nichepoetryandprose

poetry and prose about place

Common Plantain (Plantago major L.)

with 16 comments


When we were children, we often pretended to be storekeepers and picked various wild plants as the ‘food’ for sale.  We collected weed seeds for our ‘wheat’, clover-heads as ‘ice-cream’, vetch seed pods as ‘peas’, and (gasp) Common Nightshade berries as ‘tomatoes’.

This is probably a good place to urge you to teach your children – everything that looks like a vegetable or fruit may not be good for them to eat!  I don’t remember ever trying any of our pretend ‘groceries’, but some of them, such as the Common Nightshade berries, were poisonous and harmful.

berries of Common Nightshade are poisonous… later in the season, they are red and quite beautiful… children should be warned that all red berries are NOT good to eat

We also ‘sold’ the leaves of Common Plantain at our ‘store’.  They looked like spinach, and the Plantain leaves would have actually been fine for us to eat.

Common Plantain (Plantago major L.) is a very easily found weed since it grows almost everywhere, especially along roadsides, in dooryards and in other waste places.  Plantain is also known as Ribwort, Broad-leaved Plantain, Whiteman’s Foot, or, in French, queue de rat.  The generic name comes from the Latin word planta meaning ‘foot’.  Major means ‘larger’.

Plantain has thick, dark green, oval leaves.  These grow near the ground in a basal rosette.  The stems of the leaves are long and trough-like.  The leaves themselves are variously hairy and feel rough to the touch.  The leaf has large, prominent veins, and, as the plant grows older, these veins become very stringy.  The veins resist the breakage of the leaf and stick out from the stem end of a harvested leaf like the strings of celery.

Flowers of Plantain grow in a dense spike on a long, slender stalk rising from the leaves.  The flowers are small and greenish-white, appearing from June to August.

The young leaves of Common Plantain can be used in a salad or cooked and seasoned with salt and butter.  The older leaves become tough and stringy.

Warning:
1. never eat any plant if you are not absolutely certain of the identification;
2. never eat any plant if you have personal sensitivities, including allergies, to certain plants or their derivatives;
3. never eat any plant unless you have checked several sources to verify the edibility of the plant.

leaves of Common Plantain and Dandelion, picked from our dooryard, not yet washed or looked over for insects… note the strings protruding from the stem ends

Yesterday, I gathered the youngest leaves of plantain I could find and cooked them for my lunch.  They might be fine in times of need, but I found the cooked product to be just like eating soggy cardboard.

I should say, since I have begun my almost daily tests of edible wild plants, my husband asks me almost hourly how I am feeling.

~

~

wisdom

~

plantain, past the picking –

a pulled leaf resists,

tethered to a thread

~

~

©  Jane Tims  2012

Warning:
1. never eat any plant if you are not absolutely certain of the identification;
2. never eat any plant if you have personal sensitivities, including allergies, to certain plants or their derivatives;
3. never eat any plant unless you have checked several sources to verify the edibility of the plant.

Written by jane tims

June 13, 2012 at 7:21 am

16 Responses

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  1. This is such an interesting post, and funny too! I can just imagine your husband watching you carefully for any signs of illness. Don’t suppose you’ll be eating the ‘soggy cardboard’ again any time soon.

    Like

    stephanie

    June 17, 2012 at 9:48 am

    • Hi Stephanie. My husband also refuses to participate in any of the eating of the ‘edible wild’, although he cheerfully drives me all over New Brunswick to find the plants I am interested in! Jane

      Like

      jane tims

      June 18, 2012 at 7:23 am

  2. Jane, absolutely love this poem, having picked my fair share of plantain. Also glad to know your husband is paying attention. Myself, I was thinking as I read your narrative, “I hope she had more than that for lunch.” 🙂

    Like

    Jane Fritz

    June 14, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    • Hi Jane. The Plantain was one of my vegetable servings for lunch. I always eat all my food groups! I’m wondering if you found the Plantain palatable, or perhaps you prepared it differently? Jane

      Like

      jane tims

      June 14, 2012 at 8:36 pm

  3. Another very educational post here Jane – I love it.

    Like

    dfb

    June 14, 2012 at 4:53 am

  4. On our walk this weekend the herbalist mentioned that if you take the leaves of the plantain and mash them up to make a poltice that it was good for taking the sting out of insect bites. I wasn’t too thrilled with the taste of them either, but imagine that they do have nutrient value and might do well in soup with other veggies for a bit a greens as long as you didn’t use too much of them to color the taste.

    Like

    snowbirdpress

    June 13, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    • Hi Merrill. A very good idea… a way to get the value without having to endure the texture. By the way, I am waiting for someone to say they love plantain greens and I just did not prepare them correctly! Jane

      Like

      jane tims

      June 13, 2012 at 7:23 pm

  5. Brings back childhood memories! I also remember smoking some sort of plant stem at the back of the playing fields later when at secondary school.

    Like

    dianajhale

    June 13, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    • Hi. That’s funny! I will not even attempt to guess what it might have been!!! Jane

      Like

      jane tims

      June 13, 2012 at 7:20 pm

  6. I love that even your tablecloth has ferns on it. I am happy to see these wonderful, plentiful, and healthful plants on your blog, Jane. Eating these things was so common place when we were children and enjoyed a life of being in the woods all day long.

    Like

    Michele L Tremblay

    June 13, 2012 at 11:51 am

    • Hi Michele. One of the points of my project on ‘growing and gathering’ is to figure out why we abandon habits that were once part of our lives. Convenience is certainly one factor. Proximity is another… most people are living in urban/suburban areas where access to natural spaces is limited. Jane

      Like

      jane tims

      June 13, 2012 at 7:18 pm

  7. lol! Your husband is wise.

    I used to make some sort of tonic with dandelion and plantain greens soaked in vinegar (strain and use the vinegar). I don’t remember what the point of it was… obviously not memory improvement. 😉

    Like

    Robin

    June 13, 2012 at 9:16 am

    • Hi. Sounds like it might have been more enjoyable than just eating the greens! Jane

      Like

      jane tims

      June 13, 2012 at 7:14 pm

  8. Hi Jane,

    I always learn from you! We went to the Farmer’s Market in Sheboygan, Wisconsin last Saturday. Bought bakery from an Amish family and also spinach and strawberries from local growers. Things are early this year. Ellen

    Like

    Ellen Grace Olinger

    June 13, 2012 at 7:52 am

    • Hi. Eating local is delicious, and fun. I love going to the farmers market and seeing everything available at the different times of the year. Enjoy your strawberries and spinach! Jane

      Like

      jane tims

      June 13, 2012 at 7:12 pm


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