Borage: Looks Good Enough To Eat

by Polly

Borage, a cucumber-flavored herb, is a great addition to your garden. My mum always swore by borage as a surefire cheerer-upper. Anytime I was feeling down in the dumps, she’d make me a big dish of potato salad made special with borage flowers.

Nowadays, I also add them to tossed salads, sprinkle them on cottage cheese, or blend them with cream cheese to make a sandwich spread. One of the most versatile herbs, borage has been used around the world in foods ranging from ravioli filling to pickling spices.

Both flowers and leaves are mild, but flavorful. Use one or the other, though: The leaves taste their best before the flowers appear.

Besides being a mood lifter and a taste treat, borage packs a good supply of  vitamin C, calcium and potassium.

Borage is an annual herb with star shaped blue flowers, easy to grow and magic in companion planting. Borage gets along with any type of fruits and vegetables such as beans, melons, cucumbers, squash, berries and tomatoes to improve the productivity  and taste of these plants.

Borage also attracts beneficial insects such as bees for pollination and predatory wasps for organic pest control. Bumblebees and other pollinators adore borage blossoms.

Strawberry growers often plant borage near strawberries to increase yield, perhaps because the flowers attract pollinating bees. It also repels the tomato hornworm, cabbage moths and cabbage worms.

Borage is an excellent green material for composting. It breaks down very quickly because it is high in moisture content.

Borage self-seeds freely, so the herbs tend to reappear every year on their own. Borage grows best if direct seeded. Barely cover the seeds with soil and keep well watered. They are tolerant of any type soil, even poor dry soil.

If you choose to start seedlings, transplant before they become pot bound. Borage has a scraggly, unkempt growth habit, so plant closely together so the plants will help support each other.

Though many folks do not appreciate borage, I definitely do. For starters, it’s blue, and I cannot get enough of the blues! Secondly, it’s just about the earliest plant in the garden to begin blooming, just after rosemary, and such a welcome sight of spring and summer.

Borage blooms fairly steadily up until frost. Bloom time can be extended by dead heading the flowers. Save the flowers and get the seeds for the next year’s borage crop.

For me, everything about borage is positive, its blueness, its attractiveness to bees, its size (1-3′), and its free-seeding quality.

Some gardeners have complained about the difficulty of handling borage because of its prickly hairiness. Wear gloves!

And finally, I love those tiny star-shaped flowers because they are edible. I hold the stem, and with a simple pinch in the middle of the blue corolla, out it pops, intact.  That electric blue does wonders for a monochromatic side dish.

Borage’s blue color flowers are a tantalizing garnish on canapes, (smoked salmon is particularly nice). They are also tasty on grilled onions sprinkled with balsamic vinegar; the color combination is dramatic.

When using borage flowers in a salad, be sure to add them on top at the last minute to avoid wilting and discoloration. Another colorful and tasty combination is shrimp and avocado, with a lemon vinaigrette and borage flowers.

The leaves have a light cucumber taste. But, be sure to cut the leaves up small enough to negate the hairiness. Cook like spinach or add to spinach, add to bean and pea soups, use with fish or make Borage fritters by dipping the leaves in batter and frying until crisp.

Leaves are used raw, stems are steamed and sautéed, much as spinach is. Stems can be used as you would celery.

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Yours truly, Polly – Organic Gardener



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