Favourite Herbs: Borage

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Borage

Borago officinalis

Hardy annual; self-seeds readily

Height 60 to 90 cm; spread to 60 cm.

Prolific species with hollow stems, hairy ovate leaves, and blue or purple star-shaped flowers.

Try these!

Borago officinalis (common borage) is the most common variety and is widely available.

Planting

Seed borage directly into the garden or, to get a jump on the season, set out young plants purchased from a garden centre.

How much: At least two plants.

When: After the date of the average last spring frost.

Where: Full sun; will tolerate some shade. Prefers sandy, well-drained soil; will tolerate poor soil. Space plants at least 60 cm apart.

Care & Nurture

Borage is easy to grow! Although borage is drought-tolerant once the plant is established, young plants need lots of water. Don't give borage too much nitrogen. {WHY?}

Harvesting

Fresh borage leaves can be harvested continuously, like spinach. The flowers grow in clusters called racemes; harvest individual flowers rather than the whole raceme.

For best flavour: Remove the pistils and stamens (the black centre) before you eat the flowers.

Leaves: Harvest as needed by cutting from the stem.

Flowers: Harvest as they open. Clip the flower stalk where it attaches to the plant stem; discard stalk.

Preserving the Harvest

Use only fresh borage leaves—they do not store well. Borage flowers can be frozen in ice-cubes.

Tips

  • Borage is prone to aphids.
  • Any vegetable crop that needs pollination—squash, cucumbers, and the like—will benefit greatly from a nearby borage plant, because borage flowers are a favourite of bees.
  • If you choose to grow borage in a container, choose a large pot. The plants grow rapidly, so they need lots of room. Half whiskey-barrels are perfect.

To Note:

  • Borage looks much more attractive when it's grown with other plants. It looks wonderful when used as a feature plant with other culinary herbs surrounding it. The other plants can even help support the tall borage, which can be blown down by strong winds.
  • Borage is rich in potassium, calcium, and vitamin C.
  • Dried borage flowers add a lovely blue colour to potpourri.
  • Borage is often called "bee bread" because it attracts bees; indeed, borage honey is of very high quality.
  • When burned, borage may emit sparks and slight explosive sound, like fireworks. Some speculate that the potassium nitrate content in the plant is responsible for the phenomenon; others feel it might simply be the volatile oils burning off.
  • Native to the Mediterranean and western Asia, borage was purportedly planted by Columbus' men on Isabella's Island.