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Minutina grows in a loose rosette pattern, with upward shooting leaves that reach approximately 30 centimeters long. They are slender and spiky with forking antler-like horns, hence the name “buckshorn”. A central flower stalk develops once the leaves have matured later in the season. It is has a round coarse stem and a tightly compacted head, resembling an elongated asparagus tip. Minutina’s affinity for growing in saline soils translates into a unique briny flavor on the palate. The edible flower bud is tender and salty with a nutty earthiness, similar to wild asparagus.
Flowering Minutina is available in the spring and summer.
Minutina is a hardy Italian green that is botanically classified as Plantago coronopus, and a member of the plantain family. It is a relative of broadleaf plantain and may also be commonly referred to as Buckshorn (pronounced bucks-horn) plantain or Erba Stella, meaning “star herb” referring to the plant’s star-shaped growth pattern. The edible flowering stalk is considered secondary to the leaves, but still offers an excellent option when sourcing unique greens.
Flowering Minutina contains tissue healing, cooling and diuretic properties. The leaves are commonly processed and prepared as an ointment or poultice. In the Canary Islands, it is used to treat kidney and urinary disorders.
Flowering Minutina is a hardy green that is best used cooked. Once the flowers develop the leaves are no longer palatable as they develop an insipid bitter quality. Trim away any woody portions of the stem and saute, blanche, steam or fry the tender flower buds. Use Flowering Minutina in stir fries and egg dishes for added texture and salinity. Complimentary flavors include feta cheese, parmesan, hollandaise sauce, eggs, garlic, chervil, dill, sorrel, ginger, parsley, mustard, morels, leeks lemon, balsamic vinegar, pears, apples, browned butter, sesame oil, seafood and poultry.
The leaves of Minutina are sometimes used in the traditional Italian salad called misticanza, which translates to “wild greens”. The flowers were used in fancy jellies in America and England during Colonial times.
Minutina is native to the Mediterranean coasts of Europe and Northern Africa, though today it can be found growing world-wide. It was first recorded in Italy in 1586 as a vegetable and was typically used in salads. During Colonial times in America the greens were used for medicinal purposes to treat fevers. The Italian heirloom can withstand mild frosts and grows during the winter in most temperate climates and those with maritime influences. Warm temperatures induce quicker flower production.