Friday, November 12, 2010

Common Useful Plants Profiles: Common Plantain



Common plantain (Plantago major)
The artwork for today's post is a pencil and watercolor original by JohnnyBurn.

This will hopefully be the first in a series on wild edible and medicinal plants that are commonly found in your yard.  It is important in bushcraft to keep your skills sharp, after all skills are what it's all about.  We can't always make it to the "real" wilderness as much as we would like so it's a good idea to practice when and where you can.  Back yards, city parks, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera are great places to get out in the evening after work with your family and do a little exploring, and that is what this series will hopefully encourage you to do.


The first plant in the series is Common plantain  (Plantago major).  It grows in disturbed areas and is a super easy edible/medicinal to identify.  It is also a non-native and invasive plant so you you shouldn't feel bad about eating every one you see.  Plantain is best eaten when the leaves are small in the spring.  They are edible all year, but they are more palatable early on. As the growing season progresses the leaves of plantain become bitter and the conspicuous "veins" on the plants leaves become pretty stringy. I would liken the taste of plantain to spinach.  


For it's medicinal value plantain works wonders on cuts and scrapes when antibiotic ointments are not available.  I have had great luck preventing some pretty nasty cuts from getting infected by applying chewed up plantain leaves to them.  One cut in particular required 7 stitches.  I was smart enough to remove the plantain leaves BEFORE I got to the E.R. though.  I'm sure some questions would have been raised.  


On a separate occasion I received two equal sized scratches from a thorn on a Prickly ash (Zanthoxylum americanum) and decided to do a little experiment.  I applied a chewed up plantain leaf to one scratch and held it in place with a bandanna, the other scratch I simply covered with a bandanna.  The scratch that I applied the plantain to did not become infected, heeled days sooner, and left no scar.  If you've ever gotten into Prickly ash you can attest to the fact that the scratches ALWAYS get infected (not gangrene mind you, but pink and warm to the touch). I know it's not the most scientific experiment, but it's good enough for me.


So, to make a short story long.  Get a good ID book head out the door and find Common plantain before it's covered with snow.  Let me know how your explorations go, and if you turn up any thing you had missed before!

7 comments:

Kenna's Blog said...

nice to know. i will no longer dig them up and kill the ones growing in my front yard. :)

Bob Mc said...

Thanks for that. I have recently learned that common mullein also has many uses. I have both in abundance around my place.

Norseman said...

Bob,
With luck there will be a post with Common mullein in the near future.

Casey said...

HI Chris! I have chewed, and chewed, and chewed on plantain. My problem was it was fall turning to winter. I didn't soak up all the text of the guide I was using...

This info is nice to know. Keep 'em coming.

Mel said...

This is one of those plants that keeps showing up in my garden, much to my consternation. Guess I'll let SOME of it grow next time. Because chewing stuff up and spitting it on a wound is something my boys will LOVE.

Ron Mylar said...

Many plants can be grown in the home to get lot of benefits from them. So we need to be very practical in these things. We should reap some useful plants.

Eric said...

In The Netherlands this is a very common plant and it very usefully often grows close to stinging nettle. When ever a nettle gets me I look for this plant, rub up a leave on the effected area and the intching will almost instantly disappear. Wonderful plant. Didn't know it was edible though!