Plantago is a group of weeds that grow prolifically all over the world. In the U.S., common plantain, or Plantago major, is in nearly everyone’s yard and garden. This persistent weed can be a challenge to control, but it is also a weed you may want to consider harvesting.
Is Common Plantain Edible?
Eating plantain weeds out of your yard is not as crazy as it sounds, at least as long as you haven’t first covered them in pesticides or herbicides. Clean plantain from the garden is not only edible but also nutritious. Once you know how to identify plantain, you won’t be able to un-see it. It’s everywhere but especially rampant in disturbed areas.
The leaves of plantain are oval, slightly egg-shaped. They have parallel veins that run along each leaf and small, inconspicuous flowers that grow on a tall spike. The stems are thick and contain strings similar to those found in celery.
Plantain as an herb is nutritious and has long been used medicinally for antimicrobial properties, to heal wounds, and to treat diarrhea. Plantain is rich in vitamins A, C, and K, and also contains several important minerals like calcium and iron.
How to Eat Common Plantain
The broadleaf plantain weeds that you find in your yard can be eaten entirely, but the young leaves are the tastiest. Use these raw in any way you would spinach, such as in salads and sandwiches. You can also use the older leaves raw, but they tend to be more bitter and stringy. If using larger leaves raw, consider removing the veins first.
Cooking plantain weeds is another option, especially for the larger, older leaves. A quick blanch or light stir fry will tone down the bitterness and soften the veins that make them stringy and fibrous. You can even blanch the leaves and then freeze them to use later in soups and sauces. Early in the season, look for the new shoots of plantain. These have a light asparagus-like flavor and a quick sauté will enhance that taste.
You can even eat the seeds of plantain, but harvesting them is hardly worth the effort, as they are tiny. Some people eat the entire shoot of seeds once the flowers have finished. These seed pods can be eaten raw or cooked gently. However you choose to eat your yard plantain, be sure you wash it well first and that you haven’t used any herbicides or pesticides on it before harvesting.
Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for educational and gardening purposes only. Before using or ingesting ANY herb or plant for medicinal purposes or otherwise, please consult a physician, medical herbalist, or other suitable professional for advice.