Monday, January 9, 2012

Borage: A Short Primer

Borage: Bee bread
Latin name: Borago Officinalis
Family: Boraginaceae

Borage has always been associated with courage and cheerfulness, "to exhilerate and make the mind glad," "to drive away all sadness" and Parkinson adds that it is of "known Vertue to revive the Hypochondriac and chear the hard Student".

Recent research suggests that borage does in fact stimulate the adrenal glands.

The leaves and flowers are rich in potassium, calcium and salts and are an excellent tonic and blood cleanser. It is also refrigerant - a fresh leaf will lower the temperature in the mouth - and thus useful for fevers. The mucilage it contains is helpful for coughs and bronchitis. Drink an infusion of the leaves and flowers, a cupful at a time, or inhale as a vapor treatment. The pulped leaves make a poultice for swellings and bruises.

Use the leaves and flowers fresh, as they quickly lose their flavor and goodness when dried. The flowers can be preserved by crystallizing.

Pick the young leaves to eat as a salad before they become rough; they taste refreshing and cooling, with a slightly bitter, cucumber flavor. The larger leaves can be boiled in the same was as spinach, chopped in stuffing, or fried in batter as fritters. Eat the flowers raw in salad or crystallize them as decorations for puddings and cakes. They are especially well known as cooling additions to summer drinks - either steeped with a few young leaves in fruit cups, cider, beer of wine, or frozen into ice cubes and added as decorative 'conceits'.

Believed to have originated in Syria, borage is now widely cultivated in Europe and America, and often escapes to grow in hedge banks and by roads. On rich ground it grows at least 3 ft high, with stout prickly stems and broad, rough, wrinkled leaves covered with stiff hairs.

Borage was introduced to northern Europe by the Romans, and is first recorded as growing in England in the 13th century. A list of necessary seeds to be taken to new England in 1631 includes '10z Buradg seed at 4d'.

Borage is an annual, but occasionally survives the winter indoors or in a greenhouse. Sow seeds in the spring - they will quickly germinate with 2 large seed leaves - and plant out in a sunny position about 20 inches apart. It self-sows readily and will tolerate most soils, but flourishes on a loose, rich, and limy ground.

The closely related viper's bugloss, Echium vulgare, has similar properties. It is biennial, grows wild in dry places, especially near the sea, and will grow from seed in the garden.

Found in: The Complete Book of Herbs and Spices

Via: Gypsy Magic