Forgotten Plants: once prolific in the kitchen gardens of our ancestors but now so rare that the average person might never even have heard of them. Many of these deserve to find space in our gardens again! This is the second post in our Forgotten Plants series. (First up was lovage.)
Borage, like so many of my favorite herbs, is native to the Mediterranean region. Historically grown for both food and medicine, it has been recorded that Ancient Greek soldiers would drink a mix of Borage tea and wine to fortify themselves before battle.
What It’s Like and How to Grow It
Borage is a sturdy plant with thick, hairy, prickly, leaves and pretty star-shaped purple flowers. It grows about 2 to 3 feet tall and does well in both sun and part-shade in zones 2 – 12. I found it incredibly easy to grow from seed, and once planted, you will never have to buy seeds again because Borage is a generously self-seeding annual. Seeds can be directly sown into the garden in the spring.
The Benefits of Borage
There are many reasons why Borage deserves a spot in our gardens.
To begin, Borage attracts bees, and the more bees around to pollinate, the better. If you happen to keep bees I have also read that Borage creates a beautifully tasting honey! Borage also makes a wonderful companion plant for tomatoes by repelling the tomato hornworm.
Borage leaves and flowers have a mild cucumber flavor, and both are delicious in salads. Young leaves are best for eating raw, whereas older leaves can be cooked and served as you would any green leafy vegetable. I have also been known to add a few leaves into my green smoothies!
Years ago women would also candy the borage flowers or make borage syrup. Even without candying, the flowers look pretty decorating a cake or dessert, or frozen into ice cubes for a pretty summer drink. Some cooks have become very creative with borage by incorporating it into soups, sauces, pestos and pasta filling.
Although sources differ on the medicinal uses of borage, all agree it is high in nutrients (calcium, potassium, and iron to name just a few), as well as a good source of the essential fatty acid GLA. Fever reduction, relief from skin complaints, and help with breast-milk and reproductive health, are some of the other uses mentioned for this hardy plant.
So perhaps now you will understand why I am always happy to see this plant popping up all over my garden! And if your summer has been as hot as ours has been, you might enjoy a recipe for a cold, Borage-infused, lemonade.
- 3 or 4 young Borage leaves
- juice of 1 lemon (about 1/4 cup)
- 2 cups cold water
- raw honey, to taste
- 4 Borage flowers, to garnish
Serves 4. Put the leaves, juice, water and honey in a blender and blend until smooth. Strain into glasses and garnish with Borage flowers. Enjoy!
For more creative culinary ideas check out the original recipe, and other interesting Borage recipes, here.
Do you grow Borage in your garden? What are your favorite ways to use this wonderful plant?
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