Half a Hundred Herbs Week 29 – Borage
This was taken at Culross back in April, at a time when I was looking sideways at my garden wondering if I would have any borage at all this year. I need not have worried. This is what it looks like now.You can see some marigolds behind, struggling to breathe, and there are poppies in there somewhere, but no, the borage has taken over.Bees love it, and hoverflies and butterflies too. I always feel like a party pooper if I have to take it out. There is one consolation, however, as borage makes a fantastic mulch for growing tomatoes. Its roots are surprisingly long and stursy and they bring up valuable minerals and trace elements from the subsoil. They have a certain amount of nitrogen as well as potash, and did wonders for the peppers in the greenhouse.
For all that, I am somewhat ambivalent about borage. I read somewhere that someone was almost blinded when one of the little hairs off the stems got into his eye, and I’m fairly sure that I’m allergic to them. I now wear heavy duty gardening gloves and keep my sleeves rolled down whenever I go near them.
Borage flowers can be candied, or frozen in ice-cubes – if you take the little black whiskers out first, and they are used in Pimm’s, which I’ve never tried. At one time there was a vogue for using the oil from the seeds in skin cream and for PMT under the name of ‘starflower oil’ – I guess borage sounded a bit banal! But the latest edition of Jekka McVicar’s book says that it didn”t turn out to be viable. So I guess we’ll have to go back to growing it for fun.
Borage gets a mention in many of my summer poems – I just can’t resist it.
Blue fallen stars –
whiskered flowers of borage in the grass
brown-gold bees tumble
drunken carouse in silk poppy cups
red admiral fans
fiery platefuls of bunched autumn joy
willow warbler flit
green-gold between crimped rowan leaves
gabriel hounds hunting
grey lags calling the dead of winter.