Common name - Star Flower
In a nutshell:
Easy to Grow Annual (Self Sowing Year after Year)
Pollinator magnet - Invites Good Bugs
Attractive Blue Star Flower
Culinary Attributes - All Parts are Edible, except roots
Enhances drinks ex. Teas, Wines, Lemonades
Amends Soil Over Time
Great Garden Companion Plant
Repels Bad Bugs
Enhances Flavor of some Vegetables
Extensive Medicinal Value
From the Boraginaceae family, it is an Old Fashioned annual herb that generously reseeds itself.
In appearance, Borage grows in an upright but bushy form and can get 2-3’ high and wide. It has stocky tuberous and hairy stems with extremely pubescent (hairy) pale green leaves. The new young leaves and flowers are edible and the taste resembles a mild cucumber. It’s most known for its clustered delicate yet bold perfect blue star flowers. (The less common varieties have white or pale blue flowers.)
Depending on your climate and growing zone, when pinched, it gets bushier and forms new flowers continuously. Here in Pennsylvania, it blooms from June to frost. (Late October)
This plant is easy to grow. It thrives in rich well drained soil. In full to half day sun with sufficient moisture you can enjoy it year after year. It does not need fertilized as the plant itself decomposes each year adding nitrogen and organic matter back into the soil.
Note that Borage does not transplant well because it has a long taproot. If starting from seed it is best to plant seeds where you want the plant to exist.
Seeds can be shared and stored for up to 3 years. Sow directly in the ground 3-4 weeks before the last frost anticipated.
Borage is Edible, Culinary, Medicinal, Ornamental, and so much more in so many ways.
It is a Pollinator Magnet.
Your vegetable garden will benefit greatly if you reserve a place in the corner for this staple.
It makes a protective and encouraging companion for your tomatoes, spinach, legumes, squash, cabbage, and strawberries. It naturally repels the tomato worms, the cabbage worms, and squash beetles. With companion planting you also get the beneficial insects such as wasps and bees. The pollinators will be ever present thus greatly improving your yield. Many believe it actually enhances the flavor of your tomatoes and local honey.
A Bit of History
It derived from the Mediterranean aging back to the early 1800’s. Back then it was always found in the tankards of wine and cider.
Ancients believed it to be a source of courage and bravery. Folklore said maidens would serve it to men in the form of tea to make them brave enough to propose marriage.
There is much to be said back then of the uses and derivatives of the name. My summation of their talk of Borage ‘making men and women glad and merry’ and ‘drives away sadness’ and ‘comforteth the heart, purgeth melancholy’ is that it was the wine, not so much the borage in the wine. But I was not there to testify.
The leaves are a great source of Potassium, Calcium, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Iron, Magnesium, and B-6.
Our great grandmothers would preserve the ½” to 1” royal blue flowers in sugar as a confection.
Elders used the foliage and flowers for it’s cool cucumber flavor infused with lemon and sugar in wine and water for a cool summer drink.
The young leaves and flowers of Borage are still used today in tall cool beverages, salads, cakes, and candy as a garnish. Frozen in ice cubes, tapped onto sandwiches, or floating in a table centerpiece, the uses are endless.
These practices are still considered to be a gracious treat for your guests.
PREGNANT WOMEN OR NURSING MOTHERS SHOULD NOT EAT BORAGE AS IT IS NOT GOOD FOR THE BABIES.
Honey bees frequent this plant and others, transferring pollen. Some flowering plants, such as the Rhododendron occidentale, commonly known as azalea or rhododendron, can be poison to unborn fetuses and babies.
As a precaution, any plant frequented by honeybees is off limits to pregnant mothers, nursing mothers, and infants under 1 year of age.
Thus, honey is off limits too.
Today Borago officinalis is commercially cultivated for the seed oil, the highest known plant source of an anti-inflammatory fatty acid called Gamma-Linolenic Acid, or Omega 6 fatty acid. (Also known as GLA)
This oil is effective in alleviating pain and swelling in the treatment of arthritis, premenstrual syndrome, attention deficit disorder, alcoholism and general inflammation.
Traditionally, it has been used to treat colic, diarrhea, cramps, gastrointestinal, asthma, bronchitis,
kidney and bladder disorders, and cardiovascular disorders, and a multitude of other ailments. It is also known as a stress reliever.
Other uses for Borage seed oil is to remedy skin disorders and other diseases such as eczema, sebhorreic dermatitis, and neurodermatitis, according to WebMD.
Borage has more value than any herb you can grow. Over the years it has somewhat faded in popularity. My guess is because the market is constantly advertising new cultivated varieties and is more concentrated on pushing sales. New gardeners don’t always know about this old trusty herb…..so I am here to tell you.
As a devoted gardener, I can attest that if you do not already grow Borage….you will want to once you read this. The addege of ‘out with the old’ does not apply here. This plant has simply sustained its place in the garden and home for hundreds of years, without improvements, without genetic manipulation, and without paid advertisements.
What other plant can you name with this reputation?