Plantain: A “Weed” with Wanderlust

Listen to Susan’s Scented Plantain Podcast

Once in seven years, the plantain turns into a cuckoo.
—old English saying

Some plants were made to be walked on! Plantain is one of those herbs that is always underfoot—in your yard, in your garden, in the neighborhood park. Susan fills you in on plantain’s mythic history and tells you how to use this valuable “weed.”

Please don’t confuse the herb plantain (Plantago major) with plantain, a banana-like fruit.

The Edible Plantain

Yes, plantain leaves—picked when they are very young, tender, and less bitter—are edible. Snipping out the rib may reduce the bitterness. Here are some ways you can use them:

  • raw, in a salad, with other “weeds”
  • steamed, like spinach, or added to spinach
  • in dips
  • in vegetable soups
  • in quiche, as a spinach substitute
  • with other herbs, such as basil, in herb pestos

Also edible: the immature flower stalks, either raw or steamed, and the small seeds, which are said to have a nutty flavor. As you do with any wild-gathered food, be sure that the plant has not been grown in an area where it can become contaminated.

The Medicinal Plantain

Here are some online sources of information about plantain’s long history of use as a healing herb: