Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) may not be one of the most aromatic herbs, but its exceptional medicinal properties, and high protein content, makes it a very popular herb with herbalists. (You can also read this comfrey article in Afrikaans.)
In the edible plant world it ranks just behind soya beans for protein content. And it has no equal as a remedy for skin problems, injuries, muscle and skeletal pain, and inflammation.
It’s also highly regarded by organic food gardeners as a compost crop, green manure and mulch. And by livestock farmers as a high protein fodder.
Chef’s Tips for Cooking with Comfrey
Comfrey is a member of the borage family and it has the same faint cucumber flavour as borage. It’s slightly bitter flavour becomes more pronounced when overcooked.
Some say that if prepared correctly, the flavour becomes a bit like endive and asparagus. I wholehearted agree with taking the trouble to prepare it correctly, but I can’t say that my comfrey ever tasted like asparagus. Maybe my palette needs more practice.
Use only the tender young leaves in your cooking. Comfrey leaves are covered in fine hairs and these become quite hard and unpalatable in older leaves. Wash the leaves, dry, and prepare as directed by the recipe.
Like spinach, it’s easy to overcook comfrey. But it’s not great too raw either. Rather err on the side of undercooking it.
Comfrey can be prepared as a starter (they make quite good fritters), soup, or as a side dish. (My mom makes a delicious comfrey marog -a traditional African side dish made with leafy greens, onions and tomatoes.) You can also add it to other veggies and to stews. It also makes a nutritious addition to veggie juices.
Parsley, lemon balm, mint, and caraway seed all go well with comfrey.
If you are worried about the safety of comfrey let me assure you that it’s not such a smashing vegetable that you’ll overindulge on it on a daily basis. But it is nevertheless a good idea to read my article on comfrey safety.
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- 1 onion, sliced
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 large potato, peeled and diced
- 4 cups finely chopped, tender young comfrey leaves
- 2 cups stock (vegetable, chicken or beef)
- ½ cup milk
- Marmite or soy sauce to taste
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cook the sliced onion gently in butter in a large saucepan until soft.
- Add potato and sauté.
- Add comfrey and sauté all together for several minutes.
- Add stock, bring to boil and then simmer gently until vegetables are tender.
- Mash potatoes with a potato masher or if you prefer a smooth consistency blend in a blender.
- Heat the milk and add to the soup.
- Season to taste with marmite (or soy sauce), and salt and pepper.
- Garnish with chopped parsley and serve with toast.