Get down and dirty in the garden
Heidi Cardenas is a freelance writer and gardener in Lake County, Illinois, with a background in human resources and business administration. She has written about home and garden topics for various online venues, helps you get your green on at HC Greenery and enjoys The Herb Companion’s valuable resources.
Borage (Borago officinalis), also called common borage, starflower and bugloss, is a hardy herbaceous annual thought to be native to Syria and North Africa. The borage plant has traditionally been used as a culinary and medicinal herb, and it is cultivated commercially today for oilseed as a source of gamma-linolenic acid. It has a very high seed oil content of up to 40 percent. It has demulcent, diuretic, expectorant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Photo by Gohnarch/Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
Borage is a tall plant, growing up to three feet high, with hairy green pointed leaves, thick, hollow stems at maturity, and blue star-shaped flowers that droop from the tops of the plants. There are also pink and white flowering varieties of borage. Grow borage in common garden loam in a sunny location. It seeds freely and will return year after year if left to self-sow in the garden. It is a good plant for the back of the flower border, as a mass planting in a dedicated area of an herb garden or interplanted in a vegetable garden. Borage is a good companion plant for strawberries and tomatoes, enhancing the flavor in the berries, attracting bees for pollination and protecting from disease. Because they need light to germinate, sow borage seeds on top of soil in spring when the ground has warmed after the last frost. Seeds sprout in a week or so with enough moisture and sunlight and light weed control.
The leaves and flowers of the borage plant contain potassium, vitamin C, calcium and other minerals, and have saline properties. Young flowers are tasty in tea and fruit salad and can be dried and candied or used as garnishes for fruits and desserts. Borage leaves can be dipped in batter and fried as an appetizer or side dish. Fresh, young borage leaves taste like cucumber and are used in salads and soups, and as steamed or boiled greens. Borage leaves are an ingredient in Hessian green sauce popular in Germany, made with pureed hard-boiled eggs and sour cream and chopped borage, sorrel, garden cress, chives, parsley, chervil and salad burnet.
An ounce of fresh leaves boiled in a pint of water for an infusion is used for relief of fever, labored breathing and congestion. Fresh leaves blanched in boiling water are used as a poultice for swelling from sprains, insect stings and bruises. Borage flowers steeped in distilled water makes a refreshing eye wash for irritated, inflamed eyes. A syrup made from steeping chopped borage leaves in honey relieves sore throat and dry coughs.
Planting borage in your herb or flower garden will result in healthy, tasty salad greens and a useful medicinal herb, or it will just serve an attractive addition to your landscape. It will attract pollinators like bees to your vegetable garden, help keep your tomato plants healthy and disease-free, and add a beautiful touch of blue.