Plant Profile: Comfrey

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Today’s plant profile is of COMFREY. Comfrey has big, vibrant green leaves that grow on plentiful stalks from one main taproot, as well as small flowers that go from light to dark purple.

You have likely seen many of our chicken residents hiding in, walking through, walking on, nibbling on, and generally cavorting in the comfrey plants we have in the chicken yard. Obviously pleasing chickens is one of the many benefits of growing comfrey.

But comfrey is also a pretty spectacular plant to have around your garden. Its deep taproot goes far down into the soil and pulls up many nutrients that shallower root-system plants may not get to. As the leaves and stalks mature, they fall over or off and start to decay on the ground, which provides an extremely nutrient-rich mulch–as you can see in this picture, gravity and age have gotten a helping hand from Orion and Amandine, and newer stalks are growing up from the same single plant’s root. This mulching ability makes comfrey a perfect companion for fruit and other trees.

Another way for gardeners to use comfrey is to make comfrey tea as a liquid fertilizer. Just take some of the leaves, chop them up into semi-large pieces, and simmer them in water for a few minutes until it is dark greenish-brown. Let it cool and then pour around plants. You can also chop up a few leaves and soak them in water for a few weeks, which will preserve more of the nutrients in the leaves.

Comfrey can be used by humans as well as chickens and plants! Although it has been used orally for centuries, the FDA has recommended that it not be ingested. However, it can be safely used as externally a compress or salve to treat wounds, joint inflammation, and other problems (read more at http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-295-COMFREY.aspx?activeIngredientId=295&activeIngredientName=COMFREY).

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