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Broadleaf Plantain (Plantago major)

Broadleaf PlantainScientific Name: Pantago major
Common Names: Common plantain, pale plantain, purple-stemmed plantain, Rugel’s plantain, silk plant

Broadleaf plantain is one of the 19 different species of plantains found in the United States and the rest of the world. All of which are edible. It is the second most common weed in American yards, just behind the amazing dandelion. You will find it growing in cultivated fields, pastures, along roadsides, and in lawns and gardens.

It is a perennial plant that grows from spring to autumn and has distinguishable oval, ribbed, short-stemmed leaves that tend to stay very low to the ground. When you break the stem you will see string-like veins similar to those in celery. The leaves may grow up to about 6 inches long and 4 inches wide. Long, thick green-flowered shoots grow out of the center of the plant followed by a small seedpod with about 5 or 6 small black / brown seeds.

Edible Parts

All parts of the broadleaf plantain are edible. The leaves, shoots, flowers, root, and seeds. Baby Broadleaf Plantain

The oval-shaped leaves can be eaten cooked or raw and are tastiest when they are small and tender, usually in the early spring. The bigger leaves are good but are a bit more fibrous and bitter. Blanching the leaves in boiling water with make the leaves more tender. The leaves can be used in a salad raw or cooked similar to dandelion leaves or spinach. You could also saute the leaves in garlic and butter or add them to a soup.

The seeds can be eaten raw or soaked and cooked like rice. You may also ground the seeds and use the meal as a wheat flour substitute or additive.

The shoots of the broadleaf plantain, has been called “poor-man’s fiddlehead” and can be eaten raw, preferably when green and tender, having a nutty-like, asparagus flavor. You can fry these in olive oil for a few seconds to enhance the the taste.

Plantain is high in vitamin A and calcium. It also has a small amount of vitamin C.

Medicinal Use:

Broadleaf plantain has long been used medicinally as poultices, ointments, and teas.

Because of its high tannin content, broadleaf plantain can be used, in poultice form, as an astringent to draw skin tissue together and stop bleeding. It can be used to treat bee stings, cuts, burns,  sores, and to reduce inflammation.

Use the leaves to create an infused tea to treat conditions such as asthma, broken bones, bronchitis, congestion (sinus or nasal) , colds, infections, and stomach ulcers.

Use the root to create a tea that can be used to help treat bladder infections, coughing, and fevers.

Toxicity:
None, however plantains should be introduced to your diet slowly as high doses can cause a fall in blood pressure as well as diarrhea. Some people may experience allergic contact dermatitis.

Other Notes:
There is a type of green cooking banana that is also commonly called plantain. It is not a true plantain and should not be confused with the plant mentioned above.

Remember: Check with a qualified naturopathic doctor or other health professional before eating any wild plant.