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Borage (Borago officinalis) is a beautiful, large and bushy annual herb that has lovely small blue flowers with a cucumber-like scent. It is a hardy annual ornamental herb. As well as its use as a culinary herb and decorative plant, it has the added advantage of being excellent compost fodder.
Borage attracts bees to the garden when flowering. It grows well as a companion plant near strawberries, which may help to increase the strawberry yield.
Borage is hardy, easy to grow and will seed freely. Thus, once established, it may be easily retained in a garden.
Borage has large furred leaves. The flowers are purple and star-like in formation. They are attractive to pollinating insects, and especially bees.
The leaves have a flavour that resembles cucumber.
Plant in a rich, moist soil that is well drained and has a pH around 6.6. Choose a sunny place in the garden.
If using seeds, sow when there is no further risk of frost. Cover lightly and keep moist during the germination period. This will last around one to two weeks. If transplanting, do when the seedlings are very small as it doesn't like being transplanted.
Ensure plenty of space between borage plants as it grows wide and bushy.
Once borage is growing in the garden, it will self-seed prolifically, meaning that you may not need to replant it once established. Seeds can be planted in autumn for a spring germination.
Caring for borage
Mulch well to keep down the weed growth and removed weeds competing with it. Water well when young but only enough to keep the soil moist, not water logged. The mulch will help keep the soil nicely moist.
You can pinch of a few stem tips as borage grows, to encourage branching and a more compact growth.
There are few diseases that cause difficulties for borage.
Harvest after around 50 days. Flowers and very young leaves can be picked as needed. Avoid the older leaves as they are hair-covered, which toughens them and makes them unpleasant.
Uses of borage
Borage flowers (purple or blue in colour) can be used in salads to add colour (ensure they are clean before adding). They're also good for cold soups. They are also commonly sugared, candied or crystallised and used as a food decoration, such as for adding to a cake topping.
Add borage leaves and flowers to cool drinks in the summertime. They have a slight cucumber scent, which makes their addition to drinks refreshing. The pretty flowers can be added to a punch bowl for a fruit punch.
In the commercial sphere, borage is used to flavour Pimms No. 1.
The flowers and leaves need to be used fresh; the flavour does not last if the plant pieces are frozen.
If the flowers are dried using silica, they can be used for craft projects and for home decoration such as in potpourri (but do not eat any food cured with silica, as silica is poisonous if ingested).
Sources and Citations
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