Plantinis - Plantain Leaf Martinis

I won't lie. PlantiniYou aren't gonna win any favor serving these at your stuffy cocktail party.This is something you share with your best friends - the ones who won't lie to your face and tell you that your dirt-like decoction is to die for. They're the ones who would as likely say, "Ew, this is gross... let's go get some beers." Don't get me wrong... it's not unpalatable. It's not even gross if you're accustomed to earthy herbal tea. I love a plantini, but it ain't a mint julep. What gives it gravity is plantain's potent liver and kidney medicine. And the name. Who wouldn't smile saying, "Plantinis, anyone?"

Plantain is one of the most overlooked wild edible/medicinal plants, in my opinion. I'm not talking about bananas, fried Cuban-style. I'm talking about the "weed" that grows feral in your yard and garden and in fields and vacant lots everywhere - plantain of the Plantago genus. White Man's Foot, Snakeweed, Healing Blade: a few common names.

Both Chaucer and Shakespeare wrote of plantain's healing prowess. Pliny the Elder thought so much of it, he believed that "put in a pot where many pieces of flesh are boiling, it will sodden them together." Nicholas Culpeper maintained, "All plantains are good wound herbs to heal fresh or old wounds, or sores, either inward or outward." Early Europeans called plantain "the mother of herbs."  

Most folks who are familiar with herbal medicine are familiar with plantain. They know it makes an outstanding poultice for stings, cuts, bug bites and poison ivy, among other skin-related maladies. What's not so well known these days is how plantain really shines when taken internally.

Common plantain, Plantago major
Common plantain,
Plantago major

Traditionally, plantain was used as a powerful blood cleaner. It was prescribed to protect the liver from the damaging effects of foreign toxins as well as to reduce swelling from kidney disease. Plantain has also been used to treat kidney stones by dissolving calcium and magnesium. It's the perfect mixer for gettin' yo likka drank on - that's Southernese for "cocktail."

I like to keep a supply of plantain around the house for making medicinal tea, so I cut as much as I can in season and dry some for the cold months. My last batch came from our community garden where plantain grows like the weed it is. It gets enormous in the amended soil and takes about a tenth of the time to harvest compared with foraging a field. In five minutes, I had a sackful of plantain on my shoulder that would make Santa Claus wince - enough to start an herb shop. I've found that most gardeners love how I'm so enthusiastic about weeding their plots.

Lance Leaf Plantain, Plantago lanceolata
Lance Leaf Plantain,
Plantago lanceolata

The key component in a plantini is plantain tea. I make it by filling a mason jar or tea pot with fresh plantain. You can use leaves, seeds and roots, although I've never taken the time to dig roots since the leaves are so prolific. I use scissors to cut it all up. Then I pour enough boiling water to cover and let it steep until it's room temperature. Once it's cool enough, you can strain and drink right away, refrigerate for a few days or freeze for a few months. If you're using dried plantain, fill your jar about 1/4 full and top off with boiling water. Fresh plantain makes a green tea while dried plantain makes a brown tea. Either way, I'm a firm believer that fresh is better, so I use it fresh when I can. I may try growing some in a cold frame next winter.

I usually make plantinis with one part vodka to two parts plantain tea, but if you like a stronger drink, by all means, up the vodka. Then garnish with an olive or two, or, if you're really daring, a pickled ramp bulb. A word of caution, though. We once had some good foraging friends over for plantinis. I thought it would be cool to garnish them with fresh ramp bulbs. Don't do that. That sent us all running for the nearest bar, carefully avoiding close conversation, full plantinis forsaken. 

Plantain is peaking now with its spiky seed heads poking up all around the garden. It's the perfect time of year to host a plantini party. Do yourself a favor and weed your garden. Then celebrate its weedlessness with a plantini. And don't forget to toast the mighty plantain!


Eric Orr's picture

Thanks for the comment! 

Diana's picture

Broadleaf Plantain is a pretty tough dude. I've seen them growing in the lawn when the snow melted off! The tiny leaves in the middle taste sort of like mushrooms, and are nice in a salad.

On the medicinal side, these leaves are amazing! We were living in Albania. I had a deep scratch ( down side of blackberries) that really stung and wouldn't stop bleeding. I'd read somewhere that a plantain poultice would help, so.... I picked 2 leaves, chewed one up and put it on there. The other one I used to keep in in place. Immediately it stopped hurting, but (here's the best part) 3 minutes later when I lifted the mess off, there was no blood, and the cut seemed to be knitting together already!
A short time later I was able to share this with a farmer who had a big gash on his arm. He was absolutely gob-smacked! It made me think how valuable this little knowledge could be to the developing world . Every kid in that village now knows about the first aid kit plant in their fields.

Clark's picture

This is awesome! I love your enthusiasm! Going to try a Plantini asap! Cheers!

Clark's picture

okay, so I tried out your method, and while good, it wasn't quite plantain-y enough for me. So, wanting to get more of the essence of the plantain in the beverage, and having dabbled with tinctures I tried something new. I grabbed about a dozen large young broadleaf plantain leaves, washed, chopped, and put into one of those little "magic bullet" blenders, covered with vodka, and presto! I had myself a brilliant green mixture to be strained through a screen collander. Be sure to squeeze or press out all the juices for max health benefits. I get much more of the plantains essence using this method. I continue to be amazed at the wonderful flavor of the plantain, something of a 'melon' flavor? idk, what do ya'll think?

Eric Orr's picture

Haha! That sounds awesome! And way more visually appealing than my method. I'll have to give it a shot.

Kristina F.'s picture

I have used plantain on burns to pull the heat out and keep the burn from blistering. In Indiana you can find fresh plantain all year long. It actually stays fresh and green under a foot of snow. The trick is knowing where to find it. I have a patch that grows in the same spot every year so I know right were to go to get it.

Kristina F.'s picture

I have used plantain on burns to pull the heat out and keep the burn from blistering. In Indiana you can find fresh plantain all year long. It actually stays fresh and green under a foot of snow. The trick is knowing where to find it. I have a patch that grows in the same spot every year so I know right were to go to get it.

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