Symphytum x uplandicum
Well known companion plant with many edible and medicinal uses too – every garden should have some! It has a great balance of the major plant nutrients nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, but is known in particular for its accumulation of potassium. It also contains silica, magnesium, calcium and iron. These nutrients will be naturally cycled through the soil as it dies down each winter but a well watered and fertilised patch can be harvested 3-5 times a season. The leaves can be used to make a liquid fertiliser, added to the compost heap or wilted and used to line potato trenches. Comfrey can also be grown around fruit trees as a ground cover and slashed several times a season to mulch the tree. The flowers are excellent bee attractors.
The young leaves are also edible for humans – use them raw or cooked. They are slightly hairy so need to be chopped up finely. Older leaves can be dried and used as tea, roots can be cut up and added to soups or roasted (and added to roasted dandelion and/or chicory roots if desired) and used as a coffee substitute. Recent scientific research however has shown comfrey appeared to cause liver damage and cancerous tumors in rats. In light of this, the regular consumption of comfrey is not advisable.
The roots and leaves can be used medicinally either internally, or externally as a poultice. Comfrey is particularly known for its healing properties for skin complaints such as eczema and for cuts, bruises and sprains. It is a common component of healing creams. It was once known as ‘knitbone’ for its role in healing broken bones.
The fresh leaves make great chook fodder, are relished by geese (for relished read destroyed – and I mean totally!), and have been used as stock fodder for many years, but are preferably fed wilted.
Plant in full sun or part shade. It does not spread by seed – this is a sterile form – but plant it where you want it – it’s impossible to remove the deep chunky taproot! Height to 75cm when in flower – pretty lilac-pink bells in summer. Contact us for pricing for bulk smaller grades.
Main photo: https://www.permaculture.co.uk/articles/comfrey-its-history-uses-benefits