Forgotten herbs: Borage

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Borage flowers on porridge oatmeal breakfastClose enough pronunciation: “Bore-uhge”

Other than my gardening hat, there is another obsession in my farm lifeblue flowers.

Borage will give you a blue-flower fix all summer long. It is a tall, impressive plant that is easy to grow. And, when it sets too many baby seedlings, it is easy to weed.

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Borage was definitely an herb your ancestors knew well. It didn’t take me long to find a two-page description of different types of borage in a book published in 1636. Besides Latin, the author, John Gerard, gave the translation of the word borage in four other languages.

Borage is versatile. You can use the crunchy leaves to make salad, soup and decorative garnishes. Throw a few of the unique blue flowers on top of any saladpasta salad, fruit salad, veggie salad, borage-leaf salad. Borage bits are often recommended as an addition to cucumber salads. The leaves and flowers have a light cucumber flavor.

Few breakfasts are as precious as borage on porridge.

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I don’t want to mislead you. Not every flower will be blue. Some borage flowers are purple and pink. The same plant will usually give you 80% blue flowers and 20% a mix of pink and purple.

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The plant barely needs you. Any time between March and August, put the seeds in the ground. Water them if it doesn’t rain. Your borage should flourish.

If you start early enough in the season, the flowers will bloom and drop, reseeding themselves all summer without your help. In fact, your borage will likely continue to replant itself, and next Spring you’ll have more bright, green borage babies. Too many? They slip right out of the soil if you pull them. Or you can use a garden tool to destroy their sprout-like root system in seconds.

Since borage reseeds so effortlessly, it helps to start your very first planting in a spot where future generations can spread a bit and not annoy you.

I let the borage line one whole side of a cedar raised bed. They are tall plants—reaching a height of approximately 4′. It is best to locate borage near the north side of your garden. You don’t want the tall, leafy mature borage to block sunlight from shorter plants. The next Spring, I just drop a wooden plant marker next to the seedlings wherever they decide to pop-up.

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2 thoughts on “Forgotten herbs: Borage

  1. I saw a gorgeous White-flowered borage in Vita Sackville West’s Sissinghurst garden. I use the borage as an indicator plant. Here in Indiana, when the self-seeded borage germinates, it’s generally safe to plant tomatoes, peppers, and other cold-sensitive plants.

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