Borage (Borago officinalis; Boraginaceae)


A hardy annual to 3 ft (90 cm) tall and 1 ½ ft (45 cm) wide, with large leaves to 9 in. (22 cm) long, rough and hairy, and brilliant blue flowers in drooping clusters from June to September. Origin uncertain — it may be a native plant, or it may be naturalised as a garden escape. It has been widely grown here in Britain, however, at least since Elizabethan times.


The cucumber-like flavour that the fresh leaves and flowers give to drinks or salads is very refreshing; the flowers are used to give colour to pot pourri, or candied for cake decoration. It was once used medicinally for inflammations and redness of the eyes.


It is possible that borage was introduced by the Crusaders; borage is said to be the herb of courage from the days of ancient Greece. Borage comes from the Latin bona meaning rough hair — the whole plant is bristly. It was considerably grown in the past as a salad plant.


Sow seed outdoors in September or April, thinning to 12 in. (30 cm) apart in ordinary soil. Flowering will be in May, or June-July, depending on time of sowing. For winter cultivation indoors, sow seeds in containers in September. Flowering may continue through a mild winter.