Forage for Borage – A historic and useful herb for any garden

Borage flowers – A true blue addition to any garden!

This herb with its star-shaped flowers is not only beautiful, but extremely useful!

I’ve always felt this plant was underrated in our gardens, unlike in the past where its qualities were highly valued.

Admiring them as one would any species with a historical pedigree, this heirloom has been cultivated since (at least) the 1400s, and the folklore they encompass states just how much borage was valued.

It was said to bring courage to one’s heart. “Borage for courage” as the saying goes. Ancient Celtic people believed borage offered courage in the face of enemies on the battle field. How extraordinary!

In our modern times the quote should be renamed “Forage for Borage” 😉  As a courageous companion plant, it’s known to repel hornworms on tomatoes, offering this plant a serious if not fashionable comeback.

Borage may be considered an annual herb where I live, but it self seeds easily and appreciates any extra warmth offered by the raised beds in our yard. They’ve settled in quite happily!

The dainty flowers are edible, offering a slight cucumber-like flavour. Use them in soups, salads, sandwiches, or as a substitute for spinach (stuffed into traditional pasta), or as a pretty garnish on the plate. A friend of mine uses them to flavour her pickles, while another makes teas and assorted iced drinks with them. In addition there’s a recipe for a simple syrup at the end of this post.

Thankfully Borage is not a fussy plant and grows well in most soils. I’m happy to report that deer avoid Borage like the plague, likely due to its fuzzy leaves. A real plus in many a gardener’s mind!

If you like to save and share, Borage seeds are easily harvested, or leave them to self sow.

Every year you can look forward to them gracing the garden once again.

Those showy little blue star-shaped flowers attract bees, butterflies, and all sorts of good pollinators. They’re a wonderful addition to anyone’s garden!

Note:

  1. When planting Borage seeds, the best time to do this is in spring, after any remaining chance of frost. Soak the seeds first in wet paper towel overnight, and then sow them directly into the garden, but not too deep, as half an inch will suffice.
  2. Borage will grow to a height of 2- 3 feet.
  3. The oil from Borage seeds is highly valued and plants are now commercially cultivated for skin care products and other items. It’s one of my favourite go-to ingredients for use in my own products.
  4. If you see some of your flowers are pink, then there is likely a deficiency in your soil. Below is a photo from a couple of years ago. I’ve since discovered this is a common site if Borage is growing in dry, gravelly soil. To fix this, simply add some triple-mix or compost. The pink is actually quite pretty, and Borage may even offer white flowers from time to time.

Recipe: Borage Simple Syrup

This simple syrup offers up a light cucumber flavour.

1 cup water
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup borage flowers

– Bring the sugar and water to simmer, until all the sugar has dissolved.
– Add the flowers, simmer for 2 -3 minutes and remove from heat
– Let this steep for at least 2 hours before straining.
– Keep this in the refrigerator and use within one month.
– Makes about 1 & 1/4 cups

It’s the perfect addition to a summer cocktail.. Enjoy!

Happy Gardening! 🙂

 

Sweet Violets for #FloweringFriday

The sweet violet, aka: Viola odorata, is a non-native perennial from Europe. It’s a creeping evergreen with lovely heart-shaped leaves.

This dainty plant spreads via rhizomatic roots, and is one of the earliest blooms  to decorate our lawns and the edge of forests in early spring.

To use, crush viola leaves to make yourself a cup of tea!

Or, make a simple tincture by covering fresh viola flowers with at least 80 proof vodka. Macerate for a couple weeks.

I’ve read recipes where you can also add 2 ounces of grain alcohol in a mason jar to every one ounce of fresh violets.

Enjoy!

For more information on Violets visit: A Modern Herbal, by Mrs. M. Grieve.  

 

Wild leeks, aka ramps – Foraging for local food is always in season

Wild Leeks, (Allium tricoccum) also known locally as ramps, grow wild and fairly abundantly here in our Eastern Ontario woods. It’s a spring delicacy to look forward to each spring, easily harvested before the blackflies arrive, and prized for their culinary value because they’re versatile to cook with, and so very tasty!

Foraging food from the woods is a joy everyone should experience and leeks never disappoint! There are dozens of ways to cook and eat them.  From omelettes to pesto, soups, sandwiches, salads, or even pickled, and that’s just for a start, foodies are coming up with new ways to enjoy leeks all the time.

With that in mind, and after perusing through some food photos on Pinterest, I was intrigued by Hassleback potatoes enough to make them. Thought they’d be the perfect candidate for my leeks harvest, too.

I washed the harvest, chopped them up, squeezed some lemon juice on them and voila.. (see photo!). I stuffed the potatoes, which look like edible accordions, along with the baked chicken thighs, which were also stuffed with mushrooms, goat cheese and the rest of the ramps. Delicious!

If you don’t have access to leeks where you are, I am offering several tasty culinary goodies from my harvest at the store. We’ll have our own hand made, locally sourced and locally created herbal Vinegars and condiments available again this spring, while supplies last,  which offer a taste of these delightful plants.

With regards to the leek pesto I created, silly me forgot to take a photo. In any case, here’s an easy recipe (below) that anyone can do.  It is lovely drizzled all over fresh pasta or spread on some crusty baked bread. Nice as a dip or on salad, too!

The directions are similar to a basil pesto, but with a substitution of leeks. One could experiment and add both!

Ingredients:

  • Dozen leek leaves
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 3/4 cup of parmesan cheese grated
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • 1/4 cup of pine nuts (roasted)
  • (optional) 1/2 cup of fresh parsley

Combine in blender and mix to a smooth paste. Enjoy!

Happy foraging, but please note: Don’t take more than necessary from the wild. Take a few, but leave most behind. – Thank you!