When we took over our allotment, it included a rather lovely borage bush. We weren’t really familiar with it as a plant, but over time we have grown to love it for all sorts of reasons.
It’s just come into flower, and its flowers are perfect, with five narrow, triangular petals. It’s easy to see why it’s also called the starflower. Although most borage plants produce blue flowers, ours has a lovely mix of blue and pink.
Borage is one of the oldest known cultivated plants: the Romans used borage leaves as an elixir of youth, perhaps because of the minerals and vitamins they contain, and borage has also been called “the plant of glad tidings and good cheer”. It was once called corrago, which means ‘I lead the heart’ because of the buoyancy and lightness it is said to bring to the soul.
Older gardeners on the allotments were keen to tell us how useful borage is as a companion plant: it’s known for luring away bugs and mysteriously improving the flavour of vegetables and fruit – especially strawberries! It’s also brilliant for attracting bees to the allotment – the flowers are rich in nectar and bees absolutely love them. The delicate honey that bees make when they’ve fed on borage is well worth seeking out…
Herbalists use borage for all sorts of ailments, inlcuding menopausal symptoms, colds, and rheumatism. It’s also said that it’s effective at lowering cholesterol as well.
Borage flowers are often used for cake decorations by dipping the flowers in egg white, then in sugar. The flowers have a honey-like taste, and are one of the few truly blue-coloured edible plants.
Borage makes a wonderful tea. In fact, I think it may be the most beautiful looking tea there is, especially floating the blue flowers on the surface. We’ve also used borage leaves in salads. It’s got a taste like cucumber. Borage also makes lovely refreshing ice cubes: put borage flowers into ice cube trays, top up with water, and freeze. These ice cubes are beautiful in summer drinks.
Which brings me back to what one of the allotment old hands told us about it: it’s marvellous in Pimm’s! The original garnish for Pimm’s used to be lemon and borage leaves, and I can vouch for the fact that this more traditional relish is very refreshing: it really does make a difference, and makes it a delicious, cooling drink – especially with one of the blue flowers as well!