Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Comfrey leaves come with caution!

Symphytum officinale – Boraginaceae
“Comfrey” or “Knitbone”

Borage family
Native to England
Bee and Butterfly plant
Leaves high in Potassium - good fertilizer, compost activator, green mulch
Invasive - do not compost or disturb roots!
Remove seed heads!
Cut flower and leaf stalks 2” above ground while flowering
Wear gloves
Dry or fresh leaves may be used for topical preparations

Warning: For external use only

• All oral comfrey products have been banned by the FDA since 2001
• Comfrey contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids (liver toxins)
• Consuming comfrey can lead to liver damage or death
(Research available documenting risk of prolonged oral use of high concentrate root extractions)

However. . .Topical preparations containing comfrey are still commercially available and considered safe when used in moderation. To my knowledge there have been no reports of poisoning from topically applied comfrey leaf products, but research suggests the skin absorbs PAs, so it should:

NOT be applied to open wounds or broken skin
NOT be applied to pregnant or breastfeeding women, children or the elderly.

Before the FDA issued warnings about this plant, it had been used for centuries as a pain and inflammatory, skin and bone healer. Today there are clinical trials suggesting topical efficacy for pain and inflammation associated with injury and arthritis. So look at the research and use your own common sense and judgment before experimenting with this controversial plant.

BY Kym Farmen, Master Herbalist

Monday, July 25, 2011

Bumper crop of alderman and maxigolt peas

The garden is really thriving these days and it's been great to see the success that gardeners are having this year. One standout so far has been the peas that Catherine grew (to great heights!) on the trellis she built around her plot.

Catherine shared some photos and some info on the peas she grew that I wanted to pass along to other gardeners. Here's what I learned from Catherine:

Catherine grew two varieties of peas: Alderman Tall Telegraph an heirloom, and Maxigolt not an heirloom. Both are shelling peas, also called English peas. This is the variety of peas that have the most total nutrition (even including the pod of a snap pea or snow pea).

Catherine set out seedlings using organic pea inoculant on the roots in mid-February. She put out the Aldermans a little before the Maxigolts because Aldermans have a longer date to maturity, which is typical of heirloom varieties.

On average Alderman peas take about 75 days; and Maxigolt, about 60. The Alderman grew a full 8 feet tall! Maxigolt grew 4 feet. As expected, Alderman took longer to mature.

According to Catherine, the Aldermans have a seriously old fashioned pea flavor but no starchiness. They taste sweet until you eat a Maxigolt. The Maxigolt are milder, brighter, and sweeter. They also have bigger peas within those smaller pods. Catherine enjoyed them raw, barely steamed, and even frozen and then raw or steamed. There is no need to blanch them first.

Contact Catherine with your questions at