Wild edible – Broadleaf plantain

Before I get to the meat (or vegetable, as it were) of this post, I wanted to update those of you who are interested in the LK-35 Swedish army rucksack (if you’re not, you might want to skip this paragraph). Being curious as to why I have been able to fit more gear inside this supposedly 35 L pack in comparison to other 35 L packs, I emptied it and took some measurements. I was happy to find that the maximum capacity is actually about 40.5 L. The reason for the discrepancy is the pack’s top flap, which has a range of positions to accommodate different amounts of gear inside. When the flap is at its lowest position, the volume is about 30 L, whereas at its highest position, the volume is about 40.5 L (2,470 cubic inches). Since I attach my bulky sleeping gear to the outside of the pack, 40+ L is plenty of room for my gear, food, extra clothes etc., so I plan to continue using and trialing it. While the pack was empty, I also weighed it using a bathroom scale, and it weighed in at 2.3 kg/5 pounds. Not lightweight, but I still think it’s a winner thanks to its extreme ruggedness.

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My favorite of the leafy wild edibles growing here in Finland is the broadleaf plantain (plantago major).

Young broadleaf plantain leaves.

It’s one of about 200 species of plaintain (not to be confused with the fruit of the same name) growing around the world. Native to most of Europe and Northern/Central Asia, broadleaf plantain is commonly considered a weed, as it is often found growing in grassy areas in populated places.

Mature plant (linked image, not my photo)

When I see this plant, I don’t see a weed at all. I see a nutritious leafy vegetable high in vitamins A, C and K and in calcium which can be picked and eaten raw or cooked. I see a plant that can be made into a poultice which aids in healing wounds and insect bites thanks to its anti-toxic, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties (the leaves contain aucubin, allantoin and several soothing agents). Fever and respiratory infections were traditionally treated with the plant’s root. Tea made from the leaves is said to be good for treating diarrhea due to the inherent astringent properties.

So the next time you’re getting rid of “weeds” around your house, check to see if any of them are broadleaf plantain. You might have a nutritious snack and mini-pharmacy right nearby without knowing it!

Disclaimer: Consuming wild edible plants and/or using them for medical purposes is done at your own risk. Always be 100% certain of what you are eating/doing. If unsure, contact an expert.

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13 comments on “Wild edible – Broadleaf plantain

  1. We have them here in the states, too.

    • The Weekend Woodsman says:

      Yes, they have become naturalized around the world. Originally, though, they are from Europe/Asia.

  2. I knew you could use them to neutralize itchy insect bites, I think if you chew it up and put on a bee sting it is supposed to help with that too. Thanks for the post.

  3. Richard Barnes says:

    Does anyone know the scientific name (Latin )of the willow that grows the sallow root burl that people in Finland use for puukko handles? I am interested in knowing this to see if Alaska has this species of willow. We have a lot of the same plants and animals, I’m hoping to get other material for knife handles beside birch burls.
    Thank you,
    ………..Richard

  4. I dunno, I’ve eaten lots of plaintain before and never been too impressed by it. The taste was alright in the youngest most bright green leaves, but anything more mature, and especially any plant with its flower stalk already up, is always too strong for me, and even in the young plants I don’t care for the texture.

    In my humble opinion bunchberry shoots right when they first come up around this time of year and the leaves are still curled together make for a similiar vegetable that’s better tasting and better texture. Although I’ve only eaten a small amount (probably about 1/2 cup’s worth) at any one time, so I can’t say if using it in larger amounts is bad for the stomach or something. I’ve never actually read about anyone eating bunchberry shoots, it was just something I found out about on my own, so I don’t know about the side effects of larger amounts.

    The most of the time I use plaintain is not as a food but as a poultice on cuts or bee stings like you said. The seeds are also a powerful laxitive. Never tried a tea of the leaves though, I’ll have to remember that.

    • Notice I didn’t write “best wild edible”, just “my favorite”. I’ve only eaten a few, and plantain happens to be my favorite out of them. 🙂 I’m sure there are better-tasting ones out there!

      Thanks for the bunchberry tips. I’ll have to see if we have them here in Finland!

  5. […] one small spot and it didn’t seem to want to stop. Remembering that my favorite wild edible broadleaf plantain has astringent and wound-healing properties, I chewed up a small leaf and put the poultice on the […]

  6. Dave Friend says:

    Could you please tell me the vitamin and mineral content of the Broadleaf Plantian.
    I really would like to know this info.
    I think this would be a great addition to my salads.
    Thank you in advance,
    Dave

    • Thanks for the comment, Dave. 🙂 From what I have read from multiple sources, it contains vitamins A, C, K and calcium. It probably also contains other vitamins and minerals in smaller amounts.

      • Dave Friend says:

        Thanks for your prompt reply.
        Do you have any information that would authenticate those statements?
        It could be said of most all plants that they contain such and such and it would be true.
        But if the plant is being promoted as edible, it seems we should have solid facts to ensure it does not have any adverse effects if we in fact eat it. Some plants contain to many oxalates that might be bad for people with certain kidney problems. (I do).
        Anyway if the vitamin/mineral percentages are published would you plese guide me to that infomation.
        Again thanks for your fast response,
        Dave

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