Guernina, or when squid came to supper.

‘Is that some sort of squid?’ she said pointing at a heap of tentacles on an upturned crate?

‘Guernina’ said the stallholder, picking up a star like plant with long pale stems fringed with green joined at the centre by what must have been a root.

‘Guernina’? What do you do with it? Is it sweet, a salad, how do you say that in English?

In English it is Spanish thistle. It grows twice a year and is harvested on the hills around Fez.

‘Picking it must be a tricky business ‘ she said.

And tricky it is indeed. This thistle is picked mostly by women, not all of whom have gloves, and the thorns are then painstakingly cut off each stem leaving it like you see here.

Similar to an artichoke in taste, Guernina is served in a tajine, either with white beans, red olives and preserved lemons or with beef if meat is an option.

Deliciously slow cooked.

‘Eeoor’s thistles!’ she said, delighted, ‘Moroccan style’.

Not only delicious but Guernina, have a load of medicinal properties, to boot.

Rich in antioxidants the vegetable is good for boosting our immune system and is also a diuretic so has positive effects on those with high blood pressure. And if that is not enough, it is a natural antipyretic, a property to reduce fevers.

The guernina seasons are short, so if you were visiting at the time they are around, I’d highly recommend trying them.

Fez, Medina, March 2018