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Plantain

The wild edible not the plantain that is a member of the banana family

Plantain weed or edible_Page_1The plantain is a low-growing green plant that some view as a weed. To be sure it is not your typical green grass of most perfectly manicured lawns.

However, we have left our back yard….well, I like to think of it more like a park. Others might see it as a bit, shall we say, weedy. We just let whatever grows out there grow and we mow it. Much like you would see at most local parks. So we have decided that we have a lovely park in our backyard filled with ‘wild edibles” rather than weeds.

 

That being said, even in a well-manicured lawn you can find the occasional plantain. You could even consider harvesting some seeds and growing plantain in your garden with your other greens.

Plantain major grows close to the ground with oval shaped, ribbed leaves which can grow as long as 6” and as wide as 4” with a flower stalk up to 10” long. Plantain lanceolata is similar to plantain major only it grows with long narrow leaves that are a bit more upright than the leaves of the plantain major. Plantain lanceolata also has smaller flower stalks that appear on top of a long stem.

Plantain is very common in North America and in much of Europe, Australia and parts of Asia. It grows best in full to partial sun and in almost any type of soil. If you do not have a “park” backyard like we have, you can find and harvest plantain in a nearby meadow, field or park that you know is not spayed with anything nasty and toxic.

Benefits of Plantain:

Plantain use dates back to Anglo-Saxon days, when it was prepared and used as an ointment to heal wounds of all types. Plantain is known for its ability to draw out toxins, and reduce swelling, inflammation and itching. It can help relieve irritation of the mucous linings of the entire respiratory tract as well as act as an effective expectorant.

All parts of the plant are edible and beneficial and can be used fresh or dried.

The benefits of plantain are most effective when you use the young leaves as they contain more of the active compounds, iridoid glyocosides, which decrease as the plants age.

Plantain is rich in potassium, zinc, iron and magnesium and loaded with essential amino acids (protein).

How to use plantain:

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  • Use the young greens in salads or steam them and eat as you would spinach
  • Tea – Especially good for stomach irritation. Pour 1 cup boiling water over 1 tsp. dried or 2 tsp. fresh plantain. Steep 10 minutes, strain and drink. I like to sweeten this tea a bit with some Stevia or raw honey.
  • Cold infusion – for use as a mouth rinse or gargle. Pour 4 cups cold water over 3 Tbsp. dried or 1/3 cup fresh plantain. Steep for 2 hours. Drink 1 cup 3-4 times daily or rinse and gargle with it. This infusion can also be applied topically as a compress to reduce inflammation from insect bites and bee stings.
  • My favorite – Add plantain to your green smoothies.

Note: Plantain is super easy to grow and you can harvest the leaves, flowers and seeds. Allow them to dry away from direct sunlight and store them in a glass jar to use throughout the year.

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Sources:

Green for Life by Victoria Boutenko

The Complete Guide to Natural Healing published by International Masters Publishers

Botanical.com

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