Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Sow Thistle Chips: Like Kale Chips made from Weeds

Final product: tasty! Like a cross between a kale chip and a crispy seaweed snack!
This is the perfect plant for harvest,
but I don't take the dark green, older leaves.

So my husband and I bought a house a few months back, and the entire backyard is weeds, including edible chickweed, purslane, henbit and prickly sow thistle.

Sow thistle generally isn't one of my favorites. But in my backyard figured the growing conditions were ideal: rich soil and partial shade. Plus, with all the rain we've been having, I suspected the plants would be juicy and not the usual tough and stringy. And they were actually really good, just a slight amount of bitterness, like baby kale. 

Sow thistle is a non-native invasive plant, a true weed, so you really don't have to worry too much about sustainable harvesting. If you follow my blog, you know I am a big fan of invasivore eating - basically like locavore eating, but with a focus on invasive species.

All of these are at a good stage for harvest. 

Most of the plants were at an ideal stage for harvest: between about 4" - 8" tall, with bright green leaves, just starting to stand up. Each plant has darker leaves, which lie flat against the ground, these older leaves are part of the original basal rosette, and I left them alone. When they are dark like that, they're generally tougher, more fibrous, and bitter.

When they are this young they CAN be eaten raw in small amounts - the leaf spines are present, but aren't hard yet. But you will definitely still feel some prickling.

I just used a scissor and snipped off the leaves as a group near the base. I carried them in my hand, and they did prickle a bit.

This plant was probably a little to old for harvest for this dish, being about 8" tall and having already budded,
but if you were steaming, boiling or sautéing this would be fine.

I wasn't in the mood to cook and purée and the whole deal, so I decided to try a kale-chip recipe. I was hoping that the heat would be enough to destroy the barbs--but it wasn't, I really should have trimmed the edges of the older, larger leaves. 

I really enjoyed these, despite the sensation, my husband did not. It's ok, more for me! But next time I would either stick to plants under 6 inches, or trim the edges of the older leaves. 

I started by separating all the leaves from the stem and each other. I washed everything carefully, with all the rains we've been having, and the natural shape of the plant, it tends to trap debris.

I gave everything a long spin in the salad spinner--you really, really want the leaves to be completely dry when you cook them. Once dry, I tossed them with a generous coat of good quality olive oil and some adobo seasoning and kosher salt. These did come out quite salty, so next time I would cut back on the extra salt. You might want to omit it entirely.

I spread them out on a foil-linked baking sheet with no additional oil. They are much thinner than kale, but they stay closer to their original size, and don't shrink down quite as much. Make sure to separate them all, with no overlap, and also make sure they aren't folded over on themselves. If they are, you won't get a crispy chip, you'll end up with a steamed vegetable.

I used the "roast" setting on my convection oven, at 325. They only needed 11 minutes to crispy perfection! With a standard oven, I would probably bake at 325 or 350, and you might have to flip them mid-way through.

Perfect level of doneness!

One taste and I declared my experiment in foraged chips a success! 

The taste was superb, like a mix between a kale chip and an Asian seaweed snack. If you don't like seaweed snack foods, I would definitely omit the extra salt. I might even try a spicy, Asian - inspired seasoning mix next time.  

The smell as they were roasting drew my hubby from all the way on the other side of the house.

Texturally, the prickles are still there. I did get a tiny, unpleasant sensation in my tongue, once. I think it was from that older plant. I avoided any other pricks by laying the leaf flat on my tongue and crunching down, rather than just tossing them haphazardly in. 

Still my husband said he felt them when he swallowed, and I didn't (perhaps he doesn't chew them enough?) and didn't eat any more. 

That was ok with me - I scarfed down two trays in record time.  I'm excited to try chips with other, non-prickly plants, like dock, wild lettuce, or non-prickly sow thistle. But I will definitely make these again in a heartbeat.


  1. You are my new favorite foraging site! : )Thank you!

    1. Well thank you so much! I really need to get back out in the woods, I've had foot problems (Plantar fasciitis) and so haven't been getting out into the woods at all.

  2. I'm gonna try this! Probably more with docks since they are so much more prevalent. You rock for trying this out!

    1. Oh so I did go back and try these with dock, I should have mentioned! They just didn't come out well. The dock leaves were soggy and the sourness in dock became more of a rancid taste, I can't properly describe it. Maybe if I had used smaller, younger leaves it would have been ok, but with the larger mature leaves it was kind of gross.

  3. Made these today with adult sow thistle just about to bloom. My husband - a picky eater- can’t get enough of them!

    1. Hey Colleen! Thanks for trying it, glad you and your hubby like them. Did you trim off the prickles? Or did you use non-prickly sow thistle?