Borago officinalis

Family: Boraginaceae

Countries: Africa, Algeria, Balearic Islands, Corsica, Europe, France, Greece, Italy, Libya, Morocco, Portugal, Sardegna, Sicily, Spain, Tunisia, Yugoslavia

Borago officinalis is a hardy annual herb that’s commonly known as Borage or Bee Bread (in the UK).  This plant has edible leaves and flowers that have a cucumbery aroma and delicate cucumber flavour.  If I were you, I wouldn’t get too excited about eating the leaves though, as they are covered in rough hairs which really aren’t very appetising.  If you want to taste Borage leaves, select the youngest foliage and chop it finely.  I prefer to eat Borage’s delightful star-shaped flowers.  I enjoy freezing Borage flowers in ice cubes to create pretty ice cubes to enhance enhance long, cool summer drinks and cocktails, and I also use Borage flowers to decorate salads and as a garnish for sweet or savoury dishes.  Borage’s blue star-shaped flowers are just so pretty – they are the colour of cloudless summer skies.  The true blue colour tone combines beautifully with orange, yellow, and red coloured foods, making Borage flowers ideal for adorning dishes that feature tomatoes and sweet peppers.  Fresh Borage flowers can also be used to decorate cakes, although the blooms can be crystallised, if you prefer.  When you’re harvesting Borage flowers, you need to hold onto the centre of the flower – hold the dark central stamen as you remove the bloom – this will stop it dropping to the ground.

Borage is a superb plant to grow for bees and pollinating insects, as each plant is capable of producing hundreds of flowers that open in succession.  The flowers are a rich source of nectar and pollen for bees and other pollinating insects.  The plants have the capacity to re-fill their flowers/ nectar stores within thirty minutes of a bee drinking the flower dry, which I am really impressed by!

The best time to sow Borage seeds is from the beginning of May to the end of July (in the UK).  I prefer to sow Borage seeds directly in the soil where I want my plants to grow and flower.  There’s honestly no need to faff around with containers or seed trays – just sow Borage seeds directly in any moist but well-drained soil, in a bright and sunny location.  These plants need to enjoy full sun or very light shade to flourish.  Borage won’t grow in the shade and it also won’t grow in wet or waterlogged soils, but this easily grown herb will happily grow in any moist but well-drained soil; I’ve grown Borage in sandy, silty, loamy, and clay soils.  Borage plants grow up to 80cm (2.6ft) tall and form plants that spread to cover an area around 30-80cm (1-2.6ft) wide.  If you want to grow more than one Borage plant in a bed, I’d recommend planting Borage plants 40cm (1.3ft) apart.

This is a fairly drought-tolerant plant, but it’s worth giving your Borage plants a watering during times of drought, as the extra moisture will enable the plants to produce the maximum supply of nectar ready for visiting bees and pollinating insects.

Borage (Borago officinalis) is recommended as a companion plant to grow alongside tomatoes, cabbage, cucumbers, courgettes, pumpkins, squash, and strawberries.

I find that Borage usually self-seeds itself, which is great – as it means there’s no need to purchase seeds again.  If you want to limit Borage’s ability to self-seed simply remove the spent flower stems as the blooms go over.

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