Posted on August 27, 2014 by Mary Hood | 0 Comments
Known to many as a stubborn weed, broadleaf plantain (plantago major) is common to many areas across the US. Although we often curse it when it crops up in our gardens, there are several reasons to celebrate this hardy crop. We’ve rounded up a few things to do with broadleaf plantains—and the best way to get rid of them if they’re still not your thing.
1. Eat ’em. As it turns out, the entire plant is edible—and nutritious to boot! The leaves are high in calcium, vitamin A, C, and K.
When left raw, broadleaf plantain leaves are usually tough and bitter—not the best addition to your crisp garden salad. When boiled in salted water for 3 – 5 minutes (or until the leaves are soft and almost ready to fall apart), this weed makes a nice accent to Asian dishes. The blanched leaves are algae-like in texture and combine well with sesame oil and soy sauce. Alternatively, the blanched leaves can be tossed in a stew or sautée. Finally, the seeds can be ground and used as a gluten-free flour or flour extender.
2. Take advantage of their medicinal powers. For thousands of years, cultures across the world have turned to broadleaf plantain as an anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, multi-purpose remedy. When used in a poultice, the leaves may be applied to wounds, stings, and sores to prevent infection and promote healing. Tea made from the plant can be used as a mouthwash or consumed to ease digestive upset. (See #5 for brewing suggestions!)
3. Turn them into a style statement. Given its hardy nature, the broadleaf plantain could theoretically make a pretty sturdy necklace in the style of a daisy chain, but weedy jewelry just isn’t the same without pretty flowers. Why not instead wear a broadleaf plantain-inspired piece that’s everlasting and gold?
This Barbara Michelle Jacobs Madison Garland Band in 18K gold may look like the accessory of a Greek goddess, but it was actually created with a direct cast of a broadleaf plantain “weed” from Central Park (they grow there, too!). Encircled by a band of diamonds, this ring is a marriage of organic life and timeless glamour—plus it comes with a pretty neat story!
4. Banish them. If you can’t eat them fast enough, and they’re taking up precious real estate in your garden, you can try to get rid of them. These plants tend to crop up in large clumps, making hand-pulling, digging, and hoeing futile as far as immediate and complete extraction is concerned. Depending on the size of the plant, it may take several months of any of the above methods to finally banish them. Mowing over them does little to discourage their persistence, unfortunately. To reduce the spread of broadleaf plantains, be sure to clean your gardening equipment of its seeds after each attempt to dig them up.
5. If your efforts to banish them fail, celebrate their sinewy toughness with a toast! By that I mean, a steaming cup of broadleaf plantain tea. You can make an antioxidant-rich, caffeine-free brew with the dried leaves. Sweeten with stevia or agave nectar and add a splash of freshly squeezed lemon juice for added nutritional benefit. This tea will help soothe a sore throat and may serve as a laxative.
Photos: Wikipedia, Mel Green via Flickr, Barbara Michelle Jacobs, Christian Kaden via Flickr