Status message

To participate, you must create a profile and join this project

Sea Plantain Domestication Project: Toward a New Perennial Vegetable Crop

I get excited about a lot of plants, but few plants have lit my fire as much as this one.

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?!

Seeds are available until they run out at

(We no longer have the bandwidth to give away free seeds for projects like this, but since we have the infrastructure of a seed company now it's easy for us to distribute seeds for the pretty-much nominal cost of a packet. Thank you for understanding.)
This project is intended for anyone who can get ahold of our seeds, or can find some yourself from wild populations
Researcher background
I'm the co-founder of EFN.
Are you seeking volunteer growers or other types of volunteers?
Yes, seeking volunteer growers
How many volunteers do you need?
What will you ask volunteers to do?
Volunteers are asked to identify good-tasting, productive individual plants that thrive in typical garden soil. They can save seeds from these (culling the weaker plants), and send them to us, and/or continue growing the best plants together and planting more out to combine the best traits of each. In short, we're asking you to be plant breeders!
Other requirements of volunteers?
Is this a multi-year project?
Can volunteers expect to be able to keep some germplasm (seeds, bulbs, cuttings, spores, etc) at the close of the project?
Yes, of course
Anything else?
Researcher Location

United States

Project Updates

Sprouting help

project update by
Saturday, March 23, 2024 - 08:03

Hi everyone,

I purchased one of each of the sea plantain types and had at least one whole packet of Searsport from last year. I planted them all together in potting soil, lightly covering. Only one single seed seems to have sprouted. They have been in a germination chamber with heat and lights.
I didn't see any sprouting instructions but maybe they should just be surface sown? Thanks for any advice from those who have better results. Jeremy

Some success, but not satisfied

project update by
Saturday, January 6, 2024 - 03:38

I started about a dozen sea plantain plants each from the EFN seeds and from seeds collected in Rhode Island. Both grew to 4-6 inch rosettes of leaves and then went to seed. Most died after seeding. It looked as if some were eaten by voles. A few looked like they may have died after heavy rains. I will look for plants that made it through winter and if there is any self seeding. The plants from the Rhode Island seeds seemed to live to autumn.

Sowing and Sprouting

project update by
Wednesday, June 21, 2023 - 01:38

Hermit Island Sea Plantain

Grown: outside of Cleveland, OH – zone 6b/6a border, 44138

• Purchased 1 packet Hermit Island Sea Plantain from EFN
• Planted in four separate locations around backyard garden
• Garden is tended to daily and watered most days without rain


June 14, 2023

Split the packet into fourths and planted in four different areas. No pre-treatment beyond damp soil. Outdoor seeds were watered and rained upon like the rest of the garden plants. We got a good rainfall within 2-3 days of planting.

1. Planted in part to full shade in garden (average about 3-4 hours sun)
a. Neighbors: kale, swiss chard, leeks – all about 18” away.
b. Soil tends to stay moist.
2. Planted in full sun in garden (average about 10 hours sun)
a. Neighbors: tomatoes, garden weeds. Tomatoes about 9-12” away
b. Soil tends toward dryer
3. Planted in part sun in potted container (avg about 6 hours sun)
a. Neighbor: purple sweet potato, located less than 6” away
b. Richer soil than garden soil
4. Brought indoors to start in starter pots under grow lights (avg run 12-14 hours lights on 10-12 hours off, about 4” from light).
a. Alone in starter pods
b. Sterilized starting medium (sterilized when purchased, but had been exposed to the outdoors for several days before being moved indoors after sowing)


June 20, 2023

1. Full shade sea plantain either didn’t germinate at all or were washed away in rain before they could take root. Established garden soil. Photo from June 20, 2023. Covered with 1/8” soil.

2. Full sun sea plantain germinated the quickest, seeing sprouts within 3-4 days. Established garden soil. Photo from June 20, 2023. Covered with 1/8” soil.

3. Part sun potted sea buckthorn: no sprouts yet as of June 20. Regular potting soil. Photo from June 20, 2023. Planted and covered with 1/8” soil to ¼” soil.

4. Indoor seed starters: sprouted in about 5 days. Sterilized seed starter. Photo from June 20, 2023. Seeds were placed in all 6 containers and buried with a small amount of soil on top (less than 1/8”) except the one in the lower right corner, which I left exposed to the light. The light-exposed one has not yet sprouted.

Need Seeds, Oregon Pacific Coast

project update by
Thursday, February 16, 2023 - 06:30

Hello, I would be so excited to try growing Sea Plantain on the Central Oregon Coast:-)! I have a 6.5 acre Permaculture farm on the Siletz River estuary. Would you have a few seeds to spare?


project update by
Friday, February 3, 2023 - 08:53

Does anyone have seeds for sale for this project? I have large gardens on the nature reserve where I work and would like to trial this. Thanks!

Hybridize with P. major

project update by
Thursday, January 26, 2023 - 01:20

Hey, does anyone know the ploidy on these and if they will hybridize with P. major?

Downeast ME - sea plantain

project update by
Sunday, September 25, 2022 - 12:07

I'm about 60 miles east of Searsport. I winter sowed the sea plantain seeds and planted the seedlings out in my garden. The plantain is delicious - a nice snack when I'm out weeding and harvesting. I have one plant with seeds, so I'll try to save them for next year.

Across the bay from Searsport

project update by
Friday, September 23, 2022 - 10:59

I bought these seeds last year, because they were so very local to me, via EFN. I have access to shorefront land and am able to plant these where ever you want, and I can also go harvest if people need more. Nate, I'm happy to harvest more for you too. Do these *have* to grow in seawater, or does it just help?

Sea plantain planted out

project update by
Friday, July 1, 2022 - 08:27

I sowed my seeds in about February, they were slow to germinate but I got about 60 or so seedlings in the end. I have just planted them out in my polytunnel and waiting to see how they grow/ establish. I will post a pic soon,
Thanks Mandy

@ruthchin26 Looks like weeds to me!

project update by
Monday, June 27, 2022 - 11:52

I think that is mostly, if not all, cyperaceous weeds; I don't see any plantain seedlings. :(

For my update:
Started a few batches, in pots, in March and April. One batch perished due to poor soil conditions. The other 2 are alive, but still tiny (it's almost July!). I'll try planting them out in the garden soon to see if that increases their vigor.

L (Seattle WA)

Are any of these sea plantain?

project update by
Sunday, June 12, 2022 - 08:33

I planted my seeds in early April and now I have a ton of.... something. There were a bunch of weed seeds in my compost so I don't know how much of this is sea plantain and how much is weed grass. My plan is to just let it all grow together and see if plantain-looking seedheads emerge.

Tiny seedlings growing

project update by
Sunday, June 12, 2022 - 04:14

In zone 4, Southern Ontario. I have about 7 tiny seedlings growing that slrouted. Not sure if they'll make it here but I'll try! Will plant in decent garden soil in a protected area in a few weeks and update.

No germination so far

project update by
Sunday, June 12, 2022 - 02:27

I started some seeds in early May in regular garden soil -- no dice.
I just started some new seeds in a mixture of our local (South Jersey, very sandy) soil, potting soil and old aquarium gravel. We'll see if these seeds do better!