Borage – Borago officinalis

by Gini Sage

Native to the Northeastern Mediterranean, Borage is a hardy annual herb that is reputed to lift the spirits, banish melancholy, and impart courage. The leaves are grayish-green and velvety textured, with a thick hollow stem. The nodding bright blue star shaped flowers appear in the spring. The leaves, flowers and seeds of borage are all edible.

Borage prefers full to partial sun, with moist, well drained soil. Plant the seeds in early spring and cover completely as the seeds need dark to germinate. Keep the young seedlings evenly moist. Pinch back the plant at 10 to 15 cm to keep it bushier. Borage will grow from 15 cm to more than 1 m tall. Once established in the garden, borage self-sows abundantly, so thin new seedlings as required. Borage is an excellent companion plant for tomatoes, squash, and strawberries. The flavour of tomatoes is actually improved by growing borage nearby, and it deters tomato worm. Borage may also be planted in pots for indoor harvesting of leaves in the winter. This plant does not like to be transplanted, so sow seeds in the pot they are to be grown in. Indoor plants need lots of light.

In the kitchen, the mild, cucumber-like flavour of borage can be used in salads, soups, steamed, used in curries, yogurt, fish and chicken dishes, tea, summer drinks, and candied for decoration. In Germany, a few chopped leaves are often added to lettuce salads. In China, the leaves are stuffed and rolled like grape leaves.

Article was originally published in the Uxbridge Horticultural Society Newsletter, April 2009

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