Borage - A Beneficial Herb That Tastes Like Cucumber

Seriously....It REALLY tastes like cucumber! 

Borage (Borago officinalis) is an herbaceous edible flowering plant. Also known as "starflower," it has beautiful blueish-purple flowers and is a beneficial addition to any home garden. This year, I direct-sowed borage seed at the time I transplanted my tomato seedlings in two of my garden beds. (They can safely be sown after the last frost date.) I chose those beds as borage has a reputation for repelling tomato hornworm (and cabbage worms) as well as leaving trace minerals that assist tomato plant growth. Like many gardening recommendations, it's hard to find solid science behind those claims, but borage is considered a beneficial companion to most plants including squash and strawberries. 

Pollinator-Friendly Plant

Some of its beneficial properties likely stem from the fact that it attracts bees and wasps that will kill unwanted insects in the garden. This year, I stepped up my game on pollinator-friendly plants, so I was happy to add borage to the mix along with salvia, swamp milkweed, butterfly milkweed, purple cone flower, calendula, and sunflowers. 

BONUS: Borage is DEER-RESISTANT, which is a great quality for plants in the northeastern U.S.
Borage starflower

Borage starflower

Ancient Herb 

Borage is an herb that's been around for a long time. This ancient herb, which originates in the Mediterranean, was enjoyed by many ancient civilizations. The Romans thought borage had the reputation to make a person "merry" or "glad" when added to wine. (Although maybe it was the wine that made them feel that way.) It's often referred to as a stress-reliever and anti-inflammatory and makes a delicious tea.

Borage can grow up to 2 feet tall.

Borage can grow up to 2 feet tall.

Culinary Uses of Borage

The entire plant is edible (well, I wouldn't eat the roots). Nibble on the leaves and you'll taste refreshing cucumber. I love the taste of cucumber-infused water. Now, instead of using cucumber skins, I just cut up a borage leaf and add it to a pitcher of water I keep in the refrigerator. Saute borage leaves with other greens for an added refreshing flavor.

The flowers emerge about 1 1/2 months after planting the seed. The flowers first start as small bunches of buds that expand outward before those beautiful starflowers appear. Toss the flowers in salads, cocktails or freeze them in ice cubes for that extra-special splash of freshness and color in your drink.

Flowers first appear in small clusters before expanding.

Flowers first appear in small clusters before expanding.

How to Grow Borage

Borage is an annual plant that grows about 2 feet tall. It's "furry" leaves may be off-putting at first, but as soon as those flowers appear, the whole plant takes on a new look. If you're direct sowing borage seed, plant a few seeds together only about 1/4 - 1/2 inch deep. As they grow, thin the plants to about 1 foot apart. Because it is an annual, it won't come back the following year. However, it is self-seeding, so it should drop some seeds that will emerge as plants the following year.

Borage is a beautiful and beneficial plant that makes a good companion plant and its edible nature provides both beauty and purpose in your garden.

I'm Catherine, a small-space urban gardener in New Jersey (Zone 7a) who started gardening out of upcycled wooden wine boxes. For years, I wanted to try gardening, but didn't know where to start. I got up the nerve to give it a try - starting small with a single wooden wine box that turned an idea into reality. That reality quickly turned into my filling every sunny inch of space of my postage-stamp size lawn and turning it into a garden oasis. I grow mostly vegetables and herbs with some exception for fruits (when the squirrels and rabbits don't get to them first). I love learning from gardening communities (and lots of trial and error).

I hope one day to take all that I'm learning and apply it to a larger plot of land. To help me get there, I'm extending my learning through the University of Massachusetts, Stockbridge School of Agriculture's, Sustainable Food & Farming program. (I'm addicted to learning as much as I am to gardening.)

This blog isn't just for gardeners (although I hope it inspires some of you to try growing a plant or two). The recipes (food & cocktails) in theRecipes section of this blog contain ingredients that don't have to come from your own backyard. If you like visiting your local farmer's market(or even your grocery store) and would like to get some new recipes you can use with the fresh produce and herbs you get from your local growers, this blog will have plenty for you too.

In addition to gardening and cooking, I also love to visit and photograph my surroundings. I feel fortunate to have so many amazing places here in New York/New Jersey, where I live and work. Visits to local farms, farmer's markets, and cycling through rural farming areas help me feel connected and refreshed. share these experiences in theExploring section of the blog so that you might visit through proxy or be inspired enough to visit yourself. 

With very few exceptions, all of the photographs on this site are ones I have taken myself. (For the photographers out there, I shoot with a Canon 7D and sometimes with my Lumix  DMC-ZS15 compact camera.) 

I hope this blog inspires you to grow, create, explore, and try something new. The best way to stay up-to-date is to follow me using the social buttons above, or click Subscribe and sign up for my email newsletters.    

Happy Gardening and Healthful Living!

- Catherine