Edible tumbleweed provides spinach alternative

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Posted Thu, Oct 28, 2010

By Aaron Skoglund

Tumbleweeds serve as an enigma of sorts, transporting those with vivid imaginations back to the Old West. Others are finding that tumbleweeds, which are essentially the exoskeletons of plants, can be useful in cooking.

 To be edible, the plant must be harvested while it is young and fresh says Euell Gibbons in his book Stalking the Good Life. Russian thistle is type of tumbleweed that is commonly used for cooking due to it’s spinach-like qualities, but Gibbons claims it is better than spinach.

 Mild, pleasant and crisp tasting is the description that H.D. Harrington uses to describe edible Russian thistle in the book Edible Native Plants of the Rocky Mountains. The author suggests collecting young plants after a good rain, when the tumbleweed is “tender and succulent.” 

 Recipe ideas include frying the potherb in with fritters, adding to lasagnas and quiches or dressing up bacon strips and hard-boiled egg slices.

Russian thistle quantities are almost limitless, though the window is small for collecting the plant while it is fresh. The young plants have even been used as emergency feed for livestock during a shortage of hay.

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