As a seed-saver, there aren’t many vegetable flowers that I don’t recognise. But the first small flower buds along the inner branches of the coffee bushes caught me by surprise.
I’d never seen a coffee bush before I purchased these two in pots some years ago, and I’ve watched them with some concern each year as they weather the hot Australian sun during our long summers. Burning at the leaf margins – despite plenty of water – suggests that solar irradiation might be the problem. Far from their cloudy mountainous home in Ethiopia, and adapted to a narrow range of temperature and humidity, growing coffee on the Adelaide Plains half a world away is a longshot at best.
For all of these reasons, I’d left stand a large comfrey plant that has been growing between the two coffee bushes, shielding their lower leaves with its own broad hairy ones and stabilising the humidity within the microclimate of its canopy. Comfrey plants are also valuable for their ability to draw up nutrients such as potassium from deep in the sub-soil.
It’s a shade too soon to be putting the kettle on, but there’s sufficient pleasure in raising new unfamiliar plants. And with recent rain gathered into bins below the chicken shed eaves, there is also the bonus of comfrey tea - a natural fertilizer - that will come from soaking all those comfrey leaves.