Bucks Horn Plantain Is A Salad Plant Never Seen In UK Greengrocers Or On The Supermarket Fruit & Veg Section. It’s Easy To Grow & Cold Weather Tolerant. This Is How to Grow Bucks Horn Plantain
Bucks Horn Plantain, Plantago coronopus, is annual or perennial depending on where it grows. It’s of Eurasian and North African origin but is surprisingly cold tolerant, or is it so surprising as there are very cold places in both these locations?
Seed for Bucks Horn Plantain is now available from several UK seed companies, though unlikely to be found in garden centres.
What is Bucks Horn Plantain
Seed companies variously describe the flavour as peppery or nutty with a hint of parsley.
Others say it is a sweet, complex taste of nuts and salt. Perhaps the salt inference is based on the fact that the plant adapted to coastal regions where the crunchy, succulent leaves are said to take on a more salty flavour.
My perspective is not so colourful as any of the above. But I’m not trying to sell it! To me it is a herbaceous plant that seems slightly crunchy in texture, though not overly so.
What I really like about it is that it will grow in the cooler months and I grow it as a winter salad. It stands frost and continues to grow all winter. Though I read reports that it has become popular as a frost-hardy winter crop for growers in “northern climates”, and is usually grown in unheated hightunnels. What the text I read doesn’t define is what they mean by northern climates. It could be northern Italy or Scandinavia! I’m in southern England and it’s excellent here.
What Does Bucks Horn Plantain Look Like?
This species produces a basal rosette of narrowly lance-shaped leaves up to 25 centimeters long that are toothed or deeply divided .. see the photo of my own plants. Apparently the inflorescences grow erect to about 4 to 7 cm in height, though mine has yet to develop this far as I’m harvesting it.
I read that the plants have dense spikes of flowers which sometimes curve. Each flower has four whitish lobes each measuring about a millimeter long.
Because it has an upright roseate type growth I’m harvesting mine by pulling the leaves together and cutting it about 2-3 centimetres above the growing centre. This intuitively looks right!
Preferred Growing Conditions For Bucks Horn Plantain
I’m growing mine in decomposed farmyard manure and it’s doing very well. It is vigorous and of a good size. However, the recommendations I often read are that it mainly grows on sandy or gravelly soils close to the sea, as well as on salt-treated roadsides. However I find it does better in moister conditions than sandy soils are likely to offer.
Sow anytime from spring to autumn, in shallow drills. Or just let it self seed where it seems to thrive without needing and soil cover to germinate!
Other Names For Plantago coronopus
Grown as a leaf vegetable in Italy where it is known as erba stella, it is usually incorporated in salad mixes. So look for this name when looking for seed, as it is called this by some seed companies and sometimes described as a heritage seed.