Plantain: A Weed You Can Eat

Common plantain is indeed a weed, but it can be so much more if harvested young and cooked like spinach.

| April/May 2011


Plantain, commonly regarded as a weed, is a nutritious veggie that can thrive in any climate.


As a young man living in Grand Rapids, Mich., I would often see hungry people lined up for free food at food banks. What they didn’t know was that the yards, parks and vacant lots all around them were full of free fresh veggies. They may have seen them as weeds, but some of these “weeds” could have been harvested to augment the food bank fare.

One of the most common and plentiful of urban wild vegetables is a weed known as common plantain (Plantago major), which can grow from almost any patch of dirt. Common plantain is not only hardy enough to sprout up from cracks in asphalt and concrete — even gravel roadsides — but it can thrive in any climate.

Nutritionally, plantain is equally amazing. Related to spinach, plantain leaves are rich in iron and vitamins A and C. Plantain may be eaten uncooked, but adult leaves tend to be stringy, and seedpods are a bit tough. Preparation is as simple as boiling washed plants until tender, then serving the leaves as you would spinach, or the seedpods as you might green beans or asparagus. A little apple cider vinegar helps enliven the taste of cooked leaves, and I personally like them served hot with butter, salt and pepper. Seedpods are good in stews, soups and stir-fries, or with melted cheese over them.

Len McDougall
Paradise, Michigan

carol wingert
5/17/2011 8:23:41 PM

Plantain is great for bee stings!!! When you get stung, graba plantain leaf, chew on it (leaning forward - don't swallow), and put the leaf/saliva solution on the sting! The hurt goes away!!!! I've done this several times, and it really helps take the "hurt" away!

5/17/2011 6:42:40 PM

Did anyone bother to do any fact checking on this article before it was published? Eating common plantain apparently can be dangerous to your health. Common plantain (Plantago major) has specific medicinal qualities... such as acting as a coagulant, according to wikipedia: "Because of this unique [coagulant] quality, plantain was used as a wound ...dressing on the battlefield (it was also called "Soldier's Herb" [11] which referred to this use). Due to these properties, people who take blood thinners or those prone to blood clots should never use plantain internally."

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