Monday, January 11, 2010


Tagarninas are stems of wild thistle.
Today at the village market I found big bunches of tagarninas, the tender stems of a wild thistle that makes its appearance in frosty January. Related to the artichoke, this thistle (Scolymus hispanicus) is foraged in upland areas of Andalusia and Extremadura.

I first tasted it in Extremadura, where it was cooked in a delicate vegetable flan. But, country folk who gather it usually fold the chopped stems into scrambled eggs. So that’s what I had for lunch today.

My first encounter with tagarninas in the wild was in the hills around the mountain town of Ronda, where I had gone to interview a goatherd. The goatherd showed me the plants growing. The first leaves appear after winter rains, forming a flat rosette about two feet across. Later in the summer the plant sends up tall stalks on which bloom yellow flowers. My guide pulled the whole plant up by the roots and, with bare hands, stripped off the prickly leaves, leaving the slender stems. These are chopped and blanched before cooking with eggs in a revuelto, a soft scramble. 

Eggs Scrambled with Wild Thistles
Revuelto de Tagarninas

Here’s how. Cut away the root ends and chop the stems. (Twelve ounces of tagarninas will make about 2 ½ cups chopped greens, serving two.) Blanch them in boiling, salted water for 5 minutes. Drain well. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet. Add 2 cloves sliced garlic, ¼ cup chopped serrano ham, a pinch of red pepper flakes and the greens. Sauté on medium heat for 4 minutes. 

 Break 4 eggs into the skillet. Let them set for 1 minute. Use a wooden spatula to push the egg whites around and combine with the vegetable and ham. Then, gently, turn the yolks over, letting them break up and mix with the greens. Turn the eggs and greens out onto heated plates before the yolks are completely set. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with toast “buttered” with olive oil.

You could substitute skinny green asparagus for the tagarninas in this recipe. You won’t need to blanch asparagus more than a minute. But should your foraging turn up wild thistles, by all means try them. 

Wild greens scrambled with eggs and ham.

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