Plantain Weed Seeds Edible

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. The weed can be a challenge to control, but it is a weed you may want to consider harvesting. Learn more here. Where to find and how to forage Plantago, also knows as plantain weed, commonly found in your backyard. … and they’re free.

Cooking Plantain Weeds – Is Common Plantain Edible

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.

Plantago (Plantain): edible lawn weed

Plantago is also known as plantain, plantain leaf, or plantain weed.

I’m not talking about the banana-like fruit, fried Cuban-style.

I’m talking about the edible weed that grows wild in your yard and garden and vacant lots throughout North America.

There are over 200 species of plantain within the genus Plantago, and, as far as I know, all are edible.

Rugel’s plantain, Plantago rugelii

There’s a lot of talk about Plantago’s Old World roots and how early European settlers introduced it to Native Americans.

In fact, another common name for Plantago major is “White man’s foot,” supposedly given by Native Americans as they noticed the plant growing wherever Europeans traveled.

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Theory holds that plantain seeds hitch-hiked to the New World by way of mud-caked boots and horse hooves.

Surely there’s some truth to that, but there are at least 35 species of Plantago in North America and several of those are native.

A few North American natives that tend to get overlooked are Plantago virginica (Virginia plantain or Dwarf plantain), Plantago rhodosperma (Redseed plantain), and Plantago rugelii (Rugel’s plantain).

Still, you’re probably more likely to encounter the European varieties since they’ve taken such a hold on American soil.

Plantago lanceolata (Narrowleaf plantain or English plantain) and Plantago major (Common plantain) are a couple of the more well-known European species that have naturalized in North America.

Identification

Leaves

Plantain leaves are easy to recognize by the five or so palmate veins that run parallel to the midrib.

They grow from a basal rosette and can be up to a foot long if they don’t get mowed.

Plantago rugelii basal rosette

The leaves of P. major, P. rugelii are wider, but P. major leaf stems are green at the base, while P. rugelii leaf stems are reddish-purple at the base.

True to its name, the leaves of P. lanceolata (Narrowleaf plantain) are more slender than those of P. major.

The native P. virginica also has narrow leaves, but its leaves are distinctly pointed and hairy, which distinguishes it from its European counterpart, P. lanceolata.

Flowers

The tiny flowers of plantain grow in clusters along a stem, or spike, that grows from the center of the basal rosette.

A single plant will usually have several flower stems growing at the same time.

Flower spikes can grow up to ten inches.

After the flowers finish blooming and fall away, they leave behind fibrous seeds.

Habitat

Plantain likes full sun and thrives in compacted soil.

It’s also really hardy and tolerant of repeated mowing and trampling, which is why it’s commonly found in yards, fields, abandoned lots, and other disturbed areas throughout North America.

Depending on region, plantain emerges in winter or early spring and grows through summer into fall until colder weather beats it back.

Traditional Use

In addition to being edible, Plantago has a long history of use in folk medicine.

Used as a “spit poultice” (chewed thouroughly), it has served as a folk remedy for snake bites, insect bites, cuts and rashes for ages.

It’s also a common component in healing salve.

One species, Plantago ovata, may not be well-known by its Latin name, but its seed husks are well-known as psyllium, the main ingredient of over-the-counter laxative products like Metamucil.

Harvest

To harvest, simply cut leaves and seed heads.

Cooking & Eating

Fresh leaves

In early spring, gather young plantain leaves while they’re still tender enough to eat raw in salads.

Cooked leaves

As the leaves get older and bigger, they get stringy and tough.

Steaming tougher leaves will make them tender, but the fibrous veins and midribs will need to be removed from older, stringier leaves.

Seed heads

Gather young seed heads throughout summer and use them in stir frys.

Older seed heads are too tough to eat.

Plaintain leaf tea

Plantain leaves and seed heads may be dried for tea or used fresh.

To make tea with fresh leaves, shred leaves and pour boiling water over them.

Plantain tea can also be frozen for later use.

Comments

Thanks so much for the great information! I have been identifying edible wild greens in our yards. Today was plantain. The only comment is that when I ate the young seed heads raw they started to expand a bit I’m my mouth and kind of attaching itself to the roof of my mouth. No worries of course I just spit the rest out until I felt comfortable. That’s probably why they recommend cooking first. lol

The Five Healthiest Backyard Weeds

Do you have the summer gardening blues? Has the heat wave turned your cucumbers vines into rope and left your tomatoes as brown as the cracked dirt they’re growing in?

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Fear not. You likely have weeds in your garden or in your neighborhood that are striving in the heat and are actually far more healthful than almost anything you can grow or buy.

Far from famine food, these so-called weeds can be delicious if prepared properly. And they are absolutely free.

Just a few words of caution: Be sure to identify the weed properly. (The ones described here are easy to spot.) Avoid harvesting from anyplace you suspect pollution — such as from vehicle exhaust, lawn pesticide or doggy business. And remember that edible does not mean allergen-free.

Got your garden gloves? Ok, here we go.

Dandelion:

Dandelion is one of the healthiest and most versatile vegetables on the planet. The entire plant is edible. The leaves are like vitamin pills, containing generous amounts of vitamins A, C and K — far more than those garden tomatoes, in fact — along with calcium, iron, manganese, and potassium.

The leaves are most tender, and tastiest, when they are young. This happens in the spring but also all summer along as the plant tries to rebound after being cut or pulled. You can add them to soup in great abundance. Or you can prepare them Italian style by sautéing with a little olive oil, salt, garlic and some hot red pepper.

You can eat the bright, open flower heads in a lightly fried batter. You can also make a simple wine with the flowers by fermenting them with raisins and yeast. If you are slightly adventurous, you can roast the dandelion root, grind it, and brew it like coffee. It’s an acquired taste. You might want to have some sugar on hand.

Purslane:

If you’ve ever lived in the city, you have seen good ol’ Portulaca olearacea, or common purslane. The stuff grows in cracks in the sidewalk. Aside from being surprisingly tasty for a crack dweller, purslane tops the list of plants with omega-3 fatty acids, the type of healthy fat found in salmon. [7 Perfect Survival Foods]

If you dislike the bitter taste of dandelion greens, you still might like the lemony taste of purslane. The stems, leaves and flowers are all edible; and they can be eaten raw on salads — as they are prepared worldwide — or lightly sautéed.

You should keep a few things in mind, though, before your harvest. Watch out for spurge, a similar-looking sidewalk-crack dweller. Spurge is much thinner than purslane, and it contains a milky sap, so you can easily differentiate it. Also, your mother might have warned you about eating things off the sidewalk; so instead, look for purslane growing in your garden, or consider transplanting it to your garden from a sidewalk.

Also, note the some folks incorrectly call purslane “pigweed,” but that’s a different weed — edible but not as tasty.

Lamb’s-quarters:

Lamb’s-quarters are like spinach, except they are healthier, tastier and easier to grow. Lamb’s-quarters, also called goosefoot, usually need more than a sidewalk crack to grow in, unlike dandelion or purslane. Nevertheless, they can be found throughout the urban landscape, wherever there is a little dirt.

The best part of the lamb’s-quarters are the leaves, which are slightly velvety with a fine white powder on their undersides. Discard any dead or diseased leaves, which are usually the older ones on the bottom of the plant. The leaves and younger stems can be quickly boiled or sautéed, and they taste like a cross between spinach and Swiss chard with a slight nutty after-taste.

Maybe that taste combination doesn’t appeal to you, but lamb’s-quarters are ridiculously healthy. A one-cup serving will give you 10 times the daily-recommended dose of vitamin K; three times the vitamin A; more than enough vitamin C; and half your daily dose of calcium and magnesium.

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Plantain

Plantain, like dandelion, is a healthy, hardy weed as ubiquitous in the city as broken glass. You know what it looks like, but you might not have known the name.

Part of the confusion is that plantain shares its name with something utterly different, the banana-like plantain, whose etymology is a mix of Spanish and native Caribbean. The so-called weed plantain, or Plantago major, was cultivated in pre-Columbus Europe; and indeed Native Americans called it “the white man’s footprint,” because it seemed to follow European settlers.

Plantain has a nutritional profile similar to dandelion — that is, loaded with iron and other important vitamins and minerals. The leaves are tastiest when small and tender, usually in the spring but whenever new shoots appear after being cut back by a lawnmower. Bigger leaves are edible but bitter and fibrous. [World’s Plants Growing Less Thanks to Warming]

The shoots of the broadleaf plantain, when green and tender and no longer than about four inches, can be described as a poor-man’s fiddlehead, with a nutty, asparagus-like taste. Pan-fry in olive oil for just a few seconds to bring out this taste. The longer, browner shoots are also tasty prepared the same way, but the inner stem is too fibrous. You’ll need to place the shoot in your mouth, clench with your teeth, and quickly pull out the stem. What you’re eating are the plantain seeds.

The leaves of the equally ubiquitous narrow-leaf plantain, or Plantago lanceolata, also are edible when young. The shoot is “edible” only with quotation marks. You can eat the seeds should you have the patience to collect hundreds of plants for the handful of seeds you’d harvest. With time being money, it’s likely not worth it.

Stinging Nettles

It sounds like a cruel joke, but stinging nettles — should you be able to handle them without getting a painful rash from the tiny, acid-filled needles — are delicious cooked or prepared as a tea.

You may have brushed by these in the woods or even in your garden, not knowing what hit you, having been trained all your life to identify poison ivy and nothing else. The tiny needles fortunately fall off when steamed or boiled. The trick is merely using garden gloves to get the nettles into a bag. [Video – Watch Gorillas Process and Eat Stinging Nettles]

Nettles tastes a little like spinach, only more flavorful and more healthful. They are loaded with essential minerals you won’t find together outside a multivitamin bottle, and these include iodine, magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, silica and sulfur. Nettles also have more protein than most plants.

Like all weeds, nettles are free. But you get even more of a bargain if you boil them. You can eat the leaves and then drink the water as tea, with or without sugar, hot or cold. If you are adventurous — or, well, just plain cheap — you can collect entire plants to dry in your basement. The needles will eventually fall off, and you can save the dried leaves for tea all winter long.

Christopher Wanjek is the author of the books “Bad Medicine” and “Food At Work.” His column, Bad Medicine, appears regularly on LiveScience.

Christopher Wanjek is a Live Science contributor and a health and science writer. He is the author of three science books: Spacefarers (2020), Food at Work (2005) and Bad Medicine (2003). His “Food at Work” book and project, concerning workers’ health, safety and productivity, was commissioned by the U.N.’s International Labor Organization. For Live Science, Christopher covers public health, nutrition and biology, and he has written extensively for The Washington Post and Sky & Telescope among others, as well as for the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, where he was a senior writer. Christopher holds a Master of Health degree from Harvard School of Public Health and a degree in journalism from Temple University.