The Starflower Herb
The starflower herb, also called borage, is a wonderful addition to a roomy garden.
An annual, self-seeding herb, borage is both edible and eminently attractive— not only to humans, but to pollinators as well.
Because it attracts bees and beneficial wasps, it's an excellent companion for fruiting plants like strawberries. Butterflies and moths are also drawn to borage's star-shaped blooms, and some butterflies use it as a host plant. I've seen hummingbirds on the borage plants in our garden too. Japanese beetles like to munch on it as well.
Gardeners should allow borage plenty of room. It can be resown from its own seed about every four weeks. It's also a dependable self-seeder; planted once, it's likely to come back year after year.
Good for the garden
Borage improves the gardens in which it grows, and not only by attracting pollinators and providing them with food and, sometimes, shelter.
Once its flower stalks develop, borage is a tall plant, anywhere from one to five feet, so it provides shade for lettuces and other shade-loving vegetables as well as herbs like basil.
Borage can also be used like green manure. Simply chop it into the ground to feed the soil at the end of the growing season.
Good for you
The feel-good herb
Borage is good for gardeners too. Its young leaves and flowers add a lovely cucumber-like flavor to dishes and drinks.
According to herb lore, borage flowers, stems and leaves also have a salutary effect comparable to that of the mood-elevator St. John's wort. WebMD credits borage with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties as well.
I have read contradictory accounts of borage's suitability for pregnant women. While some articles claim expectant mothers should avoid borage, others tout it as an effective herb for increasing lactation.
To be on the safe side, of course, pregnant women should consult their doctor before taking any medicine, including herbal remedies.
How do you say "borage"?
I watched several videos on YouTube during which the hosts pronounced borage bor-'ahj. But it's more comfortably pronounced ˈbȯr-ij, with the accent on the first syllable.
To listen to "borage" being spoken, go to Cambridge Dictionaries Online.
Don't like the sound of the word borage? Borage's scientific name is Borago officinalis.
You can also call it by one of its many common names, which include starflower, fleur de bourrache, ox's tongue, common bugloss and cool tankard.
Borage flowers are star-shaped with five flat petals (a great landing pad for pollinators) and protruding black anthers, which carry pollen.
When the flowers first open, they are pink, then they darken to blue or purple.
Like its leaves, borage flowers are edible. They may be added to drinks, soups and salads. Candied, they make an extremely pretty garnish for cakes, petit fours, cupcakes and homemade candies.
The benefits of borage
As a Companion
For Attracting Pollinators
As a Medicinal Herb*
In the Kitchen
Attracts pollinators squash & other fruiting plants like strawberries need to produce fruit.
Borage oil is good for skin conditions like eczema.
Use as garnish in iced tea and other drinks.
Attracts predatory wasps that prey on insects that damage tomatoes and other fruits.
Has anti-inflammatory properties.
Ingredient in salads & soups
May increase breast milk production.
Flowers may be candied.
Great for composting, compost holes or to "chop and drop" to amend the soil.
Add flowers to ice cubes and punch-bowl floats.
The taste of borage
Once you start using borage, you'll find yourself adding it to all sorts of dishes.
Borage has a cucumber-y taste. Its older leaves and stalk are prickly, stringy and slimy, sort of like okra. However, its tender young leaves and flowers are healthy additions to drinks, soups, salads and cheese spreads.
As noted above, the flowers may also be candied.
Although most compare borage's flavor to cucumber, I have also heard it likened to watermelon.
Those who have lots of borage in their gardens might be interested in these 15 recipes that feature borage on the Bouquet Garni website.
Additional borage recipes and links to recipes are below.
Cucumber & borage flower gin & tonic
Maja, the food blogger at Veggies and Gin, adds lime, cucumber slices and borage flowers to her Hendrick's gin and tonic.
Borage-lovers gin & tonic
A blogger for Food Republic, William Bostwick, also recommends Hendrick's, but his recipe for Borage G & T calls for lemon— and lots and lots of borage: borage flowers, chopped borage leaves, even borage stalks for a super cucumber-y flavor.
Borage in salad
This old French salad recipe calls for lettuce and lots of herbs from the garden in addition to young borage leaves, including mint, lemon balm and marjoram.
Borage cheese spread
Homestead and Gardens showcases several borage recipes, including borage cracker spread made with green onions, shallots, cream cheese, milk and, of course, borage. It's delicious for tea sandwiches with sliced cucumber.
A borage soup recipe from the Speed River Journal contains parsley, potatoes, green onions and two pounds of borage, and it's very, very green!
Food.com's borage soup recipe can be served hot or cold, and calls for chicken stock, rice and heavy whipping cream.
I wonder what a compromise between the two, a sort of Vichyssoise with borage, would taste like?
More Articles about Borage
- Borage - UC Master Gardener Program of Sonoma County
A CA gardener sings borage's praises.
- Herbs that Attract Butterflies | Pantry Garden Herbs
Attract more butterflies to your garden by planting aromatic herbs! Many herbs are either a host plant or nectar plant for them. See a list of favorite
- Borage: companion plant for tomatoes, strawberries, squash - latimes
Companion planting is based on the idea that, like people, some plants do better with good neighbors. For tomatoes, strawberries and squash, one of the most popular of companion plants is borage
- An In-Depth Companion Planting Guide - Organic Gardening - MOTHER EARTH NEWS
For a healthy, thriving garden, consult this companion planting guide when deciding what seeds to put where.
- BORAGE: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions and Warnings - WebMD
Find patient medical information for BORAGE on WebMD including its uses, effectiveness, side effects and safety, interactions, user ratings and products that have it.
- Borage Penn State Extension
© 2016 Jill Spencer
More by this Author
Dolichos lablab or Lablab purpureus, commonly called hyacinth bean, is a fast-growing tropical vine with large leaves, purple flowers & seed pods that are safe to eat in small amounts when immature.
From fighting off pesky nematodes to decorating wedding ceremonies, French marigolds have many unique uses. No wonder these fascinating plants are loved the world over.
These low-maintenance groundcovers grow thickly and spread quickly to choke out weeds.