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Borage (sometimes called Star Flower) is an edible annual herb, with lovely blue flowers and both culinary and medicinal uses. Learn more about the many benefits of beautiful blue borage!
Borage is a fast-growing herb with clusters of starry blue flowers that are beloved by bees! It’s a wonderful companion plant for tomatoes, cabbage, strawberries, and squash, helping to reduce tomato hornworm and cabbageworm damage.
Does Borage Have Health Benefits?
Pliny the Elder (in Roman times) believed borage to be an anti-depressant, and it has long been thought to give courage and comfort to the heart. Folk law states that if a woman slipped a bit of borage into a promising man’s drink, it would give him the courage to propose!
In 1597, the famous herbalist John Gerard even said that the syrup made from flowers helps depression. This has been borne out in modern times as science has proven the active component of borage oil is an essential fatty acid, gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). Advocates now recommend starflower oil for autoimmune disorders, arthritis, eczema, and pre-menstrual stress.
Is Borage Edible?
Borage is a versatile herb in the kitchen; the leaves are furry and become pricklier with age, so they need to be picked young and chopped finely. The stalks can be cooked like any other vegetable.
The leaves and flowers of borage taste like cucumbers. They are added to salads, used in stocks, soups, and stews, or brewed to make a refreshing tea. The edible flowers add color to summer salads, can be candied for cakes, and look lovely floating in summer drinks and “mocktails.”
Bee Bush or Bee Bread?
Other names for borage include bee bush and bee bread. It is not only a favorite plant of honeybees (with especially nutritious blue pollen) but also bumblebees and small, native bees, all of which aid pollination in the vegetable patch. At one time, it was grown by beekeepers to boost honey production. A major source of nectar and pollen, it yields 200 pounds of honey per acre and 60-160 pounds of pollen.
Borage attracts a wide variety of beneficial insects, including tiny parasitic braconid wasps, predatory nabid bugs, and hoverflies, which eat unwelcome garden pests. It is a host plant for lacewings that lay their eggs on, and the smell is thought to repel tomato hornworms. This makes it an excellent companion plant in the garden, and it is also thought to be beneficial to strawberries, squash, and tomatoes.
Borage for Chickens?
Chickens apparently love it too, but it is best consumed fresh when the leaves are tender. Additionally, if you spread borage over the coop, it is thought to repel pests.
Fantastic Free Mulch
Lastly, borage even dies well! It is a big annual plant that grows fast, looks superb, and then conveniently flops over as if preparing for the compost heap. It rots down quickly and is excellent when used for mulching around plants to preserve moisture and add nutrients to the soil.
As a member of the same family as comfrey and green alkanet (Boraginaceae) it has a deep tap root that mines well below those of most other plants bringing up trace minerals so is a wonderful addition to the compost heap.
Check out our video to learn more about the benefits of growing borage.
How to Grow Borage in Your Garden
Borage is not a finicky herb; it will grow in most gardens as long as the soil is well-drained. The herb will grow in zones 3 to 10, blooming from early summer to the first fall frost. It grows 1 to 3 feet tall and wide, and is shrubby with branching stems.
Grow borage in a sunny spot at opposite edges of a cucumber bed or near tomatoes, strawberries, and squash as a companion plant to keep away pests such as cabbage worm.
Honeybees love borage. If you’re planning to use borage in the kitchen, grow one borage plant for cooking; grow two to four plants for tea or preserving.
Ideally, mix aged compost or organic matter about 12 inches down before planting. You can also plant borage in a container that is at least 12 inches deep.
Seed after the last frost in spring, when the soil has warmed. Sow seeds ¼ to ½ inch deep. Then, thin seedlings from 18 to 24 inches apart once they are 6 to 8 inches tall. Space rows 18 to 24 inches apart. Water regularly until established; no fertilizer is necessary. Mulch to keep down weeds.
Borage will bloom for many weeks if the older flowers are trimmed off. You can prune back borage by one-half in midsummer; this will encourage new, tender leaves for late summer harvest.
Healthy borage plants shed numerous black seeds, so expect to see volunteers for two years after growing borage. Self-sown borage seedlings are easy to dig and move, or you can pull and compost the ones you don’t want!
Plant you garden to include borage! Our online Almanac Garden Planner is free for 7 days. This is plenty of time to play around on your computer and try it out. There are absolutely no strings attached. We are most interested in encouraging folks to try growing a garden of goodness!