All About Comfrey On The Homestead

On today’s podcast episode I discuss the many uses of having comfrey on the homestead and why EVERY homesteader should be growing it, what variety to grow and where to get it.

Homestead Inspirational Quote of the Day:

“I say, if your knees aren’t green by the end of the day, you ought to seriously re-examine your life.”

~Bill Watterson, Calvin & Hobbes

My thoughts on this quote: If you want a better perspective on life try looking at it from ground level in your garden. When You work in your garden and look closely at the miraculous ecosystem active right in your backyard it will make you keenly aware that there is so much more going on the world than what you are normally aware of and help you to see things with a fresh set of eyes.

Homestead Updates:

Praying Mantis and Ladybugs

Greenhouse update

New Fruit Trees

Frost Got Me!

Homesteading Relevant News:

Urban farmer turns town garden plot into permaculture experience

Detroit Urban Farming Plan Shifts to Be More Neighborly

Main Topic Of Discussion:

All About Comfrey On The Homestead

What is Comfrey?

Comfrey is a perennial herb most commonly known for its qualities as a fertilizer and as herbal medicine. Comfrey is known as a dynamic accumulator because of its long tap root and ability to pull nutrients from deep in the soil up into its leaves.

Different varieties of comfrey

Common Comfrey – It is a perennial native to Europe. It is 3 feet tall including the flower stalk. It has been used medicinally for thousands of years by many different cultures. It can be somewhat invasive by spreading viable seeds. The roots are not invasive. True Comfrey seeds germinate quickly, especially on wet soil.

Russian Comfrey – a natural cross between common comfrey and rough comfrey. It grows to 4 feet tall including the flowerstalk.  Russian comfrey has purple, white, magenta-pink, red or blue (that fade to pink) flowers. The seeds are not viable. It has to be reproduced by root and crown cuttings. It produces 100-120 tons per acre of biomass per year. This is 3 times the amount that Common Comfrey produces. There are 21 cultivars of Russian Comfrey but #4 and #14 are the most common.

Russian Comfrey Bocking 4 – More commonly used as fodder for feeding livestock. The roots of Bocking 4 go down 8-10 feet which makes is slightly more drought resistant and the leaves are slightly wider than bocking 14.

Russian Comfrey Bocking 14 – This cultivar is more commonly used as a fertilizer because of its more narrow leaves which break down slightly faster, although both 4 and 14 are very similar and can be used as both fodder and fertilizer. The roots of 14 go down 6-8 feet which is a little less than Bocking 4. Bocking #14 Comfrey is more rust resistant than #4. Rust is a fungal disease though disease is very rare in all comfrey. It has an NPK ratio  of 1.8 / 0.5 /5.3 and dried comfrey leaves contain 26% protein. Also Comfrey is the only plant known to harvest vitamin B-12 from the soil.

Comfrey as fertilizer

Compost Activator – include comfrey in the compost heap to add nitrogen and help to heat the heap. Comfrey should not be added in quantity as it will quickly break down into a dark sludgy liquid that needs to be balanced with more fibrous, carbon-rich material.

Compost Tea – can be produced by rotting leaves down in rainwater for 4–5 weeks.

Chop and Drop – a layer of comfrey leaves placed around a crop will slowly break down and release plant nutrients but avoid using flowering stems as these can root.

Companion Planting – soil tests confirm that when comfrey is planted alongside other plants and especially other perennials and trees that soil nutrients increase.

Comfrey as livestock feed

Russian Comfreys can produce up to 100-120 tons per acre of leaf biomass per year. This is about 12.4 tons of dried comfrey leaf per acre. As a comparison Alfalfa yields 18 tons per acre. Corn is 25 tons per acre before it is dried. Pasture grass is 25 tons an acre.

The protein amount in dried comfrey is 20-30%. As a comparison most beans (legumes) are around 8-9%. Soybeans are around 17%. 

Comfrey as medicine

External use as a Poultice, Oil or Salve 

Treats Skin Irritation

Can Treat Minor Cuts and Wounds

Speeds Healing Of Broken Bones

Warning: Don’t use comfrey on deep wounds as it can heal the skin to quickly aiding in possible infection.

Internal use

Warning: In 2001, the United States Food and Drug Administration issued a ban of comfrey products marketed for internal use, and a warning label for those intended for external use. In addition to restrictions on oral use, some experts recommend applying comfrey extracts no longer than 10 days in a row, and no more than 4–6 weeks a year.

Can heal internal wounds in the digestive tract

Comfrey as income

I added this as a quality of comfrey because I think it makes a great commercial crop for homesteaders, not necessarily as selling what the plant produces but selling crowns and root cuttings so other homesteaders can grow their own comfrey.

Where do I get comfrey? Marsh Creek Farmstead is where I purchased my crowns and root cuttings that I started with and I couldn’t be happier with them.

Today’s Recommendations:

The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook: A Home Manual

Youtube Channel – Morag Gamble : Our Permaculture Life

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