Episode 4 — Thistles (Cirsium)

The Radacast
41 min readApr 29, 2020
Photo of Cirsium edule blossom with pollinator, by Rod Gilbert.

Who the hell eats thistles? This guy! Host Joe Stormer collects thistles for their greens and roots, and talks at length about their historic use by the indigenous peoples of North America — particularly the Pacific Northwest.

These plants were harvested on the ancestral land of the Duwamish people without asking permission nor being offered permission.

Transcript below.

Photo by Rod Gilbert.

Guest musician Michael Trew — https://michaeltrew.bandcamp.com

Twitter
This podcast — @RadacastPodcast
Personal — @PopulusEyedJoe, @RIPLakeWA
My other science communication accounts — @365BotanyWomen@365EarlyCareer

Email — RadacastPodcast@gmail.com

This episode’s recommended podcast:
Ologies — https://www.alieward.com/ologies

Some of the sources used in this podcast:

Benoliel, Doug, “Northwest foraging : A guide to edible plants of the Pacific Northwest”. Signpost, Lynnwood WA, 1974.

Brandon-Warner, Elizabeth., Ashley L. Eheim, David M. Foureau, Tracy L. Walling, Laura W. Schrum, and Iain. H. McKillop, “Silibinin (Milk Thistle) potentiates ethanol-dependent hepatocellular carcinoma progression in male mice.” Cancer letters, 326(1), 2012, 88–95.

Burke Herbarium (WTU) Image Collection, “Cirsium edule: edible thistle”, http://biology.burke.washington.edu/herbarium/imagecollection/taxon.php?Taxon=Cirsium%20edule.

Deur, Daniel E., “Pacific Northwest foraging : 120 wild and flavorful edibles from Alaska blueberries to wild hazelnuts”. Timber Press, Portland OR, 2014.

European Medicines Agency: Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products (HMPC), “Assessment report on Silybum marianum (L.) Gaertn., fructus”. 20 September 2016, https://www.ema.europa.eu/en/documents/herbal-report/draft-assessment-report-silybum-marianum-l-gaertn-fructus_en-0.pdf.

Hanford Reach National Monument / Saddle Mountain National Wildlife Refuge, “Noxious Weed Field Guide”. https://www.fws.gov/uploadedFiles/Region_1/NWRS/Zone_2/Mid-Columbia_River_Complex/Hanford_Reach_National_Monument/Documents/weedbook.pdf.

Hayden, Brian, and Sara Mossop Cousins, “The social dimensions of roasting pits in a winter village site”, from “Complex Hunter Gatherers: Evolution Organization of Prehistoric Communities Plateau of Northwestern NA”, Editors: Prentiss, William C., and Ian Kuijt. University of Utah Press, Sep 15 2004.

Johnson, Richard H., “How to Build Your Own Earth Oven, Plus Earth Oven Recipes”. EarthMotherNews.com, July/August 1978.

Malewicz, Barbara, Zaisen Wang, Cheng Jiang, Junming Guo, Margot P. Cleary, Joseph P. Grande, Junxuan Lü, “Enhancement of mammary carcinogenesis in two rodent models by silymarin dietary supplements”. Carcinogenesis, Volume 27:9, September 2006, 1739–1747.

Moerman, Daniel E., “Native American Ethnobotany”. Timber Press, Portland OR, 1998.

Moerman, Daniel E., “Native American Food Plants : An ethnobotanical dictionary”. Timber Press, Portland OR, 2010.

National Forest Service: Los Padres National Forest, “Invasive Weeds by Ranger District”. https://www.fs.usda.gov/detailfull/lpnf/home/?cid=stelprdb5106114&width=full.

National Toxicology Program (National Institutes of Health), “Toxicology and carcinogenesis studies of milk thistle extract in F344/N rats and B6C3F1 mice”. May 2011, https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/htdocs/lt_rpts/tr565.pdf?utm_source=direct&utm_medium=prod&utm_campaign=ntpgolinks&utm_term=tr565.

Ozyigit, Ibrahim Ilker, Bulent Eskin, Mehmet Emin Uras, Ugur Sen, Birsen Eygi Erdogan, Gulbubu Kurmanbekova, Zeki Severoglu, Ibrahim Ertugrul Yalcin,, “Some heavy metals and mineral nutrients of narrow endemic Cirsium Byzantinum Steud., from Istanbul, Turkey: Plant-soil interactions”. Fresenius Environmental Bulletin 27, 2018.

Peacock, Sandra L., “From complex to simple: balsamroot, inulin, and the chemistry of traditional Interior Salish pit-cooking technology”. Botany 86, 2008, 116–128.

Plants for a Future, https://pfaf.org/.

Scully, Virginia, A treasury of American Indian herbs : Their lore and their use for food, drugs, and medicine. Crown, New York, 1970.

Tilford, Gregory L., “Edible and medicinal plants of the West”. Mountain Press Publishing, Missoula MT, 1997.

Turner, Nancy J., Douglas Deur, and Carla Rae Mellott “Up On the Mountain: Ethnobotanical Importance of Montane Sites In Pacific Coastal North America,” Journal of Ethnobiology, 31(1), March 2011, 4–43.

Transcript
Hello, you’re listening to The Radacast and this episode is about the genus Cirsium, one of the three general of true thistles. Cirsium? I hardly know him.

[Banjo]

Hi, my name is Joe Stormer and welcome to the fourth episode of the Radacast. This is a scientific podcast about foraging named after Tolkien’s Radagast the Brown, also known as “Bird Friend”, who cared for the flora and fauna of Middle Earth. With every episode I do my best to research, harvest and cook some species of forageable plant, fungus, or algae and I tell you all about it

00:45 Before we get going. I’ve got to mention it’s been about a month since most of this episode was recorded. It’s an odd time we’re living in and I just couldn’t bring myself to work on it to edit it. But here I am and I’m excited to get the show going again.

[Sound of a banjo strummed once]

01:03 That’s the sound of a banjo in what’s called “sawmill tuning”, which signals that this is the part of the episode where I tried to turn away as many potential listeners as possible with a discussion of the taxonomy of the species at hand. It’s really important and interesting to me, though, because taxonomy is an examination of the family tree of life and this tells us exactly where this species lands in the long history of evolution.

Thistles are dicots like cranberries, which means that they both share the first several classifications discussed in episode one.

So let’s get started right at the kingdom level. Now, at the kingdom level, Cirsium lands in Plantae — this is plants. So in the beginning of the modern classifications of life, Linnaeus divided all life into two kingdoms: Animalia and Vegetabilia. Since then, the numbers of accepted kingdoms has grown as high as eight and most textbooks today said that there are five or six kingdoms: Animalia, Plantae, Fungi, Protista, Archaea and Bacteria; though the latter two are sometimes combined into Monera

02:04 Honey mushrooms, for example (episode two), fall into the kingdom Fungi; while cranberries (episode one) and cattails (episode three) are together with thistles in Plantae. But recent research is suggesting that the classifications of kingdoms maybe should be scrapped altogether because the kingdoms are not monophyletic. All of the species within a kingdom do not all descend from a single ancestral population. It’s all abstraction, but to be fair, that’s true of every scientific model. Taxonomists are striving to create the most accurate representation of life, constantly modifying the work that came before them. So what’s a plant anyway? They’re generally accepted to be multicellular organisms with cell walls made of cellulose and their energy usually comes from the sun via photosynthesis, with their DNA centrally contained within a nucleus. This contrast then with cyanobacteria (also known as blue green algae) which have genetic material free-floating around their cells.

Now we’re going to go through a few clouds a clay does grouping that does not fit into the standard ranking levels of domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus and species. It is instead a group that is defined as being descended from a common ancestral population, AKA monophyletic.

First, I’m going to take us to tracheophytes. Tracheophytes are plants that have vascular passages to transport water and the resources that are dissolved in that water. You’ll probably hear these referred to more often as “vascular plants”.

03:41 Now to get a little bit more specific than tracheophytes, he next clade is spermophytes. These are seed plants that reproduce sexually via pollen, which differentiates them from mosses and ferns that asexually reproduce via minuscule spores

And the next clade is angiosperms. These are flowering plants which have their ovules or eggs contained within ovaries. This differentiates them from gymnosperms like pine trees and gingko trees, which have their seeds exposed to the wind to that free blowing pollen can land and pollinate them. Angiosperms are the source of all fruit and almost all of the seeds that we eat. There are about 250 to 400 thousand species from willows to sundews to ginger.

04:28 And this next clade is where cranberries and thistles diverged from cattails. Cranberries and thistles are dicots. This means that inside their seeds they have two embryonic leaves called dictoyledons that pop out of the ground when they germinate. Cattails, on the other hand are monocots; they have only one embryonic leaf. Though was some monocots were able to grow into some semi-tree-like habits (kind of like bamboo or bananas), all true trees are dicots. You can most easily see the difference in their leaves. Monocots have roughly parallel veins, while dicot is have a more webbed venation, kind of like what you see if you look at a maple leaf.

05:12 This next clade is asterids. Notable families within asterids include Laminaceae, Boraginaceae, Solanaceae, Olinaceae, and Rubiaceae. We’re talking plants like mint, olives, coffee, tomatoes, and forgetmenots. This separates them at this point from roses, grapes and peonies.

Now to get back to the usual ranking system of taxonomy, we are to the order of asterales. This is where these plants split from ericales and cornales, which include blueberries and dogwood trees. Asterales contain inulin, which is an energy storage alternative to starch (which can serve as an advantage when growing in dry areas). In the flowers, the stamens are usually found around the style, densely aggregated or fused into a tube — likely for the purpose of receiving plunger or brush or secondary pollination, so that the pollen is collected and stored on the length of the pistil.

06:13 Astrales likely evolved on Gondwana in the Cretaceous period (8somewhere in the ballpark of 116 to 82 million years ago) and pollen from asterales have been found dated back as far as 76 to 66 million years ago and they make up about 14% of all dicot species.

Getting a bit more specific now, we’re at the family level. Thistles is like the Cirsium genus land within the family of Asteraceae, also known as Compositea or more commonly as daisy or aster or sunflower or the composite family. The name Asteraceae derived from the word aster, which comes from the Greek word for star. There are about 32,000 species, 1900 genera and Asteraceae is rivaled only by orchids for overall biodiversity. They’re found everywhere except Antarctica and they are mostly non-oody or herbacious plants. Though it has been proposed that Asteraceae is descended from a woody tree or shrub growing in a dry area somewhere in what is now South America.

07:21 They often produce a thick central taproot (like a carrot), which is very good at storing energy in the form of that inulin — the starch alternative. The pollen is echinolophate, meaning that it has an elaborate system of ridges and spines dispersed around and between the apertures within the pollen

Echinolophate. Um, is this how you pronounce this word, or how should I even know? Do I look like pollen or something? But what I do know is that, in science, the rule is that whoever pronounces a word most confidently, wins.

The capitulum flower that Asteraceae produces is actually a collective of many smaller flowers, each composed of five (or occasionally) four pedals, which are fused together. A dandelion, for example, can have as many as a hundred tiny florets clustered together on a single disc. Or take for example, a single sunflower which can be composed of two thousand tiny florets.

08:20 Each pedal itself is a floret, often referred to as a strap shaped or ray flower. In the middle of the capitulum of the sunflower, though, or the disc flowers — which instead of being strapped shaped are radially symmetric. And then these flowers mature from the outside rim of the entire disc, inward. The capitulate of Asteraceous flower heads fall into three categories. There is a radiate head (which had both disc and ray flowers like a sunflower); there’s a ligulate head (which has only ray flowers) and there’s a discoid head (which only has disc flowers), which is the case for these thistles that we’re talking about.

Below Asteraceae is the sub family Carduoideae, also known as the thistle subfamily. It is named for Carduus (the plumeless thistles) which are native to Eurasia and Africa. Carduus one of the three genera of truth whistles

And more specific than sub family — Cynareae. These are named for the genus Cynara which artichoke belong to why the family of Asteraceae contains, again, 32,000 species in 1900 genera, this tribe only contains 2,500 species and 80 general, and only three of these genera are native to America.

Finally, we’re at true whistles. These are the general Cirsium, Carduus, and Onopordum, although sometimes included within true thistles might be Silybum marianum, which is the milk thistle.

09:57 So it’s a little messy to define what is and is not a thistle. The term thistle is applied to a great many spiky plants, so let’s try to narrow it down a bit. It’s kind of amazing reviewing the edibility of plants that are thistle-like they tend to be very safe, and I would assume that this is because after putting energy into spine production, but the plants don’t really have as much need for wasting energy and the production of defensive compounds that’ll be harmful (or at least on palatable) to us. This is not a universal truth, but it is at least a trend. I’ll now review some similar looking plants that are not true.

Sow thistle (the genus Sonchus) have leaves that notably clasp the stem and the plant loses milky latex when cut (like a dandelion). The leaf edges are prickly in are edible as a cooked herbs, though bitter when old. I feel like these are not too hard to differentiate from true thistles.

10:45 Spiny lettuce (Lactuca serriola), is a relative of our cultivated lettuce that appears very similar to sow thistle. It exudes milky latex, but has spines on both the leaf edges and sticking out the bottom of the leaves mid-vein. It is also edible as a young cooked plant, but if you have a latex allergy you might want to avoid both of these plants, or at least wear gloves to touch one of these raw. But it is good to keep in mind that truth whistles do not exude milky latex.

Milk thistle (Silybum Marianum) is not a member of the three main genera that are often considered to be true thistles, though it may be considered to be an honorary member of the group. Despite its name, it does not exude milky latex the same way that sow thistle and spiny lettuce do (that is Sonchus and Lactuca serriola), but instead have very obviously milky-looking leaf veins. Milk thistle’s edibility is the same as Cirsium.

11:47 Dispacus fullonum is another invasive. This is the plant teasel, which is very distinctive in their spiny flower heads and the way that they create little pools of water on top of where the leaves attached to the stem. Check out these little pools to see if you can spy any little invertebrates living in there. I don’t know about the taproot, but the leaves are reportedly edible, raw or cooked. The leaves can also be used to make blue or yellow dyes.

Now I want to talk about the genus Centauria. The only significantly hazardous lookalikes would be the genera Centauria, which include knapweeds. These are notably carcinogenic, but most of them are not spiny at all, so you wouldn’t have to worry about confusing them. Some of them (such as Centauria calcitrapa and Centauria diffusa) have a cluster of spines in the center of their rosettes and around their flower.

12:33 So, if there aren’t spines along the leaves, you can be sure this is not a true thistle. Centauria calcitrapa can also have a bit of spikiness in the lobes of their leaves, but keep in mind that it has a hairless, grooved stem. The websites of the Hanford Reach National Monument, Saddle Mountain National Wildlife Refuge, and Los Padres National Forest all recommend wearing gloves to pull Centauria to avoid absorbing the carcinogens through your skin. I don’t know if this is a thing that you really need to be worried about, but I personally prefer to wear gloves when pulling weeds anyway.

Unlike Cirsium, some Centauria species have ray flowers, which can be an effective way to distinguish between the species when they’re flowering. However, many often look very similar between the two genera and Centauria flowers have modest to impressive spines. Let’s just say that spines on flowers and flower stocks don’t count . If there aren’t spines in the leaves, it’s not Cirsium. Many Centauria species may be a little more confusing once they get spiny on the flowers and the flower stalks, but you want to want to eat them anyway. Once they bolted and put up flowers, the taproot will be exhausted and the leaves will be bitter. But if you’re going to be eating the flower stocks like celery, make sure you’re positive about identification.

So in summary, it seems that the carcinogenic Centauria is the only non-edible thistle-looking plant growing in Washington State and probably the Pacific Northwest in general. The depending on spines, you may decide to avoid this altogether.

I was only unable to find information on two thistly species of globe thistle: Echinops exaltatus and Echinops ritro. However, Echinops sphaerocephalus (also known as great globe thistle) have leaves that are edible cooked, so it’s worth looking into whether its close relatives are also edible.

14:16 And of course keep in mind that you very likely have different species of a Centauria and other thistle like plants where you live. I’m mostly talking about the species we have in Washington State; I can’t possibly summarize all thistles and thistle lookalikes everywhere. Familiarize yourself and review the information in your own region. But for the purposes of the Pacific Northwest, keep in mind that forageable thistles have spiny leaves that form in rosette the way that dandelions do. They do not exude milky latex. And their second year though, they’ll put up a flower stalk out of the middle of the rosette. They will have more leaves and spines coming off of its sides.

14:59 Now at the genus level, we have Cirsium — the plume thistles. These are named the plume thistles because of the pappus. The pappus is the fluffy attachment to the seed that helps it float away the way that a dandelion seed does. Cirsium, the plume thistles, have a feathered pappus — unlike other thistle genera which have that hair unbranching.

15:22 Cirsium comes from the Greek word kirsos, meaning “swollen vein”, and the plant had historically been used as a remedy for such an affliction. There are about sixty species in North America. These plants have spiny alternate leaves and many species are pubescent with coarse or fuzzy hair on various surfaces of the plant. The flowers of Cirsium tend to be notably prolific in nectar production. One thistle which is invasive in North America is Cirsium vulgare commonly known as the bull thistle. The bull thistle is the national flower of Scotland and it is rated among the top ten of flowers for nectar production in the UK. Bull thistle has a winged stem with leaf-like projection sticking off the sides of the flower stock, like spiny ridges. They have gray-green leaves with deep spear-shaped lobes,

16:17 But this species of Cirsium I want to talk about the most right now is Cirsium edule — also known as edible thistle or Wenatchee thistle (named for the inland Salish people whose ancestral land is around the confluence of the Wenatchee and Columbia rivers. Cirsium edule was first described by English botanist Thomas Nuttall, likely named during the year that he worked in the Pacific Northwest in the mid 1830s. Cirsium edule can live in zones six to nine, in forest openings and wet meadow is ranging from the coast to mid elevation mountains, from Southeast Alaska down to Oregon and east to the dry side of the Cascade Mountain range, including the Okanogan national forest in northeastern Washington. When Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis and Clark fame) first encountered this species, he wrote about the route that “when first taken from the earth is white and nearly as crisp as a carrot; when prepared for use . . . it becomes black and is more sugary than any fruit or root that I have met with in use among the natives; the sweet is precisely that of the sugar in flavor.” I came across this quote in the book Northwest Foraging Bye Doug Benoliel

17:25 Cirsium edule serves as the host for Phiciodes mylitta (as known as mylitta crescent butterfly) and Vanessa cardui (as known as the painted lady or the “cosmopolitan” butterfly). This plant has spiny lobed leaves up to thirty centimeters long and two-to-five centimeters broad. The plant can range from forty centimeters to two meters in height with a thick, tapering flower stem. The flowers themselves are about two-to-four centimeters in diameter and the plant monocarpic, meaning single fruiting. For the first year, they grow in a low, ground-hugging dandelion like rosette, storing up energy in the thick central taproot. And then the second year they use that stored energy to shoot up a flower stalk, release their seed into the wind, and then die. They flower in the summertime from July to September and the purple flowers discoid, containing only tubular disc flowers and no ray flowers. So basically this is like the center of a sunflower without the ray flowers that look like pedals.

18:28 The flower is pollinated by many insects and the nectar is especially loved by bumblebees. Around the outside of the flower, there are we bbed hairs between the spines on the outside of a flower bracts, giving it a kind of wooly look. These wooly bracts on the outside of the flowers are loose with not too much overlapping, and they’re tipped with short spines. The seeds then achenes, which are small dry fruits about four-to-five millimeters long with a downy pappus that acts like a dandelion-like sail to carry them away on the wind.

So now that we have the taxonomy and description down, let’s talk about how I use thistle. Believe it or not, every part of the thistle is edible. The leaves are edible, though they are tougher and a bit less palatable as they age (which to be fair is true of most edible leaves).

19:22 I’ve read that by boiling the young leaves, you can soften the spines, making them edible; we’re about to try that out in this episode. The leaf rib and the flower stalk are sweet and crunchy when they’re not too old. With a gloved hand you, you can easily pull the sides of the leaf off of the midrib and then rub off any leftover fuzz on the midrib. To collect the flower stalks, I like to leave the plant, put you standing as I slide the knife down the edges of the stalk, shaving off any leaves and spines. I don’t remove the spines around the flowers, but instead I just chop the flowers off the top of the whole stalk and then cut the bottom of the now spineless stalk off of the rosette. I really enjoy it. It’s especially a nice treat when you’re out hiking or camping. It’s like celery, if celery was a little bit sweeter and took a lot more work to eat.

20:05 The flowers themselves are also edible. The flowers are full of delicious sugary nectar, though there may be not worth the effort when it comes to overall calorie reward. For species with larger flowers, you could pinch the tips of a bunch of the purple or other colored disc flowers (avoiding the often spiny bracts) and then pull straight up, which will give you a nice sweet bit of stuff to chew and suck on. But do not confuse this with burdock flowers, which look similar. Burdock flowers on the other hand are full of tiny little barbs laced with a neurotoxin. Your mouth will hurt for weeks and I’m embarrassed to admit that I know this from experience. Luckily though, burdock flowers are the only part of the plant that looks similar. Burdock plants do not have any spines at all, except in the flowers. The rest of the burdock plant though is edible, just not the flowers.

20:52 Now, some species of Cirsium like the Canada thistle have negligible spines on a bracts that form a cup around the flower head, and these ones I’ll toss straight into my mouth to chew on — bracts and all. I do recommend, though, first rolling the flower head between your fingers to check it for pokiness and then if it feels good, go for it. It’s pretty pleasant. I’ve read of some of the larger flower heads (like bull thistle) being boiled and eaten like artichoke, but I’ve not tried myself.

Another thing I haven’t tried is eating the seeds. Word has it that they’re edible roasted, but I don’t know how to separate them from the fluffy pappus umbrellas that they’re attached to. Maybe if they’re good and dried, the pappuses can be burnt away leaving behind the seeds that you can just wash the ash off of.

21:46 Ethnographer Daniel E Moerman notes that the Apache, Chiricahua and Mescalero people have eaten the thresh seeds of Cirsium pallidum. Now, like other members of the asterales order or the Asteraceae family, the taproot of Cirsium is full of the starch alternative inulin, which when cooked teenagers into calorie-rich sugars that we can digest. But if you don’t cook the taproot, the inulin is prone to ferment in your gut, giving you uncomfortable gas. Almost all mentions in the literature of the taproot being eaten are of it being cooked, but in his book Native American Food Plants, Moerman notes that the species Cirsium undulatum, tioganum, and brevistylum have been eaten raw by the Comance, Paiute, and Saanich. He also notes the plant in general has been a principal food of the people of the Okanogan River basin, which straddles what is now considered to be the Canadian border between Washington state and British Columbia.

22:44 Steam pits, also known as roasting pits, have been a traditional method of the preparation of the taproots of plants like thistles. To create a steam pit, you would begin by digging a hole that is at least two feet wide and three feet long and about one foot deep. Then you would tile the floor and walls of this pit with fairly flat stones that you’ve taken from a dry hillside. You do not want to get these stones from a stream bed or other moist place. If you take them from a stream or a river, the cracks in those rocks are full of water and so they’ll explode when the water turns to steam. I can confirm personally that this is not fun. Once the inside of the pit is tiled, you would then build a small fire inside for about an hour or more; it doesn’t need to be a massive fire. Then once you’ve heated the rocks inside, you scoop out the coals and line the bottom of the pit with some sort of nontoxic fresh foliage such as the leaves of sword fern, dandelion, or dock.

23:46 On top of that, you add foods wrapped in nontoxic leaves or kelp blades (or foil in the modern era), and then pour in about a cup of water. On top of the wrapped food, you then add another layer of more fresh foliage and or bark, and on top of that final layer is a few inches of dirt just to keep the heat in. For quicker cooking foods, you can just wait a few hours, but for tougher and harder to digest foods (like woody inulin-rich arrowleaf balsamroot) you’re going to have to wait for a few days. I’ve been thinking about trying this out for next month’s show, but I’m not sure. Maybe it makes more sense to explore cooking methods that you all can reproduce more easily at home.

Steam pits have a long history here in the Pacific Northwest. According to Nancy J. Turner, Douglas Deur, and Carla Rae Mellott, underground geophytes such as the roots rhizomes tubers or corms have not uncommonly been gathered on the mountains to be used as a famine food or stored for the winter, and this work has historically been done primarily by women. For interior Salish peoples, pit cooking hard-to-use balsamroot converts it’s inulin into sugar, increasing the sugar availability by 250%, for an overall energy gain of 65% (and this is according to the work of Sandra L Peacock. Brian Hayden and Sara Mossop Cousins report that geophytes cooking steam beds have included onions, camas, arrowleaf balsamroot, lilies, Claytonia lanceolata (commonly known as mountain potatoes or spring beauty), Lomatium species like biscuit root, and bitter root.

25:30 This method has been found to be notably absent in this region in prehistory prior to 2,500 years ago, though geophytes were plentiful available. This suggests that for it to be worthwhile to cook with steam pit, the labor involved requires efficient transportation methods, significant population size, and a lifestyle of at least semi-permanent settlement. Small, temporary pits required disproportionately high amount of labor so it makes more sense to build the more that can be reused and or shared.

26:04 The archeological records suggest that the use of steam pits peaked between 2,500 and 1000 years ago among the large settlements in the British Colombian area of Lillooet. One settlement in the area of Keatley Creek (which is a tributary of the Fraser River) had as many as a hundred roasted kits and a single plain, as large as twenty meters in diameter. And then use of steam pits may have increased relatively recently with the influx of European influence, in particular with the introduction of horses that can make it much more practical to carry large quantities of geophytes over distances.

26:42 Here are some other of the Cirsium genus other than food and medicine. Cirsium altissimum has been used by the Cherokee people for blow darts and the Seminole people have also used Cirsium horridulum for the same purpose. The Kiowa people have scattered over a grave the spiky flowers of Cirsium ochrocentrum, which serves to prevent animals like wolves from digging up and scavenging the dead. And the down a Cirsium brevistylum have been used by the Natinaht people spun together with the inner bark of yellow cedar to make baby clothes.

And finally in terms of usage, we’re getting to the medicinal purposes. Now I get into the traditional medical uses of Cirsium. I have no doubt that many of these herbal medicine treatments are effective and that many are not. I am merely sharing what I have found in the literature. Every traditional medicine, including the modern Western clinical tradition, gets many things right and also gets many things wrong. While these that I’m about to list off are certainly worth further scientific inquiry, I’m neither recommending nor denying the efficacy of any of these.

27:38 In her book, A Treasury of American Indian herbs, Virginia Scully writes that the Maya people have used a mixture of Cirsium thistle juice, egg yolk, and honey for treating burns. The Mesoamerican peoples commonly referred to as Aztecs have also used this all for the same purpose and (as noted by Moerman), the Cree have used the paste of the root of Cirsium discolor for treating burns as well. Virginia Scully also writes that a decoction of the thistle has been a widespread treatment for diarrhea, as well as a diuretic. The warm thistle juice has been used to treat ear infections, powder thistle seeds for breaking up kidney stones, and a poultice of mashed leaves has been applied to the stiff neck or tight muscles and the hot root juice has been held in the mouth for toothache.

28:30 A decoction of the flowers then has been taken three times a day to cure gonorrhea, and boiled root tea has been used to speed along childbirth. In his book Native American Ethnography, Daniel Moerman agrees with the Virginia Scully that the Lummi people have used the root at childbirth, and he goes on to write that Cirsium in general have been taken by the Chippewa as a compound decoction for back pain, “female weakness”, or to induce lactation,

[Meow]

Please stop.

[Meow]

Please stop.

[Meow]

No!

The raw stocks have been chewed for stomach pain by the coast and know and people are pounded into a pulp for face sores, and a root decoction has been taken for asthma. The Cherokee people have used an infusion of the leaves of Cirsium altissimum for neurology, and infusion of the roots for overeating, and a poultice to treat a sore jaw.

29:29 Cirsium arvense has been used by the Abnaki people for treating worms as a root decoction and the Hopi people have used Cirsium calcareum for the same purpose. The Iroquois people have used an infusion Cirsium arvense, where it’s from mouth sickness. Kwakiutl people have used the roots of Cirrus and Ramona Pulliam for mouth rashes and cankers. The Mohegan people have used the infusion of Cirsium arvense roots as a mouthwash for infants and they’ve also used the species for lung issues and a decoction of the roots has been used to treat tuberculosis; and the Montagnais have also treated TB in this way as well. The Ojibwa people have used Cirsium arvense as a bowel tonic. Cirsium calcareum has been used by the Hopi people to alleviate itching and as a laxative, and to sooth the throat during a cold. The Navajo and the Ramah people have used a cool decoction of the roots of the species for an eyewash and Cirsium neomexicanum has been used as an eyewash as well. The Iroquois people have used a compound decoction of Cirsium discolor for boils and for hemorrhoids, and the Meskwaki people have also used a root infusion of this plant to treat stomach aches. Cirsium eatonii has been used to treat wounds, cuts and sores, and Cirsium horridulum has been infused with whiskey to serve as an astringent. The Navajo people have used Cirsium neomexicanum for fevers and Cirsium rothrockii has been used by them and by the Kayenta people for fevers specifically coming from wounds, Cirsium rothrockii has also been eaten or applied per smallpox.

31:04 Cirsium ochrocentrum has been used by the Kiowa people as a blossom decoction for sores and burns and I wrote and fusion has been used by the Zuni taken by both partners as a contraceptive. Infusions of the whole plant has been used to treat syphilis via increasing sweating, as a diuretic and as an emetic, and then an infusion of the root of this species have been taken three times a day as a treatment for diabetes. And finally the Keres and Western peoples have used their roots of Cirsium, pallidum as a diuretic.

Now was able to find a good smattering of preliminary clinical evidence on the potential medical benefits of Cirsium, but these pale in comparison to that which is documented for milk thistle, Silybum marianum.

31:54 Considering that Cirsium and milk thistle can easily be confused, I’m going to discuss this briefly. Milk thistle is widely touted as containing compounds useful for the treatment of cancers. An extensive draft report was released in 2016 by the Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products of the European Medicines Agency, which reviewed research on the use of milk thistle as a medicinal herb. The report finds that diverse tests fail to find any conclusive indications of milk thistle toxicity, particularly in terms of carcinogenic properties. This report references one study by the researchers, Malewicz et al which failed to find a beneficial effect of milk thistle’s active compound silymarin when fed to transgenic mice predisposed to mammary cancer. Instead, they found that the activity of these cancerous cells increased in the mice and that the compound could also increase the activity of cell cultures of some human mammary cancer cells, in part due to estrogen-like activity.

32:51 Nonetheless, the European Medicines Agency draft report concluded that there’s a body of evidence for more than thirty years showing safe use of milk thistle for herbal medicinal methods (except in the case of alcohol induced liver disease, which can be exacerbated).

In a paper published in the journal “Cancer Letters”, Brandon-Warner et al found that the antioxidant silibinin derived from milk thistle had a marginally beneficial effect on early liver cancer cells, but exacerbates their growth when combined with alcohol. Again, this is a good argument for consulting a medical professional before using milk thistle if you have a history of heavy alcohol use. I recommend checking out this very thorough analysis if you’re considering the use of milk thistle for medicinal purposes, and maybe before eating the plant if you have a history of heavy alcohol use.

Then on our side of the pond, the National Toxicology Program of the National Institutes of Health also found no evidence of carcinogenic activity for rats fed milk thistle in two-year studies.

33:52 However, they found an increase of DNA damage to human sperm cells treated in vitro with that active compound silymarin. So, umm, I guess don’t store sperm in a mixture of milk thistle extract? Who DOES that?

You can find a link to both of these studies in the episode notes on this podcast’s Medium page.

My search for academic literature about Cirsium’s capacity to bioaccumulate toxins found in this soil didn’t turn up as much information as I’ve shared in previous episodes, but here’s what I found. Ibrahim Ilker Ozyigit et al (my apologies for the pronunciation of your name) studied Cirsium byzantium in Istanbul. They found that in contaminated soil Cirsium byzantium contained considerably less boron, iron, magnesium, manganese and sodium then was present in the soil in which it grew. They found a bit less zinc in the plants than in the soil, but also that the plants concentrated considerably more calcium and potassium than was in the soil.

34:59 The taproot was found to have the highest concentrations of these elements (followed relatively closely by the leaves) while the stems and flowers contained considerably less of these elements than the soil did. And there’s another study I found, but I lost my notes on both the name of the study and the names of the researchers. Nevertheless, here’s what they found, which compared Cirsium thistles to Elymus repens, also known as Agropyron repens, couch grass, common couch, quack grass or quitch. They found considerably more chromium in Cirsium than in the grass specimens, about the same amount of cadmium, lead and copper, but considerably less zinc in the soul than in the grass. And then they also found a comparable amount of copper found in that thistles as was found in the soil.

35:38 As always, I encourage you to consider the history of the land that you’re foraging on. Was the land used for mining in the past or is it adjacent to a gas station? Is a right beside a house that was coated and lead paint for decades? If the byproducts of the land’s previous use are not something that you’d like on your plate, don’t consume thistles or any other species that grew there.

[Banjo music]

36:24 In this last month I’ve managed to lose the audio file from when I gathered these plants. But to summarize, I went to a section of a city park on the land of the Duwamish people where a planted bed was overrun with thistles and other weeds. With a little hand trowel. I made quick work with about seven gallons of thistles of two species, mostly Canada thistles, but also some thistle which I kept accidentally referring to as “scotch thistle”. The taproots popped up pretty easily, sometimes yielding a piece as long as nine inches.

36:58 While I was there, I discovered that the area is also invested with invasive garlic mustard, so I spent the last month removing these plants into my belly. Once home, I rinsed the plants in a tub outside as to knock off and discard most of the dirt outside instead of putting stress on the plumbing of this poorly-constructed and poorly-maintained house that I rented. I probably didn’t need to be wearing gloves when I gathered the plants, but I definitely was glad to have some protection when I was moving around the wet heavy plants during washing.

[Banjo music]

37:27 I’m not sorting the greens (it’s perfectly obvious which species it is when I go to cook them), but I do plan on keeping the taproot separate so I can compare them for flavor and other qualities.

[Sounds of roots being cut with scissors and dropped into a metal bowl]

I’m a little bit surprised that I haven’t come across any scotch [sic] thistles yet. I’m wondering if maybe the washing process makes them all look the same. Ah, there’s one! Yeah, I can pick it up just by holding the middle of the leaf these very numerous hairs are not prickly at all.

38:35 I’m going to set even the greens have that separate.

Oh yeah! And one thing I noticed recently is when a friend of mine confidently identified scotch [sic] thistle, I took a look at it and I noticed that it has a purplish color to its taproot. And this one that I just cut also has a purplish color, so I’m suspecting that might be a nice diagnostic. Here’s another, let’s see if this one’s purple. Purple! IS this also one? Yeah, I think so. Purple? Yep.

39:14 Yeah, it seems like most of these scotch thistles really don’t compare it to the other species, but occasionally I’ll get one that is a pretty nice fat, forked taproot.

[Banjo music]

39:42 I am at home and hopefully it doesn’t get too loud in here. I’m below a flight path right now. My downstairs neighbors are home and they can sometimes be a bit loud but, um, it’s not like anybody’s going anywhere. I’ve got the thistle greens and I have the taproots. So I’m going to go ahead and get started with the taproots. Out on the porch and I already trimmed these up. Tossing them in the sink. I would say these are ranging from maybe an eighth of an inch to over a half inch thick. Some of these are over six inches long. I’ve turned them off to below the greens and at least I hope to where there are any spikes and I don’t have to worry about these.

[Running tap]

40:36 Gonna go ahead and just scrub scrub some of these with the brush.

[Scrubbing]

They’re already pretty clean.

As I mentioned, I think I was a switching up the names of these different thistles when I recorded. What I was referring to as “scotch thistle” while I was collecting, I actually meant “bull thistle”. That’s Cirsium vulgare. Now Canada thistle, I do feel confident that that is what I collected. Now what I collected the most of, though, I believe that’s Canada thistle, Cirsium arvense.

41:32 Arvense or arvens is kind of meaning “pertaining to the field”. You often see that applied to plants that opportunistically spread into disturbances such as fields. So this is the kind of thistle that you would find really popping up at a plowed field. Yeah, I feel pretty confident that’s what it actually was.

41:59 So this is probably about half of them so far that I’ve scrubbed and I’m just going to go ahead and give it a taste; I don’t want to consume it yet. It has a nice sweetness. What does this remind me of? I think this reminds me of the last time I ate thistle. Sweeter than the sweetest seller you’ve ever had. Maybe a little bit turnip-like? Yeah, I think it’s kind of like a turnip. So that’s nice. I was thinking about peeling them, but they’re still thin, you know, that’s going to be a pain. I’m just kind of really roughly scrubbing these all; they’re already pretty clean. But the hard thing is that the lowest leaves that exist here, they had turned all kind of gross and black; but those are real easy to pick off my hands. I think I’m going to trim off just the very bare minimum necessary of the tops because (as I mentioned) the whole plant is edible.

43:06 It’s not like leaving on some of the stem is going to bring about some bad flavor or something that’s going to be bad for me. I could probably even get away with not rubbing off these wilted black leaf remnants, but you want your food to look good, right? There are not many side roots sticking into these ones. I wonder if some of them might’ve come off by digging up the plants. A lot of it kind of broke off into the soil. And almost all of these are like just a straight shot, barely tapering at all as a shot down into the soil, whereas there are just a couple of these that maybe an inch or two deep something happened and they ended up branching. I have one of these that splits and goes off in two different directions, all gnarly and twisted, and those two branches are almost as thick as the central taproot, which is kind of amazing to see.

They’re pretty crisp. They break in half, they’re not too terribly fibrous, so I imagine if I roasted them and they were allowed to dry out, I imagine that they could get tough to chew on, but I think these are gonna get pretty nice and soft.

[Sound of tap running and scrubbing]

44:26 Well, I guess while I continue to clean these, I’m going to just toss a few of these into a shallow pan just to pan fry, to see how well they cook down like that. I’m tossing in just some plain vegetable oil because I don’t want to really add much flavor to it. I would actually rather what flavor is coming straight from the plant itself. [Sounds of chopping] I’m tossing a couple of skinny ones in there and tossing one of the thicker taproots. The skinny ones are probably a little bit over an eighth of an inch and the fat one is well over a half inch, I would say. Cut them into segments just so that they’ll fit into the pan well. So the ones I’m processing right now are the ones that I believe are Canada thistle, which (by the way) is not from Canada; it’s an invasive species in Canada.

45:14 Hmm. So I’m just right now remembering one time when I collected some thistle root. I made the mistake instead of collecting these first year rosettes that’s that had not yet put up a flower stalk, I collected some that had shot up their flower stalks completely. They had completely exhausted what was in the roots, basically just wood was all that was left. It wasn’t even edible; it was just a whole waste of time. So that’s a good reminder that if you’re collecting the taproots where there is a flower stem present, you want to collect them super, super early (right when the flower stem is first going up) because the flower stem is exhausting the energy is stored in the taproot. I can only assume that that’s why the plant dies off after it produces its fruit.

[Sizzling pan]

46:02 These ones in the pan that are frying are getting a little bit wrinkly. I’m a little worried they might get too rough, but we’ll see what happens. In the meantime, it smells nice — smells like frying plant matter, which is almost never about smell. I’m excited to try the bull thistle too, but since I only have a little bit of that, I’m experimenting with the Canada thistle first — getting my technique down and then I’ll compare it to the bull thistle. These are getting pretty crispy (starting to smoke a little bit) so I’m turning off and then once this cools a bit, I’ll try it and see how the flavor is and see if it’s too tough.

46:44 I’m almost done cleaning off all these ones here. I would say I’ve probably got like half gallon of these. They’re not packed super tight, but they’re not extremely diffuse either. Maybe a pound and a half, I don’t know. I would say these fried up for less than five minutes. I’ll take them out of the pan so they dry a little bit faster. This kind of smells like, um, have you ever tried to make French fries in a pan a home and they never turn out well? That’s about what this smells like. I think I’ll start some water, too, to boil it, see how that it is in comparison.

[Running tap, stove lighting]

47:19 [Talking with food in his mouth] Okay, so it’s a little bit tough, a little bit fibrous. So I just ate one of the bigger ones, which tastes fine. Now the smaller ones just crisped up completely. It tastes like something fried. It’s a little bit bitter. I’ll eat the rest of them, but this is not a preparation that I would go out of my way to do again, which just kind of funny because the raw one I a little bit of didn’t really seem bitter in itself. Although some of these ones got a load of sweetness, I think it’s kind of nice. I’m tossing some of these into the boiling water. So while that is boiling, what I’m going to do is I’m going to finish cleaning some of these greens so we can experiment with that. They’re all right to handle without gloves, but I am wearing a glove on one hand, just to make it a little bit easier on me.

[Running tap]

48:19 I’m tossing these loosely into a pot. I kind of agitated it and then remove some of the leaves and bits of grass and other stuff that’s in here. Maybe if I’d done a better job of collecting these, maybe there’d be a little bit less debris around here, ut you know what? I don’t really mind eating some leaves

48:40 With this stuff, what I think I’m going to do is I’m going to try three different preparations to see what softens the leaves nicely. I’m going to boil one pan fry one (or kind of stir fry one) and I’m going to steam one. Yeah, it’s really not bad at all handling this with bare hands; just make sure that you don’t tightly close your hands around them. So I’m just loosely chopping these, getting a little bit of pricks here. Yeah, maybe it would have been better to wear a glove. I’m tossing some of this in the water that’s getting close to boilin’, tossing some of the steamer, and tossing some in the same pan that I fried up those roots in. My hypothesis is that it’s not gonna work to stir fry this. I suspected the that spines are not going to get softer. And I think that the boiling and steaming will be equally good.

[Sizzling pan]

49:39 So it seems like these ones that I’m sauteing (actually I’ve been sauteing them, not stir frying them), it seems like the spines are getting softer, but I don’t know if they’re getting soft enough.

49:52 Well, this is about as long as I would normally cook greens in a pan, feeling a little bit anxious and taking a piece out with some of the nastier spines.

50:03 Hmm. Doesn’t bother my fingers. It’s a little bit pokey on my tongue, not bad. I’m going to try a bite. Mmmm . . . oof! Oh, yeah, that’s a little pokey. So, um, maybe, uh, maybe sauteing is not the answer, but luckily I currently have these boiling and steaming simultaneously and we’ll see if this does any better. So the taproots that have been boiling have been boiling for probably about five minutes. I’m taking out one piece to see how that tastes, see how tough it is. It’s a little bit rubbery, a little tough and fibrous. Fairly bland and flavorless, but it has a nice distinctive flavor. [Talking with food in his mouth] Yeah, I like that. Still a little bit turnip-y. And as fibrous as it is, it probably does not make a lot of sense to cook the entire taproot intact, but rather to chop it up into some nice bite-size pieces.

51:04 Alright, I’m gonna take some of this out of the boil pot to see if this is getting much softer yet. Hmm, seems the spines are still kinda stiff. Touching my tongue it doesn’t seem to bother me. It seems a little bit pokey maybe, maybe. Okay, that seems reasonable; I swallowed a piece. Let me get another piece that is a thicker piece of stem that seems to have more well-developed spines and I’ll see how that fares. Now that’s maybe a little bit unpleasant. Yeah, it’s kind of pokey and I’m guessing the pot gaming is more of the same. Yeah, the steam pot is about the same.

So I’m pretty happy with the roots and maybe a little bit less happy with the greens, but I’m kind of wondering if maybe this might be a nice pot herb — like you toss it into a soup and the spines continue to soften with time. As of now, it seems like it’s not going to be a nice fresh vegetable. So I’m just going to keep that on the back burner, literally, while I cook dinner. But let me first find . . . ah! Here it is.

52:20 Let me take a look at the bull thistle here. The bull thistle spines are just as bad, although one benefit is that it’s a wider leaf so you could cut the edges off more easily, but some of these little hairs are spiny, so I don’t know if I would even want to eat it in that case either. Here’s the bull thistle taproot.

52:44 I’m just going to try a bite of this to see how it tastes raw. Again, you don’t want to eat it raw, why not taste? Maybe a little carroty — tastes really nice. It still has that very distinctive thistle flavor. It seems like maybe the bull thistle is less fibrous than this Canada-thistle-looking one. It’s very fibrous. It’s hollow, whereas the bull thistle seems to have less fibers on the outside and it seems to not be hollow, which makes it easier to snap in half. It doesn’t bend as easily; it just snaps. So I’m thinking that maybe just given the choice between the different species, I would maybe choose the bull thistle in the future. So I’m happy with the taproot. It’s nice; I definitely recommend it if you’re pulling up some thistles in your garden and your yard, whatever — as long as you feel good about the soil that is growing in, toss it into the kitchen, boil it, add it for flavor, for texture, for novelty. See how you like it!

I will check in at the end of my meal about if these spines have gotten soft yet. But in the meantime, I’m just going to toss these together with some pasta and some tomato sauce and broccoli and some Soy Curls (cause I haven’t seen tofu in weeks). You know, that’s not interesting cooking; I’m just going to use these as a cooked vegetable. So I’ll check in with you after my meal.

54:13 [Banjo]

54:20 Well, I said that I was going to toss some of the thistle root into my pasta, but I completely forgot that it was on the stove. So the next night I threw together a soup with a bunch of odds and ends like thistle root, lentils, invasive garlic mustard greens, onions, and some dried mushrooms that I had collected last fall. It turned out nicely enough and I really enjoyed the flavor and texture of the thistle root. They were from but not very fibrous. I think I’ll head on out to harvest at least some more bull thistle roots around town or when I head out to the mountains or wherever.

54:53 One thing that I did not enjoy about the soup where the mushrooms. They were Xerocommelus atropurpureus, a close lookalike to Zeller’s bolete. They were bitter as all hell, and I’m pretty used to eating some pretty bitter foraged foods. I couldn’t waste it so I got through the pot of soup, but I won’t make that mistake again. I’ve been enjoying adding these mushrooms to dishes dried and powdered and I suppose it’s just a matter of not adding so much as to overwhelm the other flavors.

[Banjo]

Now in Pacific Northwest Foraging, Douglas Deur states in his section for the genus Cirsium that thistles “cause contact dermatitis for some people”. He continues, “There is evidence that some thistles may be carcinogenic when eaten in large quantities.”

56:06 Similarly in a section on the thistle genus Carduus, Silybum (that’s milk thistle) and Cirsium in Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West, Gregory Tilford repeats the rumor that some thistles contain potentially carcinogenic alkaloids and states that, “These plants should never be consumed in large quantities.” The website Northern Bushcraft by Tom Cervenka was the number one resource that got me started foraging, but even he echoes this weak claim. Oddly, though, he doesn’t raise any concerns about the wild ginger genus Asarum, which is toxic to the kidneys and contains the same powerful carcinogen as the plant birthwort. I personally consumed Asarum caudatum for a short while before I learned this, which is a good reminder that you need to check multiple sources. Nevertheless, this is my favorite plant in the world for it’s beautiful leaves and alien-looking flowers. A book by Doug Benoliel (in which I found the Meriwether Lewis quote) is one of the few forging books I came across that don’t spread these misleading statements about thistles; but to be fair, his book does proceed the others by a few decades.

57:01 I really have not been able to find any academic literature that suggests that truth is those like Carduus, Onopordum or Cirsium (or even milk thistle) are carcinogenic. It’s really frustrating to see people spreading these unsubstantiated claims. I feel like the people who spread these unsubstantiated claims are effectively crying wolf and that people who are getting their feet under themselves in foraging (who are skilled enough to recognize the amount of bullshit out there) may as a side effect start to discard these kinds of warnings if people are not careful about how they give these warnings, and are not checking to make sure that what they are spreading is actually true. If you were told that something is toxic, it’s probably best to refrain from eating it until you’ve had a chance to look into whether or not these claims are true. It is this type of frustration that I’m feeling right now that inspired me to start this podcast.

[Banjo]

57:58 I cannot state strongly enough that is each foragers own personal responsibility to educate themselves about the impacts that they have on nature, the impacts they have on other humans and the impacts that they have on themselves — consequences that are not only physical but also legal. The worst atrocities that humans have committed were legal at the time and so many of the most beautiful aspects of the human experience have been illegal at one time or another. Hell, extramarital sex was just legalized in the state of Virginia . . . and it’s great! So familiarize yourself with laws around wild collecting in your area and the rationales behind those laws. And then decide for yourself if those laws make sense, then decide for yourself whether you are willing to accept the consequences that may come — not only with breaking those laws but also with following them. It is not only through law breaking that a harm has done. Be gay, do crime.

58:49 So thanks for listening. The banjo playing that you’re hearing is the tune of my song “Toy Plastic Guns”. If you’d like to hear the full version with lyrics and singing, search for it by name on YouTube. If you’d like to follow my personal rants, I’m on Twitter @PopulusEyedJoe. It’s a cottonwood joke; get it? And I have two more accounts that celebrate gender diversity in botany and related fields: @365BotanyWomen and @365EarlyCareer. I also just created a weird alternate reality Twitter account @RIPLakeWA — short for Lake Washington. And of course you can follow this podcast on Twitter @RadacastPodcast, and you can email me at radacastpodcast@gmail.com. Every episode that I release will have a transcript available in the episode notes on the shows Medium page because it is unethical to release spoken audio content without a transcript.

60:03 For this purpose, in every episode I give a shoutout to another transcribed podcast, and this month I’m excited to tell you about Ologies. Ologies is a creation of Alie Ward, a science communicator so prolific it’s almost embarrassing. Each episode interviews an expert in the field of a different “ology”. It could be cryoseismology, nephology, phenology, chiropterology. Alie brings the science and the comedy, and each episode is a delight. Radacast listeners would especially enjoy the episodes on phenology, mycology, and dendrology, but really you’ll love them all. Check out the show wherever podcasts are found and followed the podcast @Ologies, and you can follow @AlieWard.

61:02 Please rate and review the Radacast so other folks can find it too. Please? I mean for real, no one’s going to find this and listen to it if folks don’t start giving me more five stars; I don’t want to be podcasting into the void. But if you give me a five star Apple review, on the next show I’ll answer whatever question you asked me in the text of that review. I DARE you.

And if you’d like to help me get this operation off the ground, please go to my Patreon page to contribute on a one time or monthly basis. All it takes is just one recurring monthly contribution of a couple thousand dollars, and I’ll quit my job and do this full time.

I look forward to talking to all of you on the upcoming fifth episode of the Radacast. In the meantime, whether it’s nature, cooking or anything else that gives you life, please remember to share your passions with one another. And wash your hands.

It’s spring up here in the Northern hemisphere, so I’m not sure what the next episode will be on, but I’m excited to see what pops out of the ground first. Who knows? Maybe we’ll be bracken or lady fern fiddleheads, or false solomon seal shoots, or mountain potato corms, [fading out] morel mushrooms or glacier lilies or nettle leaves or oxeye daisy . . .

[Banjo]

As prophesied, here’s a little jingle about the show Ologies — with musical backing by good buddy Michael Trew.

[To the tune of “All of Me”, popularized by Billie Holiday]

Ologies, listen to Ologies

A clever show

That’ll learn you, about

Clouds in the sky

Nephology

The ways that we die

Thanatology

Aly Ward

She will fill up your gourd

With facts and puns and what have you

Hit subscribe

Give just one show a try

Why not try Ologies

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