Borage 

A little know herb, it is a stout little plant with hollow bristly stems. It grows to about 2 1/2' high and about 2' wide and is topped with the most vibrant, star-shaped blue flowers that you have ever seen. Throughout history it has been used as a reviver and a bringer of courage. Young leaves add the flavor of cucumber to salads. All parts of the plant have a refreshing cucumber flavor, but because of the thistly hairs, the stem and larger leaves are rarely used. The roots are used to flavor wine and the seeds area source of gamma-linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid thought to reduce the risk of arteriosclerosis. It is also used by the body to produce prostaglandins, the hormone-like substances in the body that may be out of balance in premenstrual syndrome  (PMS). In addition, GLA helps to regulate the menstrual cycle, and ease the hot flashes and mood swings of menopause. From the earliest of times, Borage is credited with inducing calm and fortitude. It was usually steeped in wine or brandy and given to travelers before a long journey, or to soldiers before battle.

Nowadays, due to recent scientific research, Borage is reputed to have medicinal properties. It contains a compound which helps relieve inflammatory conditions such as eczema when applied topically. Externally, a poultice of leaves applied to inflamed swellings has been helpful. In naturopathic healing it is said to have positive effects on the heart when taken as a tea in combination with hawthorne berries. It also reportedly balances the function of the adrenal gland, and is especially helpful following surgeries. Borage makes an excellent facial steam for improving very dry, sensitive skin. A tea made with Borage helps to reduce fevers and ease chest colds. The flowers may be dried to add color to potpourri.  

Borage flourishes in any well drained soil. This wonderful, diverse plant is easy to grow. If left alone, Borage will seed itself freely and comes up year after year in the same place. Sow the seeds in early spring (outdoors after danger of frost is  past, or in pots) for flowers the same year. When the seedlings reach 4 inches tall, thin them to 2 feet apart. Seeds may also be sown in the autumn. Those sown then will flower in May, whereas those sown in the spring will not flower till June. Borage likes lots of sun, but can take a little shade. Borage is not a fussy plant, but the richer the soil, the bushier the plant will be. It needs protection from wind as it is easily blown over. Place plants close together so they can support each other. A plant or two in an indoor pot will provide leaves all winter, but it will need lots of sun. Borage is an excellent companion plant for tomatoes, squash and strawberries. The plant actually improves the flavor of tomatoes growing nearby. If planted among squash vines, it will attract bees and other pollinating insects. Borage is a good first crop in newly broken earth.  Its deep tap roots will penetrate all but the toughest layer of clay so that the Borage plant can use the complex minerals present in the deeper levels of soil. A plant with more delicate roots would never reach these nutrients, leaving them bound in the earth. When you pull the Borage at the end of its season, those minerals are now present above ground in the form of leaves, flowers, roots and seeds. Put them on your compost pile or chop them into pieces no longer than a foot, throw them on the lawn and mow them into bits. If you spread the resulting green mulch over the bare spot where the spent Borage was growing, over the winter months the plant will return its resources to the soil as it decays, leaving them in the top few inches where shallow rooted plants can access them next season. I have heard it said that if Borage will reseed itself in your garden, you have near perfect soil.

Harvest young leaves before they become coarse; use them fresh or freeze them for later use. The flowers can be harvested at any time. Be careful when picking the flowers: bees (along with other beneficial insects) are attracted to the hanging blossoms and often are hidden from view when they are gathering nectar. It is these bright blue flowers that Borage is known for. (Although I have never seen them, Borage flowers come in pink, white and lavender as well, according to some websites I visited.) To use the fresh flowers, first remove the rather unattractive back side. Rinse the flowers gently and pat them dry. They hold up well when refrigerated between two pieces of damp toweling. They can be frozen in ice cubes and added to summer drinks. They make a tasty garnish on canapes, smoked salmon ones in particular, or anything that goes well with a hint of cucumber. They are also great on grilled onions sprinkled with balsamic vinegar; the color combination is dramatic. Try tossing them in a salad of baby greens and edible flowers. When using Borage flowers in a salad, be sure to add them at the last minute -- as the dressing will cause them to wilt, and any vinegar will discolor the blossoms. Candied or crystallized blossoms are also used as garnishes for cakes and pastries. Just refrigerate the flowers until chilled. I use a powdered egg product called "Just Whites", but any such product would work. Mix with water and use a clean paint brush to cover both sides of the flower, sprinkle with sugar and let dry. 

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Brandie

*Gardening is a kind of disease. It infects you, you cannot escape it.*

 

 

 

 
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