This month, let’s cast our eyes over the wonderful virtues of Comfrey (Symphytum officinale). This poster girl of the permaculturists has a lengthy history of use throughout Europe, esteemed by gardeners and herbalists as far back as western history can be traced. It has also been embraced by the modern nutracueCcal movement and you would have no trouble finding some sort of comfrey ointment or cream in the aisles of Woolies or Coles. With recent interest in the plant as a marketable commodity came increased scienCfic scruCny, which resulted in a study deeming it a toxic plant that could be fatal to humans and it has basically been banned for internal usage. I also heard of a similar scienCfic report that found turmeric to also be toxic.
Some folks I stayed with a while back took the whole lazy gardener thing a bit too far, when it came to food gathering, the comfrey patch was the only place you had a hope of finding something green. That was over 20 years ago and I’ve never eaten it in a sCr fry since. I do however put it in green drinks. Whenever my body is cut or damaged externally, I head down to the comfrey patch and pick a young healthy leaf. I chew it a liJle, then apply it to the wound and strap a bandage over the top.
My principal usage for comfrey in the garden is as a companion plant. It has deep, strong roots that mine into hard soils and produces an abundance of mineral rich leaves. These leaves can be used to improve soil ferClity by adding them to compost, digging into soil directly or making green tea to liquid ferClise other plants. In this regard it has no equal in the plant world. One word of warning… be careful where you plant it as any remnants of root leN in the soil will reshoot, so it can be hard to eradicate if you change your mind.