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

This young borage plant is about to send up a flower stalk. Stalks can be anywhere from a foot to five feet tall.
This young borage plant is about to send up a flower stalk. Stalks can be anywhere from a foot to five feet tall. | Source

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

Borage buds
Borage buds | Source

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.

Borage flowers

Borage flowers open pink then darken to blue.
Borage flowers open pink then darken to blue. | Source

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.

Borago ‘Bianca' is a variety that produces white flowers. Because it's shorter, sturdier and more compact than Borage officinalis, 'Bianca' is a good choice for planting in a container.

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.

See the pink bud behind the blue star flower?
See the pink bud behind the blue star flower? | Source

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.
predatory wasps
Has anti-inflammatory properties.
Ingredient in salads & soups
Provides shade
May increase breast milk production.
Flowers may be candied.
Great for composting, compost holes or to "chop and drop" to amend the soil.
Mood elevator
Add flowers to ice cubes and punch-bowl floats.
*See "Borage," WebMD.
Bees love borage.
Bees love borage. | Source

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.

Borage soup

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!'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?

Firefly on borage.
Firefly on borage. | Source

© 2016 Jill Spencer

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Comments 13 comments

The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 8 months ago from United States Author

Always nice to hear from you, Deb. Yes, borage is touted as a great companion plant for toms. From what you have written off and on since we've been hubbing together, it seems like your dad was a wonderful gardener with lots of diverse experience. All the best, Jill

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aviannovice 8 months ago from Stillwater, OK

My father had borage planted next to the tomato plants. Not only was the borage huge, so were the tomatoes!

pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 8 months ago from sunny Florida

Thanks Jill...we cling to the belief that answers will be found and that he will be on the road to recovery soon. We find out some important news today...which I will post in the latest hub as soon as I know. I do so appreciate your kind words. Angels are once again headed your way. ps

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The Dirt Farmer 8 months ago from United States Author

Hi Patricia, I'm so glad you're still on HP despite the turmoil your family is going through. All the best to you, your family and especially Heston Wayne. Thanks for stopping by, Jill

pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 8 months ago from sunny Florida

This is a plant that I do not have nor did I know about it. So now of course I will be in search of one or at least order seeds to get started.

Not only is it good environmentally but it is lovely....thank you for sharing.

Angels are on the way this morning ps

The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 8 months ago from United States Author

"Porridge"-- yes, BlossomSB! A great way to explain it. I can't imagine eating borage as if it were lettuce or spinach. Like you, for me a little is fine, but it's so viscous! Do you recall how it was prepared? --Jill

BlossomSB profile image

BlossomSB 8 months ago from Victoria, Australia

Over sixty years ago my father-in-law introduced me to borage (rhymes with porridge in these parts). He used it as a green vegetable, but I found that it made a great talking point when topping something on a dry biscuit at a social gathering, and it looked so pretty, too.

The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 8 months ago from United States Author

Lee, it must be the heat there. Ours keeps going until frost. I like the flowers too. The leaves, unless they are very young and diced, are too slimy for me,, but for health benefits I put it in salad. Even the flowers have a rather viscous quality, but gin sort of obviates that. lol

chefsref profile image

chefsref 8 months ago from Citra Florida

Hey Jill

I love borage altho' more for its spectacular flowers than any culinary use. I grow some every year but the life span is very short, soon after flowering it kicks the bucket. Is this the same for you or is it too damned hot in my garden?

You may yet get me to spend a little time in the kitchen with borage

The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 8 months ago from United States Author

Hi MsDora! Good morning. Where you live, borage would grow year round. It really is a marvelous plant that's not much appreciated these days. Thanks so much for dropping by! Jill

MsDora profile image

MsDora 8 months ago from The Caribbean

Never heard of borage, but it gets my vote since it improves our lives on the inside as well as the outside. Thanks for this informative lesson on this wonderful plant.

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The Dirt Farmer 8 months ago from United States Author

Hi RJ, grinding up the stems is a wonderful idea. Thank you! And thanks for stopping by. --Jill

RJ Schwartz profile image

RJ Schwartz 8 months ago from Idaho Falls, Idaho

Love Borage - me and the missus have been growing and using borage for years. We also take the thicker parts of the plants at the end of the season and dry them along with our other herbs and lightly grind them up in a plentiful mixture and my wife makes herbal pillows out of them.

We have ours growing in a bed with skullcap - they do well together.

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    Jill Spencer (The Dirt Farmer)711 Followers
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    Jill volunteers at community gardens & learns about gardening through the MD Native Plant Society & MD Master Gardening Program.

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