Former Extension Educator, Horticulture
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Thursday, July 6, 2017
Giant, bright blue eyes in a child have the power to strike me still. The astounding, azure blue star of a borage flower catch me and hold me fast. Few flowers produce such a remarkable and moving color as that of the clear-sky blue borage blossom.
Borage is an herb unknown to many. It is an annual, growing 2-3 feet tall with a basal rosette architecture. The leaves are rough and covered in fine hairs, while long hairs densely coat the stems. From the center of the plant, numerous flower stalks emerge. Star-shaped blue flowers nod on bowing stems tinted with red. The stunning flowers and textured leaves would be enough to make borage a valuable ornamental plant—beyond looks, borage also makes itself useful as an edible herb.
The young, tender leaves and flowers have a flavor similar to cucumber. Use borage fresh in salads, dips, and soups. The flowers also make a pretty garnish for drinks and desserts. Freezing the flowers inside of ice cubes can add a delicate touch and light cucumber flavor to iced beverages.
Borage can be grown readily from seed. Sow seeds directly in the garden after the danger of frost has passed; for a head start on the season start seeds indoors four weeks before the average frost-free date. Sowing new plants every four weeks will provide a continuous supply of foliage for harvest throughout the summer. Space plants 12-15 inches apart in an area that receives full sun.
The hairs on the leaves and stems of borage can be irritating to some people's skin, so take care when harvesting. Select tender leaves to harvest, avoiding the larger, older leaves. Cut leaves and flowers from the plant with a sharp knife or pruning shears. Rinse and pat dry before use.
Borage is such a stunning and useful plant. It certainly deserves more attention from gardeners and cooks alike!
For more information about borage and other herbs, visit http://extension.illinois.edu/herbs/borage.cfm