OUR 2022 CATALOGUE IS NOW LIVE!!! Please note that we may not begin shipping orders for a few weeks. Additionally, we expect to add another few dozen items in a mid-February update — so stay tuned! We sincerely appreciate the overwhelming support you offer us year after year. Thank you!

'Searsport' Sea Plantain
'Searsport' Sea Plantain
'Searsport' Sea Plantain
'Searsport' Sea Plantain
'Searsport' Sea Plantain
'Searsport' Sea Plantain

'Searsport' Sea Plantain

Regular price $5.00 Sale

Plantago maritima

Origin: Searsport, Maine

Improvement status: Wild 

Seeds per packet: ~40

BOTANICAL SAMPLE - NOT GERMINATION TESTED

Life cycle: Perennial

EFN INTRODUCTION. NEW FOR 2022. I get excited about a lot of plants, but few plants have lit my fire as much as this one, and it's a real thrill to have enough seed to share some with all of you.

Sea Plantain (Plantago maritima) is a wild perennial vegetable that inhabits maritime environments in temperate to cold climates. It's so resilient it can thrive well below the high-tide line, getting swamped by seawater for multiple hours twice a day. It can handle essentially being watered with saltwater. It also has a similar nutritional and medicinal profile to the other plantains, which means it's a powerhouse. But the best thing about it is its quality as food.

I've put a lot of plantain in my mouth through the years —especially the common wild types, Plantago major and Plantago lanceolata, which I often chew up and apply to insect bites or other skin irritations — but I've never had any that tasted as fantastic as the population of sea plantain I found growing in Searsport, Maine, one day last summer (while visiting the wonderfully seedy couple Eli Rogosa and Cr Lawn). Crunchy, fleshy, salty, fresh, and vibrant, it's easy to start munching on this plant by the handful. There's really nothing like it. And while I only ate it raw, I know it can be cooked or pickled too. Some plants have a bit of bitterness, but not all of them. And none were as bitter as the buckshorn plantain (Plantago coronopus) that people regularly grow in gardens as food. What's more, the fleshy leaves of this species can stay crunchy and delicious without refrigeration for 4 or 5 after harvest — a remarkable quality in any vegetable, but especially one used as a green.

I'd been hoping to find these plants — which grow on seashores around the world, including both coasts of North America — but to find them with ripe seeds too, and on such good-tasting plants, I couldn't have asked for more. (I found some in Iceland a few months later, and almost all of the plants were bitter.) This perennial wild plant has huge potential as a perennial vegetable. Beyond being nutritious, delicious, and supposedly easy to grow (there are many reports of it being grown as a garden plant), it can grow in saline soils, which the world has lots of these days due to both over-irrigation and seawater incursion (both exacerbated by climate change). I grew it from seed once, but the lone seedling I managed to grow from old USDA seeds sadly didn't thrive. This is one I really can't wait to try myself in 2022.

By putting these seeds out into the world, we're hoping to start a collaborative domestication project that I firmly believe could result in the best-tasting perennial green in the world.

Who's in?!

(To stay in touch on this effort, please sign up and join this project at www.ExperimentalFarmNetwork.org)

NOTE: Due to the scarcity of these seeds, we did not conduct a large-scale germination test and so are selling these as botanical samples. But the seeds are fresh and we did get some to sprout in the small — statistically inadequate — test we did conduct.