B is for Borage

Master Gardener borage bush. Photo by Marianne Mueller.

Master Gardener borage bush. Photo by Marianne Mueller.

Borage is a must-have herb for bees and foodies alike. Borage is a warm-season annual that is also sometimes called “the star flower.” If you like plants for their strangeness, borage will deliver. The spiny, prickly leaves are grayish, and the star-shaped flowers sky blue. The hairy leaves are edible albeit unappetizing; I’ve never tried them and don’t think I ever need to. The Borage leaves do have a rich European history of culinary uses. Maybe in a time of desperation–if I’m ever a contestant on Naked and Afraid, for instance–I’ll try making German green sauce to pour over beetles.

Borage, while easy-to-grow, can become a weed (which for those of you paying attention means it self sows). It’s an annual, which again means that it will likely die in the winter and self-seed when the weather warms up. Depends on where it lives.

The blue flowers, on the other hand, are also edible. And as ugly and unappealing as the leaves are, the flowers are pretty and elegant. Pull the flowers off the plant, similarly to how you’d pull off a honeysuckle flower, and eat them. Imagine the conversation you’ll start when you bring out a garden-grown dinner salad topped with tiny blue flowers. Or, the curiosities that will pique when the martinis, in their delicate stemmed glasses, are served with blue-flower floaters. You can also candy the flowers.

Borage is now grown commercially for Borage seed oil, and has long been used as a medicinal herb.

Borage is also touted as a great companion plant, i.e., a plant intermingled with other crops for a natural pest control. Rumor has it that when planted near tomatoes, tomato hornworms get confused. Little scientific evidence exists to back-up these kinds of claims, but plenty of scientific evidence supports the idea of planting diversity.  So you can guess where my borage gets planted.

Borage is just one of a number of edible flowers we’re growing at our house. Nasturtiums are another, but “N” is a long way off. Eating flowers is so rebellious and fun.

About master kindergardener

Santa Clara County Master Gardener since 2007, Mom since 2009, Gardener since birth.
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