Symphytum officinale, or comfrey as it's better known, is one of the those plants that was on my 'must have' list for the garden. I bought a sturdy little plant from Jekka McVicar's Herb Farm last year and, forewarned, planted it into a large pot (rather than the ground where its huge tap root can make it difficult to get rid of). This year it's grown huge and flowered prolifically, bringing a splash of early colour to the veg patch and, as I pottered around on Saturday, I noticed that it was enticing many bees into the garden too.
This morning, a friend asked me what the plant was - it's very beautiful at the moment, with loads of purple flowers. I answered that it was both the gardener's friend and foe. Compost activator, beneficial mulch for fruit trees, soil enhancer for potatoes and beans when chopped up and buried in the soil under the plant, raw material for liquid fertiliser; balanced against that, it can be a bit invasive and has a hugely deep tap root making it virtually impossible to get rid of once established.
I've used the chopped up leaf method under my potatoes this year. Because the leaves were chopped up, they'll decompose quickly releasing nutrients into the soil that boost leaf production; more leaves, more potatoes. Let's hope it works! It's also said that slugs love munching on comfrey leaves so it could be a good idea to lay a carpet of leaves on the soil, wait, then slip out at night (or early morning) and roll up leaves and slugs in one go for disposal. Now that's got to be worth a try!
I think, being carefully planted, my comfrey is more of a friend. I've also read that the plant is excellent for healing cuts and arthritis - has anyone tried it for this? I'd be very interested to know what you found out!
If interested to read more about this plant, there's an excellent info page over at Seedaholic.