Greater plantain, Plantago major
Greater plantain, also called rat-tail plantain or broadleaf plantain, is a natural antibiotic with a long history of being used to treat wounds. It is also an extremely hardy plant, and is highly adaptable and produces a great amount of seeds. During the summer, greater plantain can produce more than 20,000 seeds. The burrs of these seeds easily stick to animal fur and hair, and to humans and vehicles. It’s no surprise that such a resourceful plant has spread all over the world. The greater plantain originated in Southern Europe, but is now found everywhere. In many places, however, it has crossbred with the paleface plant to produce a hybrid.
Traditionally lightly broken up or softened in the hand, greater plantain leaves have been used to treat bruises, itch, rashes, and inflammation. For such purposes, it is of course essential to make sure that the leaves are very clean. Plantain juice has also been used as a drink to treat infections of the respiratory tract and the mucous membranes of the mouth. The antibacterial effects of greater plantain are primarily due to aucubin, a defensive compound found in some other plants as well.
In addition to its medical uses, the young leaves of the greater plantain are also ideal for use in soups, salads and stews, for example. The leaves have a mild and pleasant flavour.
Something to try
Large young greater plantain leaves are great for making meat or vegetable rolls. These can be made following the same recipe as for vine leaf (grape leaf) rolls or cabbage rolls.
Gathering the plants
The best greater plantain leaves for eating can be picked in the early summer, before the plant is in bloom. Greater plantain grows abundantly near areas populated by people, so they are easy to find. At the same time, however, it’s essential to make sure that the plants you pick are intact, healthy and clean.
Other interesting facts
The fibre-rich psyllium powder available in the shops is used in gluten-free baking to give the dough more elasticity. Psyllium is odourless and tasteless, and is made from dried greater plantain seeds.