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If You Can’t Beat It, Eat It.


Another edible weed:  Plantain, Plantago major    


Plantain is a prolific grower in most gardens, in the lawn, in the cracks of pathways, almost anywhere there is soil. Its voracity in attacking the lawn makes it a weed in most people’s eyes, but there is good eating in weeds.

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There are two species which are common out of the 200 or so species known worldwide;   Plantago major in the photo and a species with a thinner leaf, Plantago lanceolata. The thin leaf plantain is bitter whereas the fat leafed version is quite palatable.

It is rich in vitamins A and C and other minerals. Plantain is a native of Europe and Central and Northern Asia. Its fine seed readily becomes a contaminant of cereal and other crop seed and has therefore made its way around the world. The North American Indian knew it as Englishman’s foot or Whiteman’s Foot as it usually followed where the White man had traveled. It is usually called Common Plantain or Greater Plantain. It is also called Soldiers herb as the leaves were used as a dressing on the battlefield owing primarily to its potent coagulating abilities and bactericidal qualities. It will also provide relief with the sting of nettles and will help with insect bites and cuts.


The leaves, roots and seeds are edible. The leaves can be added to salads, added to soups and stews bit if cooked alone as a vegetable, they need only a quick blanch. Wash the leaves and cook them in the water that remains on them.

The root can be roasted. This is done when the leaves have all but gone in hot dry summers and autumn.

The seeds when dried have the ability to absorb up to 20 times their original size. They can be used to make a porridge which can be sweetened with honey or sugar.  


Plantain is widely reported in historical documents and has been used as a cure for snake bites, cures for thrush, piles, madness, treatment of ringworm, crabs, treatment of shingles, earache… the list is quite long. There is plenty to be read if you want to look further.  And if you still consider it a weed, one way to get rid of it is to eat it!



Published: Jul 3, 2008 6:55am by shaun.

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