Culinary The flowers are added to drinks or cooked in batter as fritters. Candied flowers are used for decorations for pastries and desserts. Young leaves taste like salty cucumbers and can be added to salads. The leaf hairs will not be noticeable in the salad if the leaves are chopped finely. The older leaves can be used like spinach. In Spain, the leaf blades are not consumed, but the basal leaf petioles of young plants are cooked liked spinach and sometimes canned. The stems can be peeled and chopped and use like celery. The roots are used to flavor wine.
Medicinal An infusion of the seeds was a folk remedy for coughs, colds, depression, and increasing the milk supply of nursing mothers, and as a tonic and eyewash. Poultices made from the leaves were used for soothing external inflammations and swellings. The seed oil rather than the herb preparations have proven medical value in modern medicine. The seeds are a source of gamma-linolenic acid, an essential fatty acid thought to reduce the risk of arteriosclerosis and useful in treating atopic eczema, premenstrual syndrome, diabetes, alcoholism, and inflammation, and maybe preventing strokes and heart disease.
Ornamental Borage has brilliant blue star-shape flowers drooping from lanky stems covered with stiff white hairs. It probably looks best planted among plants of equal size to hide the foliage. The foliage is too rough and sprawling for a formal setting, but can blend in nicely with plants in a perennial border or wildflower garden. Borage can be planted in the vegetable garden to attract bees and is said to be a good companion plant to strawberries, squash and tomatoes.
Culture Borage will grow well in just about any garden soil. Borage seeds should not be planted too deeply because they need light to germinate. The soil needs to be moist when the plants are young, but once established they are drought tolerant. Borage should be seeded in place because it is difficult to transplant. Any transplanting should be
done when plants are small to avoid damaging the roots. The plants will self-seed prolifically and produce seedlings, which overwinter and may need thinning. Borage plants have a shallow root system and can easily be pulled out if necessary.
Harvest Borage should be harvested just before using because it wilts quickly. Borage leaves lose their flavor fairly fast when dried. Dried leaves can be made into a tea, but it makes an inferior brew compared to that made with fresh leaves. It may be more fun to save the dried leaves and throw them in campfires. Dried borage leaves contain about 3% KN03 which causes popping and sparks when the leaves are burned.
Caution Crude herbal preparations of borage are generally considered safe when consumed as food. Borage may have a diuretic effect if consumed in high quantities. The leaves have a high calcium content and should be avoided by individuals susceptible to developing kidney stones. Borage oil contains 1-2% erucic acid, which is an essential fatty acid, but harmful in large doses.
Other Common Names Bee bread (beebread), bee plant, borrage, bourage, bugloss, burage, burrage, burridge, cool-tankard, langdebeef, ox-tongue, tailwort, talewort
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