Borage (Borago officinalis)

Borage, just about to bloom.

Borage is an ugly sounding name for a beautiful and useful plant. The moniker is probably a corruption of the Andalusian Arabic abu buraq or “father of sweat”, a reference to it’s diaphoretic qualities1. Both the leaves and the blue flowers (sometimes white flowers) are edible and have a refreshing cucumber like taste. Borage is an annual herb that we plant in the late fall here in Los Angeles for an early spring bloom, but in most other parts of North America you’ll plant it in the spring after the last frost. Ours survived a winter outbreak of aphids, but is now thriving.

We toss the flowers and leaves into salads as a flavoring. In fact we enjoyed a memorable borage spiked salad on a recent Greyhound bus trip to Las Vegas we took for a book appearance. Thankfully for our fellow passengers, we did not break out into a borage induced sweat.

For more on the medicinal qualities of borage, including “dispelling melancholy” (useful for bus layovers in Barstow, incidentally) see the borage entry in the Plants for a Future database.

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  1. Hi There,
    When you use the leaves in a salad, how are you serving it? I find the leaves a bit much raw (prickly), but have started using it in stir frys and omelets. Borage is quite the hardy plant, I started growing it last year as a companion plant, and it has reseeded it’s self all over my yard! I’m now collecting the seeds for seed grenades 😀

  2. the baby leaves are also less hairy.

    freeze the flowers in ice cubes then serve with lemonade. It doesn’t affect the taste much, but it will brighten the mood (especially to the unsuspecting)

  3. Kory is does do a LOT for mood brightening when people don’t know that is what it is for. Who knows why, but it works.

    I’m growing it for the first time this year and I also found the leaves far too prickly. I’ll try stir-fry since I really do like the flavor very much.

  4. You can also apparently candy borage flowers to decorate cakes and pastries, though I have no direct experience with this.

    I’ve planted borage seed near my two new apple trees, as part of a guild. So far I just have seedlings and saplings, but once everything is established, the borage should attract bees to pollinate the apple blossoms, and it should grow in dense enough to discourage weeds.

  5. It supposed to be a companion plant for strawberries (I’ve read), though I am not sure how that works. I’ve had some growing for many years… it does keep re-seeding itself very easily.

  6. Can you root it the same as other plants or vegetables, by clipping a stem and putting it in water. It did very well this year and I wanted to try and root it.

  7. @Anon: We’re don’t know, honestly. We’ve never even thought about rooting it because it self-seeds so readily. It’s the sort of plant that once you bring one into your yard, you’ll always have it around. I don’t know if that’s true where you’re from, but it’s true hear.

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