Borage (or Borago officinalis
), and also known as a starflower, is an annual herb that is native to the Mediterranean region but has naturalized in many other areas.
While both the leaves and the flowers are edible, and the plant is grown in many gardens for that reason, some sources will tell you that the leaves can only be eaten when they are young.
But once grown larger, they produce edible, starry blue flowers that attract bees in their droves.
These are some of the interesting borage facts and uses
- The foliage can be gathered and composted.
Borage tea (tisane) can be made from the leaves and flowers. Chop and dry the leaves and store them dry. Put some in a mug and pour on boiling water. It is said to have a smooth crisp taste and has been traditionally used to reduce fevers.
- Borage tea will also promote lactation when breast feeding as well as being high in anti-inflammatory properties while helping to relieve cold symptoms.
- Drinking a cup of borage tea is said to induce a sense of contentment and wellbeing.
- Use some of the spiky borage leaves when running your bath water as an infusion treatment. It will relax you while being anti-inflammatory too.
- You can make sugared borage blossoms for cake decorating by painting with egg white, dipping in superfine sugar and allowing to dry. The black parts of the flowers need to be removed first.
- Add borage flowers when serving strawberries to enhance their flavor.
- If you have humming birds in your area, and you grow borage, they can be attracted to the flowers for their nectar.
Borage is easy to grow from seed, preferring a well drained and not too rich a soil. Once you have them in your garden, you will find they self seed every year. They flower all summer long in temperate climates, most of the year when the climate is even milder.
Borage is the traditional flower of courage - there may be some truth in this as it is said that a chemical present in borage will act on the adrenal gland. In the old days, ladies would embroider silk handkerchiefs with borage flowers as 'favors' for soldiers who would collect them as they were dropped.
- Young and fresh plant leaves placed in boiling water (which is then cooled) can be used as a gargle for sore throats and mouth ulcers.
- The leaves (when young and non-prickly) have a slight cucumber taste and can be used in salads and sandwiches. The flowers are also edible, making a great summer decoration in ice cubes for cold drinks. The flowers can also be made into a drink and tart desserts.
- When growing in your garden, borage is a useful companion plant for protecting legumes, spinach and brassicas while encouraging strawberries, attracting pollinators and deterring the tomato worm too.
- The plant is also commercially grown for borage seed oil which is extracted from its seeds. The oil is often marketed as "starflower oil" or "borage oil" for use as a GLA supplement.
- The flowers are most commonly blue but pink and white varieties are available too.
- In some European countries (such as Germany), borage is used as a vegetable.
- In the UK (during the summer months) Pimms is a traditional beverage. While soft fruit, mint and slices of cucumber are usually added to the drink, borage flowers are a traditional garnish too. Want to know how to make a Pimms? Take a jug or a glass and add ice to taste before pouring in one part Pimm's No. 1 with three parts of fizzy lemonade over the ice. Add mint leaves, thin cucumber slices, orange slices, raspberries or strawberries - or perhaps a flower or two of borage - and serve!
We have plenty of borage plants on our allotment
and they come back again every summer. They can become a bit overpowering but are easy to trim back or remove if necessary.
The most important fact is that their flowers refill with nectar every two minutes! Bees and butterflies just love them.
[caption id="attachment_31070" align="alignright" width="850"]
Borage growing among the flax in the Allotment Meadow Garden - photo by Jane Chitty[/caption]