Common name: Borage
Scientific name: Borago officinalis
Uses: Culinary, decorative, and medicinal.Leaves can be eaten raw or sauteed like spinach. They are used in teas and to flavor wine cups. The candied leaves or stems can be used with cheese, fish, poultry, most vegetables, green salads, iced beverages, pickles, and salad dressing. The flowers are used for garnish or in salads. The plants attract bees and butterflies, and the blue flowers are very attractive. Borage can be grown in containers indoors. It is said to have medicinal qualities.
History: Borage originated in the Middle East and was associated with bravery. The ancient Celtic warriors drank borage-flavored wine to give them courage. Herbalists believed that borage imparted a sense of well-being, and the Roman scholar Pliny considered it to be an antidepressant. The five-pointed brilliant blue flowers were once favorite subjects in needlework.
Description: This self-seeding plant has many leaves on branched, hollow stems covered with stiff white hairs. The drooping flowers are on racemes. The star-shaped blue corollas are 3/4 inch wide with five segments and five stamens with black anthers. The ovate to oblong lanceolate leaves are up to 6 inches long and form a rosette. The upper leaves are wrinkled, rough, and hairy.
Plant type: Annual
Hardiness: Hardiness zones are not applicable to annuals.
Height: 24 to 36 inches or more
Width: 16 to 20 inches or more
Soil: fairly rich, well-drained soil with a pH of 6.6
Pests: Japanese beetles may attack new growth
Cultivation: In areas with cold weather, sow the oblong black seeds in the spring in shallow drills about 12 inches apart. The soil should be reasonably fine, moist, and in partial sun. Sheltering the plants from strong winds will help keep the soft main stems from breaking under the weight of the plant. Borage blooms nearly all season and will self-seed from year to year. Plants do best when allowed to grow in thick clumps for support. These shallow-rooted plants are easy to thin when they become overgrown.
Companion planting: Plant with strawberries to improve yield. Borage attracts bees, so plant where pollination is needed. It also is said to strengthen insect and disease resistance in nearby plants.
Propagation: Seeds sown after last frost.
Flowering period: June to July
Garden notes: Our plants got very top-heavy and spread much more than noted on the seed packet. Borage plants can crush smaller plants nearby or shade late-growing herbs. Plant borage with support in a clump in the back of the garden away from others plants. It will reseed itself from year to year.