Carduus marianus L. Notes (Milk Thistle):
Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field.
Genesis 3:18 (KJV)
Thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you; and you shall eat the plants of the field.
Genesis 3:18 (RSV)
And thorns and thistles it will grow for you; and you must eat the vegetation of the field.
Genesis 3:18 (NWT)
Being positive is not always possible. Zohary lists three species as good candidates for the thorns and briers (not for thistles), Echinops viscosus, Notobasis syriaca, and this species, Silybum mari-anum, my favorite, bearing the common names Holy Thistle and Mary's Thistle. He confesses there is no concrete evidence that any of these three "are the barkanim of Gideon", but they are more probable because they are tall plants likely used as whips. They are the most abundant of the thorns around Ophra where judge Gideon was, beating out wheat in the wine press (Judges 6: 11). I would not call milk thistle an annual, as does Zohary. Mine, like his, germinates one year, has leaves appressed to the ground that winter, bolting in the spring. Flowers will soon follow the bolting, and then come the seeds, eagerly harvested by the gleeful goldfinch. Then the biennial in midsummer is done for the year. Those few seeds that escape the goldfinches germinate in the fall. Zohary selects Centaurea iberica rather than Silybum for the thistle of the Bible (ZOH). Usually I tend to go with Zohary when such controversies arise. But I still favor the milk thistle as the biblical thistle, especially in Genesis after Eve has eaten the forbidden fruit. Not only is it edible "vegetation of the field," at least in my book, its hepatoprotective properties might even spare some of the travails of eating poisonous vegetation of the field, including mushrooms. Could it be Eve's milk rather than Mary's milk that imparted the white to the veins of the milk thistle? I do indeed doubt that, as I do the following tidbit from GMH: the tradition that the white veins making this thistle unique resulted from the milk of the Virgin falling on a thistle (GMH), leading to the instant evolution of the new milk-veined species. While agnostically doubting, I continue to tell the tale during my biblical tours of the Green Farmacy Garden.
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