“To enliven the sad with the joy of a joke
Give them wine with some borage put in it to soak”. ~ old English rhyme
Borage (Borago officinalis) is a hardy annual herb. Some of its other names; Bugloss, Bee Bread, Herb of Gladness and Star Flower. It likes lots of sun, grows about two feet high and gets rather bushy. Mine likes to lay down over the lawn after a while and then grow straight up from the reclining stems, which are round, hollow and juicy. It will reseed itself quite efficiently so I try and collect the seeds before they hit the lawn. This is hard to do since the whole process of opening and then dropping seed happens so quickly. Since I have more than one plant at a time, I usually snip several stems with flowers, hang them upside down in a paper bag and let them dry – collecting the seeds later. If I’m lazy, I just pick some flowers and toss them back into the flower bed before they hit the grass.
Bees absolutely love Borage. When I go out to pick it, there are always quite a few buzzing around in the five-petal flowers, which turn from pink to blue when the plant deems the nectar and pollen ready for collection. Bees are very attracted to the color blue, so I think this is rather smart of Mother Nature.
Historically, Borage was believed to cure sadness and boost courage, which I think is awesome. The Romans used it steeped in cups of wine – Pliny said “it maketh a man merry and joyful” – and John Evelyn said it was “of known virtue to revive the hypochondriac and cheer the hard student.”
It was believed to also cure skin problems, bruises, inflammation, stress, colds, fevers…the list goes on. We now know that this is due to the high content of gamma-linolenic acid. It also contains potassium, calcium and mineral salts.
I found references to it being used as an embroidery subject as far back as the 17th century and quite a few modern stitches as well. Understandable since it’s such a friendly and straightforward flower.
In my opinion, the flowers are the tastiest part of the plant. They can be candied for tops of cupcakes, thrown in a salad or frozen in ice cubes for beverages. I like to toss a handful into a glass of water with a slice of lemon – the beverage takes on a nice little ‘tingle’ from the mineral salts and it instantly makes your dull glass of H2o completely fabulous. Borage tastes like cucumber so it adds a fresh coolness, or maybe cool freshness to whatever it’s with. If you’re into companion planting, it likes to be near strawberries. Who doesn’t like to be near strawberries?
Many sources said it should be taken “in moderation” and the sepals are NOT edible. Besides the flower, the stems and leaves are edible and I found lots of recipes for savory dishes like the ‘Borage Fritters’ by Maria Batali – which I’m planning to try! My absolute favorite way to have it is in a glass of wine, just like the ancients and I can say quite honestly that I’m in a much better mood afterward. 🙂