Borage is an annual herbaceous plant, Borago officinalis, that is a member of the Borage family, Boraginaceae. Native to the Mediterranean region borage has been enjoyed in gardens and in cooking for a long time. It’s cultivated in Europe, the United Kingdom and in North America for its beautiful blossoms, tasty leaves and edible flowers.
Borage is an annual herb that grows up to two feet tall and three feet across. Large, oblong leaves alternate up the hairy stems. Leaves are also hairy, soft to the touch and fuzzy. Flowers are in loose clusters that tend to dangle or droop. The flowering stalks may have a reddish cast to them. Five blue, pointed petals make the blooms look like stars. Sometimes the flowers are white or rose-colored, but usually they’re blue. It’s not uncommon to have pink flowers and blue flowers on the same plant.
From the rear of the flower five sepals seem to form a star-like pattern that alternates with the five petals. Five yellow stamens meet in the center of the blossom to form a cone. The bright yellow and blue colors make for a beautiful contrast and a very attractive flower.
Bees are definitely attracted to borage plants growing in the garden. It may be planted just for that reason, to bring the bees that will pollinate other garden plants and stimulate fruit and seed production.
As an annual herb borage dies off at the end of the growing season with the first cold weather. It is considered to be a self-seeder, so new plants will grow from seeds that were dropped the year before.
Borage blossoms are so pretty that they’re used for garnishing plates, salads and beverages. Cold drinks seem more refreshing with a couple of borage flowers floating on top. Whole flowers or just the petals can be used as a beautiful and scented garnish.
Borage blooms are edible as are the leaves. Leaves smell and taste of cool cucumber and are a welcome addition to salads and dips. Young leaves are eaten fresh in salads and sandwiches. Older leaves that may be too hairy to eat fresh are cooked as a vegetable like spinach or added to soups for their cucumber flavor. Peeled and chopped stems can be eaten as well for all parts of the plant taste like cucumber. Dried borage flowers can be added to potpourri.