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Flowers Herbs

Borage -A Beautiful, Beneficial, Tasty and Easy Herb

One look at the beautiful star-shaped wedgewood blue flowers with prominent black anthers and you’ll know why borage is one of the most represented culinary herbs in tapestries, needle point, ceramic painting and photography.

The true blue flowers of borage hang in downward facing clusters.

The blue star-shaped flowers earn this plant a spot in any flower garden.  Their pollen is particularly sweet and filled with nectar making them a magnet to bees. In some places it’s called ‘bee bread’. Just what you want in your vegetable garden.

The flowers are edible and high in anti-oxidants.  I like to eat them right in the garden.  They make beautiful decorations for cakes and summer drinks.  Try freezing them in ice cubes and serving with your favorite iced drink.

The flower has turned pink as they often do. Notice the heavy pollen on the leg of the bee.

A native Mediterranean plant, borage has a long history as an edible green. In addition to being used as a cooked green, it is popular fresh as a salad herb. Its cucumber-like taste makes it perfect in a salad. It benefits your health as well as your taste buds with leaves rich in calcium, potassium and mineral salts and Vitamin C.

For salads, pick the leaves when they’re young to avoid the prickly hairs. Or chop them well. If you’re harvesting for a cooked greens dish, the prickly hairs will disappear in cooking.

The leaves of borage are great for adding a cucumber-like flavor to salads.

Medicinal qualities have been attributed to borage since ancient times. It’s used in a variety of remedies by modern herbalists.

Easy to grow.

I started seeds in a flat this spring and then transplanted seedlings to 3 inch pots.  The ones I transplanted to the garden before the roots reached the outer area of the pot did great.  The few I tried to hold in the small pots didn’t like it.  Their leaves faded and even after I transplanted them to the garden they didn’t want to grow.

Sowing the seed directly to the spot you want it to grow is probably the easiest way.

Seeds can be surface sown in fall for bloom the following May; or sow in March for bloom in June.  Borage will grow in deficient soils, but is bushier in rich soils.  It will self sow and spread.

Final Thought

Being a bee magnet is reason enough to grow this plant if you don’t already have it.  But if you make the most of what Borage offers —like flowers that add beauty and good taste to food presentation and leaves that are healthful and delicious — it’ll add a lot to your garden and kitchen experience.

Borage.

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19 Comments

  • Can hardly wait to try borage. It sounds wonderful…well actually the name sounds like something only wild pigs would eat or the reason why a person became dull. Perhaps the borage community should lobby to change the name to something more appealing like “blue beauty”. Just a thought. The bee photo was amazing.

  • Ann, I know you will really enjoy this herb. You’ll be amazed at the cucumber flavor — especially as a cooked green!

    Theresa

  • I planted some for the first time this year and I can’t believe how beautiful the flower is-and tastes good too.

  • I planted borage for the first time this year…I actually put it in as a companion plant to prevent insects. The bonus of beauty and wonderful taste makes it a truly worthwhile addition to the garden.

  • Hey Beppy and Dink,

    I was so glad to hear you planted borage this year. Sure brings a lot of enjoyment and yes — it is indeed a very worthwhile plant.

    And Dink — I’ve never heard of or known it to prevent insects. I just know it really draws the bees.

    Theresa

  • I planted Borage 3 years ago for the bees. Never had to plant it again. It comes up everywhere. Thats OK, I just pull out the ones I don’t want it.
    don

  • Hi Don,

    The fact that it continues to seed itself really is a plus.

    I love this plant!

    Theresa

  • Does it like full sun like other herbs? I have some in a west facing bed that gets afternoon sun. I’m wondering if it would prefer some shade?

  • I think you’ll be fine in full sun or a bit of shade as well. I had mine in various locations.
    There are other considerations too that will effect its performance — like rain, drought and extreme heat. In the month’s drought we had last year, mine spent itself out. Some volunteers came up in the middle of the summer and we enjoyed greens from them way into fall.

    Oh – I almost forgot to mention — the kids will really enjoy the blue flowers. They taste a bit sweet and it will be fun to let them pick them and eat.

  • Thanks Theresa! Something chomped (heavily) on the leaves of mine last night – probably slugs!!!

  • Theresa,

    I have several volunteer borage plants that started out looking beautiful. Now, however, there are many leaves turning yellow/brown, and stems also. Is the soil too heavy perhaps? (Lots of clay where they came up.) Or could it be too wet for them? I haven’t been able to find anything about diseases that borage is prone to develop.

    Thanks for any insights!

  • Hey Pat,
    Mine does that from time to time. Plants are especially prone to turning at the “end” of their course, although I’ve had some on occasion do that immediately and never complete their life span. Right now every borage plant is looking great.
    I know borage turning brown is not because of the soil being too heavy because my soil is “light” (sand) and my plants do this from time to time
    I don’t worry too much about it and frankly, would never even have thought to Google for “diseases”.
    The reason I don’t worry is because I know my garden overall is very healthy. That doesn’t mean something won’t turn brown on occasion but I can almost guarantee that if we knew all the details, borage might be prone to that under certain conditions.(And more than likely, they are conditions over which you and I have no control.)
    My first 10 years of gardening I worried about everything. Now I observe, continue to improve my garden, do my part, and let nature take of the rest.
    Theresa

  • Theresa,

    Thanks for your reassurance. I am going to cut the plants back and see what happens. They are in a spot where I planted several blooming things for the beneficials. The sunflowers are starting to bloom, and the buckwheat and dill as well. Also expecting the cosmos to kick in any time now…. so cutting back the borage shouldn’t send the beneficials too far afield.
    🙂
    pat

  • The centre new leaves of my borage are yellow. What could be the problem? It has come back in the same area for a few years now and this is the first time this has happened to it.
    Thanks in advance for your help.

  • Hi AMS.
    Since I know nothing about your garden I really don’t know what is wrong.
    With yellow leaves, the first thing that comes to mind is lack of proper nutrients. But heat or cold can also cause it.
    If you are continually improving your soil, all should be ok.
    Theresa

  • Hi, Theresa! I planted borage from seed in a 16″ enamel-glazed ceramic pot and it did beautifully, with 3 large stalks coming up covered with the beautiful blue (and pink) flowers. Lately, (mid-June now), the stalks have begun bending over, so I watered it a bit more, but now I am thinking that wasn’t the correct thing to do, as I’ve learned it’s native to the Mediterranean. I believe there are too many plants in the pot, so I may try transplanting one plant to a sunny, sandy-ish garden bed. Any other suggestions? Thank you! Heather

  • Hi Heather,
    Glad to hear you’re enjoying the borage you planted. It’s such a fun and beautiful plant.
    Be sure to taste the blossoms. (They’re sweet.)
    Borage stalks in my garden naturally bend a bit as the season progresses. (I’m assuming that you do NOT mean wilt.)
    I don’t water so they’re pretty much on their own in my garden and don’t get too much attention other than enjoying them.
    Sorry I’m not much help for your specific problem.
    I’d be interested in knowing how the transplanted one does for you.
    Good luck with it.
    Theresa

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