Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Plant profile: Borago officinalis

The lovely blue flowers
How many truly blue-colored things in nature are edible? Not many, that's for sure - but Borage flowers are one of them. Their sweet honey-like taste is a traditional garnish for the Pimm's Cup cocktail, and candied or raw flowers are used to decorate desserts.  The plants' leaves have a subtle cucumber taste which is used in salads too.

This annual plant seeds itself freely and since Kepa gave us the original plant we have them popping up all over the garden. You'll need to bend down to see the amazing color of the flowers though, as they point downwards.

Latin name: Borago officinalis ("bor-AH-go o-fish-ee-NAL-iss")
Common name: Borage (rhymes with "porridge"), Starflower
Originally from: Syria, but naturalized throughout the Mediterranean region, as well as Asia Minor, Europe, North Africa, and South America
Blooms: Beautiful blue flowers fade to pink.
Light: Full sun, part shade
Water: Rain is plenty. No summer water!
Where to find in P. Garden: A clump here and there along the steps and in the left bed. They tend to self-seed everywhere!

The whole plant
Traditionally Borage was cultivated for culinary and medicinal uses, although today commercial cultivation is mainly as an oilseed. The oil is the highest known plant-based source of gamma-linolenic acid.

Borage is also used as a companion plant for tomatoes, squash, strawberries and it deters tomato hornworms and cabbage worms. It's one of the best bee and wasp attracting plants, and even adds trace minerals to the soil and is a good addition the compost pile.

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