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.  

 

In appreciation of spring – poets and portals

The beginning of T.S. Eliot’s poem, “The Waste Land,” opens with “April is the cruellest month…”

Truly, I couldn’t agree more with this assessment.

Here in Ontario, we’ve sampled just about the worst role of every season during this one month alone. April’s weather forecasts were not on their best behaviour, offering only a few days taste of the tantalizing weather yet to come.

In my neck of the woods, the temps dropped overnight and it actually snowed. Thankfully a light dusting was all we received and most has now dissipated.

In any case, most poems about spring are uplifting,  giving us hope for rejuvenation and renewal in our own lives and our gardens. These written words are like doors opening to better times ahead… an optimistic tête-à-tête, or a literary sightseeing adventure, taking us from death towards the newness and rebirth of spring.

These portals are waiting to be cracked opened by the reader. It seems that doors and books have much in common! One may encounter something entirely more pleasant on the other side if the door handle is turned or the cover flipped.

With that in mind, I stumbled upon (a snippet of) a poem like that only this morning while perusing Pinterest.

Intrigued, I tracked down the rest, enjoying the lovely imagery offered, that in my mind sum up the best parts of spring!


“April Weather” by Lizette Woodworth Reese 

From – A Handful of Lavender (1891)

Oh, hush, my heart, and take thine ease,

For here is April weather!

The daffodils beneath the trees

Are all a-row together.

 

The thrush is back with his old note;

The scarlet tulip is blowing;

And white – ay, white as my love’s throat –

The dogwood boughs are growing.

 

The lilac bush is sweet again;

Down every wind that passes,

Fly flakes from hedgerow and from lane;

The bees are in the grasses.

 

A Grief goes out, and Joy comes in,

And Care us but a feather;

And every lad his love can win,

For here is April weather.


Links with further reading and information about the author: