Popping up in winter, plantain rosettes range from almost unnoticeable to quite large in size. The club-shaped leaves may have points along the edge and hairs. Look for it in yards, disturbed areas, and abandoned places receiving lots of winter/spring sun. One of the easiest ways to identify them is that their vein structure is “palmate” which means it has several thick veins running parallel from the base of the leaf to the end, kind of like fingers sticking up from the palm of a hand.
Redseed Plantain (Plantago rhodosperma)
The young leaves have a mild “green” flavor but as they mature I personally find them too rough and stiff to be eaten raw. Cooking the older leaves makes them more tender. Juicing the leaves is a better way of using the mature plant to get their mineral and vitamins.
Really big plantains, probably Plantago virginica.
Out in West Texas look for Woolly Indian wheat plantain (Plantago patagonica).
Scientific name: Plantago species
What: leaves, young seed pods
How: raw, steamed
Where: Sunny fields, urban yards
Nutritional Value: minerals, vitamin B
Other uses: Rub mashed leaves on insect bites to relieve pain/itching
Leaves – demulcent; antimicrobial; anti-inflammatory; wound healer; soothes skin, gastrointestinal tract, and urinary tract inflammations (poultice, infused oil)
Broadleaf Plantain, commonly pronounced plan-tin, is a “common” weed that most folks recognize. You likely see it in your lawn, but chances are you don’t know its name. However, there is nothing common about Broadleaf Plantain, a perennial leafy, low-growing plant in the Plantaginaceae family.
Broadleaf Plantain can be cultivated in the home herb garden, or easily found on a spring or summer walk in the countryside. Always choose to harvest in locations away from the road where the area may have been sprayed with toxic pesticides or herbicides.
Plantain Weed Description
Gathering in places where the Broadleaf Plantain plant grows in moist, semi-shaded areas is best. These plants will be highest in moisture content and packed full of nutrients and healing properties.
Easy to cultivate, Broadleaf Plantain thrives in any soil, preferring a sunny, moist location. The tenacious plant is an important source of food for caterpillars and a diverse array of butterfly species.
You should harvest tender edible leaves in early spring. Later in the season, gather the flower spikes to dry for winter herb use.