Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Harvesting, drying and using plantain

I am a very frustrated gardener right now. Our last frost date was only last week so you know my plants aren't quite the right size yet. I have nothing to harvest or even really tend to except weeds. Why is it that a late frost can kill a vegetable plant, but not weeds? Weird, right? 

Anyway, the one thing I do have a lot of is dandelions, plantain and lambs quarters. So I'm picking and drying plantain today. The herb Broadleaf Plantain (Plantago major) has many amazing uses especially for cuts and bug bites. It really takes the 'owe' out of cat scratches too!

Broadleaf plantain, herbal medicine

Plantain is a perennial 'weed' you probably have growing in your yard or garden. Not to be confused with the banana type fruit you see in some stores. There are about 250 different species of plantain but we're looking at 'Plantago major'. That's it's official name although it's nickname is "Englishman's foot" by Native Americans because it seemed to appear everywhere in European settlers colonies.  

As much of an annoyance as it is, it has many great uses also. It's said that plantain was once called 'snakeweed'  because it helps with snakebites, but don't go trying that just cause I said so! (see a Dr of course!) It is believed to be brought to the Americas by Puritan settlers for medicinal uses. 

Plantain leaves can be crushed up and applied to cuts and scrapes to help stop bleeding and pain. They also help with insect stings or bites. They are edible and the younger leaves are great in salads while the older leaves are tougher and are better cooked into soups and stews. The seeds can be ground into a flour substitute. The roots can also be used for pain. Today though I'm focusing on the leaves and their uses as a tea.

A strong tea can be made of dried plantain leaves and cooled then applied to sunburn or brush burns to speed healing. It's also good for rashes and poison ivy.  Some people have found it helps with eczema also as it is very soothing to the skin. 

I prefer to drink the tea as it has many internal uses. It can soothe a sore throat and cough. It helps with digestion, ulcers, heartburn, IBS, mouth sores, and is great to drink when you have diarrhea since it will replenish vitamins and minerals lost through sickness. It is also drank as a tea to help with kidney and bladder problems. 

plantain, herbal medicine

When gathering plantain to dry, make sure the plantain you gather has not been sprayed with weed killers, insecticides or any other chemicals. I only gathered leaves this time and since I was drying them, I didn't worry about size. Don't worry about breaking off the stems, they can be left on. It's better to gather plantain leaves after it begins to flower, but I wasn't into waiting so I went ahead and picked this early stuff. I'll just pick more in a few weeks, it's literally growing everywhere! 

I washed the leaves by putting them in a bowl of warm water and adding about a tablespoon of baking soda then swishing them around by hand. I let them sit a few minutes while I got the oven set to convect at 170 then rinsed them off. I shook them to get the water off then placed them all in a lint free towel. Then I wrapped up the corners and sort of swung it around to get the rest of the water out. 

Then I placed them on baking sheets lined with parchment paper trying to keep them from touching, and put them in the oven. I used the method I wrote about here in How To Oven Dry Fresh Herbs. You can also use a dehydrator on a medium setting. It should only take a few hours with this method.

Once the plantain leaves are dry I put them in a jar. I crushed some of the dried plantain leaves, but I left most of them whole. I really prefer to crush them right before I use them, but there's not always room in the jar. I'll leave the lid off for the next few days. In case there's any moisture left in them it will have time to evaporate off. 

Any time I want to make a tea I just crush up about a tablespoons worth and steep as normally for tea. Strain then drink. It's definitely a natural tea taste, but I just add a little local honey and it is so good! I hope you like it too.

~L

I am not a Dr nor do I give medical advice. If you have an ailment please see your Dr and do your own research before taking the word of some random farm lady on the inter-webs. I write about what I've learned and how I do things. These things may not work for you, but then again they may. Again.....research, Dr...feel better soon!                             

7 comments:

  1. I keep hearing the plantains have health benefits, but I haven't tried them myself (we feed them to the chickens and bunny!). I am thinking that I might try to add dry plantains to my homemade cocoa butter salve now, so thanks for the post!

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  2. I really need to do this, we have a ton of Plantain around here! Thanks for sharing at the Homestead Blog Hop! Hope to see you again this week. :)

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  3. Isn't it amazing how these "weeds" are so beneficial to us? I'll be pinning this post. Thanks for sharing on The Maple Hill Hop this week!

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  4. Thank you so much for linking up to Merry Monday! I am sharing your post on Twitter today~ Hope to see you next week for another great party!
    Kim

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  5. Thanks for sharing this great information with us at Good Morning Mondays. It always amazes me how God provides and good weeds. Blessings

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  6. It amazes me how many of the "weeds" in my yard can be useful. Thanks for linking up to the Country Fair Blog Party. Have a great week!

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  7. Great post! Its too dry where I live to grow as a weed, but if I see it around I always pick a few leaves!

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