What Are Plantain Herbs?
Plantains are native to Central America. They are a small tropical fruit with a smooth skin, which contains many seeds inside it. They have been cultivated for centuries in some parts of the world including Mexico, Cuba, Venezuela and other Caribbean islands such as Barbados and Jamaica. Today they are grown worldwide mainly in Latin American countries like Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.
The plants are not only eaten but also used for their medicinal properties. For example, they contain high amounts of vitamin C, potassium and fiber. They are also rich in vitamins A, B1, B2 and K and minerals iron, manganese and calcium. Some studies suggest that they may reduce blood pressure levels and protect against heart disease.
In addition, they are known to prevent or treat certain types of cancer.
How To Identify Plantain Herb?
Plantain plant is one of the most popular fruits in the world. It grows naturally in tropical regions throughout the tropics. However, it is sometimes called banana because it resembles a banana (Musa spp.). In fact, there are several species of plantains. The most common types of plantain plants include the yellow, the red and the dwarf varieties. Some popular ones are:
Common plantain (Plantago major). This is a low-growing, creeping plant that grows along roadsides and meadows all over Europe and North America. It is also known as broad-leaved plantain and Englishman’s foot because its leaves resemble a footprint.
Buckhorn plantain (Plantago coronopus). This is also known as sand plantain. It grows in sandy and stony soils in the coastal areas of the eastern United States.
Mongolian plantain (Plantago mongolica). This plant grows in dry, open areas and on mountainsides in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and China. It is also known as broadleaf hoofplant because its leaves resemble a horse’s hoof.
How To Grow Plantain Herb?
This is a plant that requires very little attention and it can even grow in poor soil. It will also grow in partial shade although it grows faster if it has full sun. You can start to grow it from seeds or you can simply spread the seeds close to where you want the plant to grow. The seeds are big so they can be easily seen and collected after passing through the digestive system of birds and other local animals.
It will begin growing shortly after the seeds are deposited in the soil. Plantains often grow and spread quite rapidly, especially when planted in fertile soil. It flowers almost continuously and produces new seeds every few months.
These plants can also be propagated vegetatively by division. This is ideal for plants grown for their leaves since the daughter plants will quickly share the same characteristics of the mother plant.
Quick Growing Plantain
This is a popular species of plantain that has been hybridized to make it easier for gardeners to grow. It grows faster than the common species of plantains and it is shorter in stature, growing only up to about 12-inches tall. It also flowers more quickly and produces new seedlings faster. In fact, it can go from seed to seed in as little as 3 months.
This plant prefers full sun but it can grow in partial shade. It is a hardy plant that can tolerate drought and poor soil.
This is also a type of plantain that has been hybridized for easier growth. It is considered to be a short-lived perennial, meaning that it will grow back from its roots after the winter season but it won’t survive more than 2 or 3 winters.
This plant grows best in damp soil, especially soil that is wet most of the year.
Other Types Of Plantain
There are more than 200 types of plantain that can be found all over the world. Some of them are native to Asia, Australia and Africa while others are native to North and South America. They are either perennials or biennials and they grow naturally in meadows, riverbanks, sand dunes and other open or lightly shaded areas.
Benefits Of Plantain
Plantain is a beneficial herb to have in your garden or growing near your home as it helps to prevent nematodes, especially species of ringworm. The roots are useful for treating diarrhea and dysentery and it is also believed to be effective in treating coughs and strengthening the heart. It is also used for healing wounds.
Plantain can be made into a tea to reduce a fever and it is also reputed to help with asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory ailments. It has anti-inflammatory properties and can help slow the discharge of blood from a fresh wound. Native Americans used a poultice of plantain applied directly to a wound as an effective way to help stop bleeding and speed up healing time. It is also said to be effective as an eyewash and for clearing up boils and other skin infections.
The leaves can be infused to make a blue-colored tea that tastes bitter but is otherwise harmless. This tea is believed to help prevent and fight off sexually-transmitted diseases.
The plant has many other uses as well. It makes a good seasoning to add flavor to otherwise bland tasting food. It has also been used as a wrap for food. The midribs of the leaves can be bundled to make excellent skewers for cooking food over an open flame.
It can also be used as a natural scrub brush. The fibers from leaf midribs can be detached to form soft bristles that are useful for cleaning grime from hard-to-reach places.
How To Harvest Plantain
Harvesting this herb is relatively easy. If you are only using a small quantity, simply pluck off as many leaves as you need and be sure to get at least 4 inches of the midrib since that is where the soft bristles grow from.
If you are needing a large quantity of plantain for medicinal or other reasons, you will have to cut entire leafstalks with the leaves still attached from the root system. Take care when you do this because if you yank the leafstalk out of the ground, you may end up tearing out the entire root system along with it and this can kill the plant.
If you want plantain seed, allow some of your plants to go to seed and then rub the seed head gently to release the seeds before they are fully ripe. Then, spread the seeds out in a single layer and let them dry completely before storing them.
Plantain can also be harvested and then dried for later use. Just hang the leafstalks upside down in a dry place until they are crispy dry. Then, remove the midribs and store them for future use.
If you want to plant more plantain in your area, you can collect some of the seeds when their heads turn from green to brown and then rub them gently between your hands to break them apart so that you can get at the seeds inside. Gently scratch a seed with your thumbnail to make sure it is hard before you plant it. Plant the seeds approximately 1/4 inch deep in loose soil that is well-drained and keep them well-watered until they germinate and then become established in their new location.
If you want to transplant entire leafstalks with leaves still attached, dig a hole for the leafstalk exactly as you would if you were planting a tree. Then, backfill the hole and gently tamp the soil around the base of the leafstalk. Water thoroughly after transplanting.
Plantain can become a weed so if you do not want it to spread, do not plant it anywhere except in your garden or flowerbeds where you want it to grow.
If you want to prevent plantain from taking over your garden, do not allow it to go to seed and deadhead the flowers before they have a chance to go to seed. You can pull up the entire leafstalk along with some of the roots if you do this soon enough.
Uses For Plantain
This weed has so many practical uses that it is a wonder that it is often left to grow in non-crop areas.
The leafstalks and midribs can be used to make a nutritious soup or stew. Gently simmer for several hours and season to taste. The leafstalks can also be dried, ground up into a powder and then stored for later use. They can be used in any recipe that calls for wheat flour.
The soft plantain bristles can be used as a gentle, natural toothbrush. The leafstalks can also be split lengthwise and the softer midrib used as tweezers to pluck out unwanted hairs or splinters.
The paste made from crushing the leaves and applying it to the skin is soothing and healing for minor burns, cuts and bruises. The leaf can also be chewed and placed directly on a tooth that is sensitive or has a filling. The leaf acts as an anesthetic and a barrier so that air doesn’t get in and irritate the tooth.
The leaf can be crushed up, combined with wheat flour and water to make a paste that can then be used as adhesive to stick loose tiles or stones back into place.
Sources & references used in this article:
Traditional and medicinal uses of banana by KPS Kumar, D Bhowmik, S Duraivel… – … of Pharmacognosy and …, 2012 – phytojournal.com
Nematode parasites of bananas, plantains and abaca. by S Gowen, P Quénéhervé – Plant parasitic nematodes in subtropical …, 1990 – cabdirect.org
Banana diseases including plantains and abaca. by CW Wardlaw – 1972 – cabdirect.org
Genetic improvement of banana by F Bakry, F Carreel, C Jenny, JP Horry – Breeding plantation tree crops …, 2009 – Springer
… Leach (Cercospora musae) and M. fijiensis Morelet (C. fijiensis), respectively agents of Sigatoka disease and black leaf streak disease in bananas and plantains. by X Mourichon, RA Fullerton – Fruits, 1990 – cabdirect.org
Banana, plantain and abaca diseases. by RH Stover – Banana, plantain and abaca diseases., 1972 – cabdirect.org