Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The lowly plantain

Plantain (Plantago major), seen below, is common everywhere. The only requirement seems to be sunlight, and it will grow in any soil type. The name comes from the Latin plantago, meaning "sole of the foot" because the leaves are shaped somewhat like footprints. Another nickname is "white man's footprint" since it followed European settlers across America. There are nearly 200 species of Plantago to be found in the world. All are edible, and there are no poisonous species.
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As a wildcrafting enthusiast, this plant was one of the first to get that fire started for me. Once you "know" it, the plant appears everywhere you look. In that respect, it is like chickweed, and they are both so versatile and useful.

The first time we really used plantain, a toddler in a stroller had been stung in the palm of her hand, having made a fist around a bee landing there. We picked plantain and crushed it up while her mother removed the stinger. The mash was placed in her hand, and the screaming and tears stopped immediately. Later, it was equally effective the time my husband mowed over a nest of ground bees wearing only baggy shorts. Medicinally, the leaves or a decoction of the leaves can be used for all sorts of things - burns, eczema, boils, inflammation of the eyes, insect stings and bites, muscle sprains and strains, leg pains and aching feet, poison ivy or nettle rash, and hemorrhoids.

The young leaves can be added to salads, made into soup, added to stirfry, or generally used like spinach. The older leaves can become bitter.

The seeds are also valuable as a laxative. They are high in B vitamins, and can be taken in capsule form or made into a seed gel that can be kept refrigerated up to 2 weeks.

To make the plantain seed gel, gather a large quantity from the yard. You'll find them easily... they're the little stalks waving about 4-6 inches above the grass, just before you decide its time to mow :-). Put them in water to cover, and boil hard for 25 minutes. Run through the food processor until fine. Some berries or mint may be added for flavor. Use 1 Tbsp. of the gel to 1 cup warm water. This is a very healing drink for intestinal problems, as the gel is considered to soothe issues like irritable bowel, colitis, Crohn's, and aid in healing the damaged tissues.


Brklyr said...

Lowly Plantain my great Aunt Whatsername! Come on Tina... can't ya just say "elephant ears?" Think about it... You wouldn't even need a picture. By the way.... is Herb there? hehe
Yer everlovinbrother..... T--

Amber said...

This is a great post on Plantain! :) I love my useful ditch weeds!

Keep up the awesome work.


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