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Eating weeds! Trying Plantain Lanceolata for the first time!

There is this big paddock down the road from us that I walked the dog at the other week. It seems to be quite a few acres and has lots of areas for us to explore next to the creek. Walking the dog here coincided with reading a post about eating weeds. On our next walk I saw huge quantities of what we called, "soldier seed plants when I was a kid. We played a game where you picked the seed head on a long stem and then swung yours at the other persons, who was holding it still. The idea was to take turns and break the head of the other persons soldier to win.

It turned out that this weed to also be an edible plant!

I did a bit of research and discovered that this weed I have spent my life walking over and never knew its real name is actually a member of a nutritious vegetable family!

I so had to try some!

Here's what I did...

First do a bit of research and make sure you know exactly what you are planning to eat and make sure you are getting your "weeds" from a place that hasn't been sprayed with herbicides or pesticides. Then grab a pair of scissors and a basket/bucket/bag, the dog and maybe a book that ID's the plants you saw and head off to fetch yourself some free nutritious veges!

I decided to pick my vege weeds from the edges of this paddock, away from the places that other people might be walking their dogs... Just in case!

Then I started by looking for the tell tale seed heads of my target plant, Plantago Lanceolata - they seem to produce seeds all year round - and checked my book to make sure.

And... Yup, It sure is! Also known as Lance Plantago, Rib Wort, Narrow Leaf Plantain, English Plantain, Ribwort Plantain, Ribleaf and Lamb's tongue. It has a well known and easily recognised relative, broad leaf plantain that is also edible but quite different to look at.

When I arrived at the paddock this particular afternoon we had had a bit of rain and there was lots of young leaves and since I had plenty of time and a huge paddock of these leaves to choose from, I picked the youngest tenderest ones I could find.

I collected a number of plants along with my Plaintain. I wanted to properly identify some that weren't in my book and I collected a few that I knew the chooks would love. I couldn't resist the daisy or a piece of Tibocina flower for the vase whilst I was there.

I had also identified "cats ear" (Hypochoeris radicata) and read that it was also edible. As there were lots of these plants there too I collected a few of them too.

The cats ear look like dandelion on first acquaintance but once I found this website that shows you the difference between the two plants, I could properly identify what I was looking for. I chose to try the cats ear and plantain together for my first "weed" mead!

First I rinsed them in a colander to get off the dirt and grass and what ever got tangled up when I picked them. I can say after doing this a few times, that its better to do all your sorting in the field. I now pick through and only take home the best leaves and try not to put grass etc in my basket. It makes the preparation at home quicker and easier.

Then I steamed/boiled them on a pot of boiling water. They cook down to practically nothing! A basket full will cook down to only a very large handful!

I used a pair of tongs to fish out the bits that shouldn't have got this far (grass coloured grass is so hard to see in amongst grass coloured leaves) and to toss the leaves about to cook the evenly.

I wasn't sure how long to cook them for but being Winter, I figured they would be tougher now than in the spring rains and went for a full 5 minutes.

Then I put them under the cold tap to cool them and stop the cooking and squeezed out the water. I cut them up into small bits with scissors while they were in a clump. They were surprisingly tough still so I made sure they were quite small pieces.

I popped them in a bowl and added preserved lemon, mint, flour, egg, garlic, salt and pepper to make a thickish mixture to put inside pastry.

Using a standard sheet of bought flaky pastry, I popped the mixture on the top and rolled them up and popped them into the oven.

And they didn't look so bad!

And so we ate a lemon, mint and garlic flavoured "sausage" roll where the primary ingredient was a weed! It is a much more robust taste and texture to spinach, I would almost go as far to say its a bit mushroom-y in texture. It was certainly very tasty and we had no adverse effects what so ever! 

Since then there has been the plantain, caramelised onion and cheese tarts which were really, really yum. The plaintain held up better than a spinach base and is chewier and less watery.

And then there was the vege bake with left over roast lamb, roast veges, cauliflower etc in a cheese sauce. The plaintain was chopped up fine rather than the starring ingredient.

Its been a fun thing to incorporate into our lives, It seems that plaintain is grown as a crop in some countries, is chock full of vitamins, fibre and is a really sustainable vegetable to grow.

Have a look at some of these websites that help identify the right plant and give you an idea of  what health benefits are attributed to them. For my two cents worth, We noticed we slept better and don't get up to the loo so many times in the night after a meal with plaintain in it!
If you decided to try it - let me know what you thought!

Score card:
Green-ness: 5/5 for eating greens provided by Mother Nature 
Frugal-ness: 5/5 for walking down the road for a basketful of organic, pesticide/herbicide free greens that cost nothing!
Time cost: 10 to 15 minutes plus walking and consulting book time - also don't forget to bring the dog home and stop and smell (pick) the flowers!
Skill level: Just positive identification and a large dose of faith!
Fun-ness: You really start to look at weeds in a different way. I have been tempted at the lights to leap out of the car and grab some weed that I'm sure is edible growing on the traffic island! Its quite fun to be able to identify free food!


Steve said…
If you get the chance, try some Purslane. It shouldn't be hard to find. The taste reminds me of a cross between apple peel and cucumber. Just don't eat too much of it, as it's high in oxalates that can cause kidney stones and other problems.
Practical Frog said…
Hey Steve, Purslane is on my hit list - I just haven't seen any up here yet. Maybe its too cold at the moment... I did see some at the traffic lights down the Coast but the lights changed before I could do anything about it! Stay tuned, its on my to do list! - Kara :)
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