How to Grow Borage (Borago officinalis) Starflower Seeds
Borage (borago officinalis), also commonly known as starflower, grows as a weed in many countries including the US, the UK, Europe, Asia, North Africa and south America, so if it looks familiar to you, the chances are you have seen this plant growing wild someplace.
It typically has vivid blue star-shaped flowers that droop downwards and hairy leaves and stems. It's actually a very pretty flower, but like most wild flowers or weeds, we may well have overlooked it, or pulled it out of our gardens recognising it as not a flower we were trying to grow.
Now that you can put a name to it, you may be interested in what it can do for you, because like a lot of wild flowers, Borage has been used as a herbal remedy for centuries past. It is also a gardener's friend as it makes a great companion plant and attracts honey bees.
How to Grow Borago Officinalis
You will often find seed packets of borago offinialis in the gardening shops because it makes such a great companion plant, especially for strawberries, tomatoes, legumes, spinach and brassicas.
Borago officinalis is an annual so it will grow for one season only. However, it self-seeds readily and if your garden offers ideal growing conditions for it, it will return next year on its own.
The seed heads are easy to collect at the end of the growing season, so if you want to ensure you have more for next year, simply collect a few seed heads when they start to dry out and turn brown on the plant. Remove the seeds, ensure they are completely dry, then seal in a paper or plastic bag at the foot of the fridge for planting in the spring.
In Spring, you can either start your Borage seeds off in trays in the greenhouse or window-sill for transplanting when they are big enough, or plant the seeds directly where you want them to grow. Just scatter them on the ground and rake them in, water them, and wait.
Borago Officinalis attracts honey bees.
I think we are all aware there is a world-wide shortage of honey bees due to overuse of pesticides (probably), and that honey bees are needed by gardeners because of their wonderful ability to cross-pollinate flowers thereby ensuring fruiting trees and bushes actually produce fruit.
Without the honey bee, all those flowers on strawberries, tomatoes,apples trees etc would have to be pollinated by hand, so they really are invaluable and a true friend to the gardener or commercial grower.
Did you know that every for every acre of commercial borago officinalis crops, beekeepers can keep two complete hives of bees going, with the resulting increase in honey production?
Honey bees love Borage. Planting (or allowing borage to grow - let's not forget it's a weed!) borage positively encourages honey bees into your garden.
Books about your health and GLA
All parts of the borage plant is edible, though I'd be a bit wary of eating the leaves because they contain trace amounts of intermedine, lycopsamine, amabiline and supinine which are liver toxic.
However the flowers and stems are perfectly edible and is in fact the plant with the highest source of gamma- linolenic acid (GLA) which is an essential fatty acid - omega-6 fatty acid and the main ingredient of oil of evening primrose. In fact, borage oil contains 2 and a half times more GLA than evening primrose oil.
Other good sources of GLA include
- blackcurrant seed oil
- hemp seed oil
- hemp seeds
GLA is great for repairing and rejuvenating cells and cell damage. It also helps heal skin infections and irritations and is widely reported to have anti-aging properties. It is also superb for moisturising dry skin.
Culinary Uses for Borage
Borage tastes a little like cucumber, and so can be added to salads.
The blue flowers are edible and can be added to salads or sweets for color.
When the flowers turn pink they are still edible, they are just older and been synthesised in the sun.
All plants are best eaten young, however.
The flowers taste sweet, not unlike honey.
In Europe, specifically Spain, Greece, Italy, Poland and Germany, Borage is used extensively in the making of soups, sauces, pickles and as pasta fillings.
By far the greatest culinary use for Borage is in the making of Borage Oilseed which is prepared and sold throughout the world.
Borage oilseed is used in cooking and can be bought in health food shops as a dietary supplement.
Medicinal uses for Borage
Borage through the ages has had many medicinal uses. Apart from rejuvenating cells as mentioned above, Borage is used to treat:
- menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes
- treat colds
- respiratory system infections
- reduce inflammation
- anti aging
- cure psoriasis
- cure constipation
So there we are. Now you know that Borage is not just a weed, it is an extremely useful and health-giving plant that is easy to grow, looks beautiful, and can feed you too. What more could you want in a plant?