Milk Thistle Seeds
(Silybum marianum) Annual / Biennial. 125 days to maturity.
Milk Thistle has a long history as a medicinal plant. It is mentioned in Roman texts from around 50 A.D. as being "the best remedy against all disease." Milk Thistle is known in modern times to support liver function. Beautiful purple flower stalks reach an average of 1-2 metres and leaves look as though they've been splashed with milk.
*Milk Thistle produces plenty of “milk splashed” foliage in the first year and will flower in year two.
Growth Habit: Upright growth to 5 feet height with multiple stalks, large, spiny variegated leaves, and multiple 2” thistle flowers on each stalk. Self-seeding.
** Milk Thistle spines can be quite sharp and painful to touch; we recommend wearing gloves when handling this plant.
Sun Requirements: Sun
Soil Preference: Average, well-drained soil
When to Plant: Direct seed in early Spring or late Fall.
How to Plant: Direct sow outdoors in early Spring or late Fall. Seeds need light to germinate, so cover only very lightly with soil. Seeds should germinate in 14-21 days. Thin young plants 2-3 feet apart.
When to Harvest: Harvest leaves when young and tender; cut flowers from stalks when petals turn brown and before the seeds begin to fall.
How to Harvest: Wear gloves when handling plants. To harvest seeds, cut stems with flowerheads and bundle them to dry indoors in a dry, dark space for several weeks. You can knock the bundles inside of paper bags to easily gather seeds as they fall, then separate the seeds from the papery chaff.
Uses: All parts are edible. Use young leaves cooked or raw in salads - remove spines first! Seeds have medicinal uses and can be harvested from the dried flower heads in Fall. Milk Thistle attracts pollinators and butterflies.