I think everyone should know basic survival skills no matter where on this planet they happen to be. A good start would be to learn how to identify edible plants and where they grow as well as at what time of year you’re most likely to find a particular plant. On my last post about wild edibles, I talked about the lowly dandelion. There’s another edible found in yards that people ignore is the common plantain. There are two types, the broad leaf and lance leaf (plantago major and plantago lanceolata for you botany majors) shown here:
You’ve probably walked past this plant and thought it was just a weed but this plant is much more than a seemingly annoying weed. You can eat it fresh or cooked like a green but if you eat it fresh like in a salad, collect young leaves before the flower spike appears. After that it gets a rather “green” taste not to mention that the older the leaves get, the more stringy it gets! Plantain is high in vitamins A, C, and K as well as potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, phosphorus, zinc and copper. It’s high in fiber and contains what’s known as phytochemicals like allantoin, glycosides, phenols, salicylic acid and tannins. Plantain has also and still is used for medicinal purposes and I will post links at the end of this blog for the reader to check out for themselves.
As a food, plaintain leaves, seeds and roots are edible but the roots are mostly used for medicinal purposes. Even the immature seed stalks can be eaten by parching them and grinding them into flour but you gotta have a lot of time on your hands to try that as gathering enough to make a meal is labor intensive! Try biting into the green seed stalks and see if it tastes “nutty”. If you can’t find young tender leaves to try raw, you can still use the older leaves in a tea or just boil them to make a green soup “stock”. As with all wild edibles, make sure you collect them from places that haven’t been sprayed with chemicals or in areas dogs have been allowed to run free in, I think you get what I mean! Also as a precaution, whenever trying new food, always try a little first to see if you have any allergic reactions to it. I haven’t heard of anyone being allergic to this plant though but you never know!
Cooking plantain doesn’t take long so don’t overdo it! You can pretty much use it just like spinach or just steam it and add a little butter over the top and whatever spices you like. Me? I like to saute them in a little olive oil, garlic and diced onion but that’s how I treat most greens anyway, lol! A sprinkling of a little fresh lemon juice is nice too! Another nice thing I do with plantain for a main dish is to cook it slowly in a pot with smoked bacon and a pinch of sugar just like you do with collard greens only you don’t have to cook it as long! Try experimenting with it and see what you can come up with according to your own tastes. Enjoy!