When a local gardener posted about ‘plantain’, I was a little awestruck. A banana is a herb?

Upon more enquiry and research, she was referring to the plantago major, the greater or common plantain, which is a plant so reputedly resilient to almost-all growing conditions that the Native Americans called it the ‘white man’s footprints’ because Europeans brought the seeds of the plantain along with them when they colonized many places, and America was one of them.

According to a general Google search, plantain does well in any kind of soil, even in very compacted ones. It grows from a rhizome, but can be propagated very easily from seeds. Also, it seems to take any sort of conditions from bright shade to full sun very well.

Within less than three to four months of sowing the seeds, my plantain is now about 10cm tall, and is sending out flower stalks, upon which I can already see seed heads forming.

There are many uses to the plantain. One can use the raw leaves as part of a salad (however, the older leaves can be rather tough, bitter and fibrous); the leaves can also be used as a compress for insect and snake bites; and it can also be used on open wounds as the plant and leaves contain a chemical which acts as a powerful coagulant.

One website even suggested this healing salve: “In large non-metallic pan place 1lb. of entire Plantain plant chopped, and 1 cup lard, cover, cook down on low heat till all is mushy and green. Strain while hot, cool and use for burns, insect bites, rashes, and all sores. Note: used as night cream for wrinkles.”

Care: Any type of soil mix
Sunlight: Preferably full sun; however, it can grow well with four hours direct sunlight, and do slightly less well in constant bright shade
Propagation: By seeds