Borage, Borago officinalis
Borage is an annual plant, meaning it grows, blooms, sets seed and dies…. all in one season, like most of our garden plants. However, it self-seeds like mad, so if you don’t want borage growing all over your garden, be prepared to pull out the little sprouts or else grow it in a container.
Borage likes a sunny spot with well-drained, fertile soil. Keep it well watered but not standing in water. It will grow to a height of 18 inches or so.
Harvest young leaves as needed and the flowers when they are fully opened. The leaves are very fleshy and so they are difficult to dry.
Borage used to be an important ingredient in a drink called Pimms No 1 before it was replaced with mint and cucumber. It is still included in Gilpin’s Westmorland Extra Dry Gin as one of the flavoring botanicals.
Borage has a cucumber aroma and so it’s good added to salads. It can be used like spinach as a vegetable or it can be added to spinach or cabbage dishes.
Borage has a somewhat salty flavor. If you are on a salt-restricted diet, this can be quite useful. Add a few borage leaves to your veggies and skip the salt!
Flowers of the borage plant are edible. In fact, they are the only truely blue edible plant material! They can be added to salads, candied and used as cake decorations or they can be dried and added to potpourri.
If you use companion planting in your organic garden, remember borage. It is said to protect or nurse legume crops (beans, peas), spinach, brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, collards, ets), and even strawberries. It is also said to be a good companion plant to tomatoes because it confuses the search image of the mother moths of tomato hornworms or manduca looking for a place to lay their eggs. Claims that it improves tomato growth and makes them taste better remain unsubstantiated.