Friday, 3 October 2008

Borage - Borrowed for Now

Borage is a herb that is highly decorative and although I have never actually grown any, I know quite a few people who do and quite often visit for a little pickings to take back home.

The borage herb originates in Syria, but now has found a home throughout Europe and the Mediterranean region. It has even spread as far wide as Asia Minor, North Africa and South America.

It grows to a height of up to one metre and has brush-like hairy stems and leaves. Traditionally borage was cultivated for culinary and medicinal uses, but typically today commercial cultivation is mainly as a valuable oilseed.

The flower, has a sweet honey-like taste and is one of the few truly blue-coloured edible foods. It is often used to decorate dessert such as cakes and ice-cream dishes. Both the flowers and leaves of the borage are used to give a cucumber-style effect in flavour when added to cool summer drinks. Bees are attracted to the borage plant. In Iran traditional Borage Flower Tea is made from the dried flowers, which brings about calmness to the sippers. The flower, which is a rich purple colour, turns bright pink when lemon juice is added so don't be too surprised is this is what happens is used with lemon in recipes.

Folklore says that borage is rumoured to give strength of heart, bring about fearless courage and provide happiness to all who eat the leaves or indeed drinks wine with the flowers or leaves floating on top.

Used as a fresh vegetable, borage, again with a cucumber tasting characteristic, is often used with salads or as a decorative but edible garnish. It is often used in soups the most famous being a German borage recipe called the 'Green Sauce' traditionally a Frankfurt based meal. The leave can also be used in pickling or eaten like spinach such is the versatility of the herb. The borage flowers and leaves are also used to give a cool, cucumber-like flavour to summer drinks. Bees are attracted to the borage plant.

This easily managed herb can be grown from seed and will sow itself year after year. The plant prefers dry, sunny places and thrives on slightly poor soil. You can you can extend the length of harvest by sowing three times at four-week intervals. Pick the blossoms as they open. The fresh leaves can be picked anytime but rarely used in a dried version.

I like borage and maybe next season I may well reserve a patch on my farm for growing this herb, it will save on neighbours' plants that I keep scrounging!

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