City of Comfrey, Part 1

Listen up gardeners, it’s time to talk about the miracle plant, comfrey.
The plant, which has pretty pink or purple blossoms depending on the species, was called knitbone for thousands of years because of its ability to speed the healing of bone injuries.  The ancient Greek historian Herodatus wrote about it, and it’s very name, symphytum, comes from the Greek symphyo which means to “make grow together.”  In addition to healing fractures, the plant can been used to treat abrasions, skin irritations, insect bites and inflammation  associated with rheumatoid arthritis.  I’ve heard of people rubbing their arms and legs with comfrey leaves before working out in the garden. The secret ingredient is allantoin,  which lives in both the leaves and the roots of the plant.

comfreyIn the garden, comfrey can be grown as a living mulch.  That’s because the plant is a root accumulator, sucking up nutrients into its roots and leaves.  Hearing about orchardists who plant comfrey around their fruit trees, I decided to plant ring of it around our plum tree this  summer.  Not only does it fertilize the tree now, but it keeps the weeds out, and the bees love the pretty purple flowers.

Because the leaves contain minerals like potassium, calcium, and magnesium,  they make a great fertilizer. Our potassium-hungry tomato plants especially enjoy a liquid fertilizer mix of comfrey leaves and water.  We create this mixture by putting the leaves in our watering can, filling it with water and then letting it soak for a  while.

comfrey leavesSome of you might be smitten now, thinking Comfrey, where have you been all my life?
To those of you, heed this stern warning: comfrey grows very aggressively.  I’ve been astounded at how quickly the comfrey patch has grown up around our plum tree.

I pictured it filling up our whole yard, then spilling out into the neighborhood and spreading across Durham.  It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.  My legs get itchy riding my bike on the greenway, so having comfrey leaves available to me on the trail would be an added luxury.

Durham could  then become the city of comfrey. Suddenly Tupac Shakur popped into my head…..In the citaaay, the city of Comfrey.  This could be a  really great track to perform  next year at the Durham Hip-hop Summit.  I’ll need to work on my flow, though.

Please stay tuned for part 2.  I’m now working feverishly in the basement, like Grandpa Munster, to come up with a comfrey ointment. This could be big at the farmer’s market.


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