'Pumpkin Knob' Sea Plantain
'Pumpkin Knob' Sea Plantain
'Pumpkin Knob' Sea Plantain
'Pumpkin Knob' Sea Plantain
'Pumpkin Knob' Sea Plantain

'Pumpkin Knob' Sea Plantain

Regular price $4.25 Sale

Plantago maritima

Origin: Harraseeket River, Freeport, Maine

Improvement status: Wild

Seeds per packet: ~40


Life cycle: Perennial

Sea Plantain (Plantago maritima) is a wild perennial vegetable that inhabits maritime environments in temperate to cold climates across the northern hemisphere. It has a circumpolar distribution, so can be found in the northern states of both coasts of the continental US.

Sea plantain is so resilient it can thrive well below the high-tide line, getting swamped by seawater for multiple hours twice a day. It can handle being watered with saltwater and battered by waves. 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 the best sea plantain is head and shoulders above the rest. Crunchy, fleshy, salty, fresh and vibrant, it's easy to start munching on this plant by the handful. There's really nothing like it. It shines raw, by the handful, added to salads, or as a crunchy last-second addition to pasta or other hot dishes, but it can be cooked or pickled too. In Alaska, where they call it "goosetongue," it is canned to preserve it for winter use. Some plants have a bit of bitterness, and sometimes even some astringency, but not all of them. And none are as bitter as the buckshorn plantain (Plantago coronopus) that people regularly grow in gardens as food. What's more, the fleshy leaves can stay crunchy and delicious without refrigeration for 4 or 5 — a remarkable quality in any vegetable, but especially one used as a green.

This population, found in the vicinity of Pumpkin Knob by the mouth of the Harraseeket River in Freeport, Maine, may be the best-tasting, largest-leafed population we've yet found! Nate came across these plants while kayaking with our friends Vivien Sansour and Eric Blasco in the summer of 2022 and was able to harvest seeds from the boat!

We believe this plant has huge potential as a perennial vegetable. Beyond being nutritious, delicious, and 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 have had an easy time getting this plant started at the farm, but I have yet to find a way to keep rabbits from devouring it! Next year you can bet I'll be protecting the plants in cages!

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

Who's in?

(To stay in touch on this effort, please join our project page on www.ExperimentalFarmNetwork.org)