Plantain prefers partial shade and can grow in a variety of soils, from rocky to sandy. Part of the Plantaginaceae family, it can be identified by its broad leaves that are used in herbal preparations and in cooking. Younger fresh leaves are preferable for food use, but teas can be made from fresh or dried material.
Plantago major grows low to the ground in a rosette cluster of oval-shaped, veiny leaves. It blooms a single spike of tiny compact, cream-colored flowers from spring through fall. The plant itself grows to a height of no more than five inches at maturity.
Plantain seeds are best grown directly outside by sowing in early to mid-spring after the last frost has passed. Seeds should be scattered directly over prepared soil. Germination normally takes seven to fourteen days. Leaves can be harvested for use 30 days after the first plants sprout from the soil.
The leafless flower stalks can be more than two feet long with pointed, dense flower spikes. Flowers are brownish green, with long white stamens.
It contains slippery mucilage that is soothing and healing to the skin, and is often applied topically to treat all kinds of minor wounds, including insect stings and bites, allergic rashes such as those from poison ivy and stinging nettle, hives, burns, cuts, and abrasions.
Don’t worry too much about over harvesting, as this plant will likely keep coming back no matter how much you take out.
The leaves of this plant are edible and nutritious, with a slight bitterness and a generally mild flavor. They’re rich in calcium, as well as vitamins A, C, and K.
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Common Plantain (Plantago Major Rosularis) – The flowers of Common Plantain are shaped like small green cabbage heads. Plants grow 12 inches tall when in full bloom and are easily grown from herb seeds. The foliage is low growing and green. The name ‘Rosularis’ means rose-like referring to the look of the flower heads which are shaped like double roses. Common Plantain will self-seed readily by dropping its seeds and forming new Plantain herbs the following spring. Other names for this herb are Greater Plantain and Rat Tail Plantain.
The young, tender leaves of the Common Plantain plant are edible, and can be used as a salad green of cooked and eaten like spinach. The taste is that of very bitter salad greens with a lingering aftertaste not unlike spinach. Plantain herb plants had historical medicinal use as a wound healer and snakebite remedy, and today the Plantain herbs have been found to have scientific merit. The Common Plantain plant is also enjoyed by butterfly larvae and if allowed to seed, birds eat the dried seeds.
How To Grow Common Plantains: In a prepared seedbed, sow the Plantain seeds directly outside in the early spring. Lightly cover the herb seeds with soil and keep moist.