Monday, May 10, 2010

Drying Comfrey

This seemed utterly unremarkable to me.  I wasn't going to post about it.  But my husband thought it was nifty-clever.  So.  Here's how I dry comfrey leaves: between two old window screens.  We have a pile of these that we hauled out of a dumpster, or maybe somebody gave them to us when they redid their windows.  Can't remember.  The storm windows had more the more obvious application of covers for cold frames (mostly yet to be built).  But the window screens hung out in the garage for a while before it occurred to me to use them this way.

The screens allow good air circulation for quick drying, prevent the leaves from blowing away in a slight wind, and make the leaves dry down very flat, which is handy for storing them after drying.  Plus it's a low-tech, grid-free, cheapskate way of drying. Yes, it works even when laid on grass, though it's faster on the driveway.  If rain threatens, I can pick up the screens and stick them in the shed, regardless of the degree of drying so far achieved.  Having the screens hang out somewhere prominently outside is also a good reminder to me to keep cutting more leaves for drying.  I use the dried comfrey leaves steadily over the winter as a feed supplement for the hens.  And it's best to have the comfrey thoroughly dried if I want to use it as fertilizer with garden seedlings.  The plant is so damn vital that cut leaves will simply grow new plants if put into the ground without first being well dried.  I suppose it might not be a bad way of drying leaves if you wanted them for medicinal purposes as well.

Besides, a steady harvest of leaves from comfrey plants helps keep them from total world domination.  We've got six comfrey plants on our 2/3 acre, and two of those in the main garden, so this is a real concern.


Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

We seem to be eerily in synch these days -- friends just gave us comfrey, and I was trying to figure out what to do with it. Now I know. Thanks!

LillyZoo said...

So great! my comfrey is amazingly high and I was wondering what to do next! I think I am gonna dry my hand washed wool this way too then on to carding

patricew said...

so glad you posted that! what a clever idea!

Amy @ Homestead Revival said...

I used this same method last summer to dry bay leaves that I got from my Aunt's Bay tree. If you live where it's dusty, just be sure to rinse the leaves before using them (a quick rinse won't be enough to rehydrate them; it just gets the dust off). Maybe some day I can try comfrey.

Oh, and I think this makes for a great post! Even for those of us who have a hydrator, knowing a back up method is always excellent!

Anonymous said...

I've just dried some comfrey for our chickens for winter, and some stinging nettles as well. Nettle hay is an old chicken food. (The dogs get nettle powder too- good for their coats).

Hazel, UK

Lemongrass said...

I started harvesting my comfrey leaves and drying them two months ago.I cut a bunch of leaves and put them in a large brown paper bag. I then crumble the leaves and store them in a glass jar. Whenever I transplant my seedlings I sprinkle some leaves in the whole. I added some in my tomatoe pots for the first time. Drying is a much simpler process than making comfrey tea, especially if one has a small backyard.

The Cottage Garden Farmer said...

What a brilliant idea, I have loads of comfrey, I had no idea you could dry it for winter chicken feed. Great blog, have just spent some time reading your old posts, excellent.

Ginny Smith said...

Hi Kate - I'm the garden writer at the Inquirer and I'd love to talk to you further about your "frugal life" for a story I'm working on. It's about all the ways people are getting "back to the land" and embracing a simpler life. Please contact me at 215 854 5720 or Thanks! Ginny Smith

Karen said...

What a great way to dry it. Never thought of drying it for winter feed, but right now I keep hacking it off because it is not growing where I would want it. (I'm sure you know how impossible comfrey is to get rid of)
Fortunately the chickens are right next door, so over the fence it goes to them fresh. Come to think of it, there was a plant growing in their field, but they must have kept it so pecked down that it eventually died.
Have you ever used the leaves medicinally?

Landscapers Web Design said...

Good post.

Kate said...

Tamar, did they give you cuttings or a comfrey plant? If the latter, choose a spot for it carefully! You'll probably never be able to get it out of there once it's in.

Lillyzoo, glad to be of service.

Patricew, thanks.

Amy, yeah, I'm all about the backup methods. I leave a little dirt on the comfrey for the hens. They always seem to want a little dirt when they can get it. Won't be the same, all dried out in winter. But it's a pretty good rationalization for doing what's easiest, don't you think?

Hazel, you really, really ought to have a blog of your own. If we asked nicely, would you start one? Pretty please?

lemongrass, I dried comfrey in a burlap bag last year for the hens. Over the winter I crumbled it into their feed. This time I might try giving them whole dried leaves too, and see if they like pecking it apart. In any case, having the leaves all dried flat makes for better storage and should make it a little easier to crumble it into their feed too. I like the sprinkles for plants idea - thanks.

TCGF, there are some concerns about feeding comfrey to livestock, so I use a light hand. I think the concerns are rather overblown, but I thought I should mention them anyway. Just so you know. Thanks for letting me know you like the blog.

Ginny, sorry it didn't work out.

Karen, yes, I'm quite familiar with comfrey's tenacity. I've only used comfrey for a few salves. I made what is probably a few year supply last summer, and that's even with having given away several jars of it!

LWD, thanks!

Anonymous said...

And I was really proud of my short post!
I don't think I'm up to starting a blog. I read blogs like yours for good ideas. That and to know it's not just me...


Kate said...

Hazel, my comment wasn't oblique criticism of the length of your comment! Quite the opposite. It sounds to me like you have a lot of information to share, or at least plenty of experiments going that I'd love to follow along with. We're all fumbling around trying to figure these things out, and the more the merrier. Whatever help we can give to each other in terms of information or inspiration is a good thing. So if you ever start your own blog, please drop me a comment with the link.

Anonymous said...

no, I know you didn't mean that really!
I've got lots of useful tips from your blog (DH liked the credit card dough scraper :0) ), so I'm more than happy to share/exchange information, I just don't think I can commit to keeping a blog updated regularly at the moment.
We both seem to be heading in the same direction, albeit from different starting points, so if you don't mind the odd epic length comment, I'll carry on sharing here!

Kate said...

Hazel, please do!


Great idea. Love the screens. In our Florida heat this would be a great way to dry. I have a bay tree...think i'll try this on some bay leaves!