition to the decorative border with varietated spiny foliage that can reach 5' in height, topped by a single 2" fluffy lavender pink flowers. It is toxic to cattle and sheep, so if you grow within a few miles of such livestock, please use all caution to capture seeds before birds or winds disperse. Hardy to zone 7 and not frost tender. 25 Seeds. [Cannot ship to WA, OR or TX]
MEDICINAL: Used for over 2,000 years to treat liver and gall bladder disease, modern studies are ongoing, but indications are the seeds contain silymarin, a flavonoid, which may have beneficial impact on liver cancers. Research is undecided on impact in other liver diseases including alcoholic cirrhosis, hepatits B or C, but it is a useful general liver cleanser and many believe liver rebuilder. Side effects reported seem to be caused by impurities in supplement production, so this is a good one to grow yourself although use with doctor's supervision. Homeopathic remedies use equal parts of the root and seed. Many also use milk thistle as a mood elevator.
CULINARY: I was amazed to read of the many culinary uses that are traditional for what many consider to be a "weed." The root has a mild flavor (not unlike salsify) and slightly mucilaginous texture so they are good in stews or can be eaten raw. Remove the spines from the young leaves and put in your salads or cook as spinach. The flower buds can be cooked with a mild taste. The young stems can be peeled and cooked like asparagus. In addition to its medicinal value, the seed can produce a good quality oil or can be roasted and brewed like coffee.
GROWING TIPS: It is biennial, so flowers (and seeds) will be produced the second season. Blooms July to September, with seeds ripening from August to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite and pollinated by bees. Not picky about soil type or location. Sow directly.