Borage: A Starflower In Your Garden
Borage is an annual plant we often come across in organic gardens. Its virtues are almost countless. The plant is very attractive to pollinators. Besides, gardeners use its flowers to decorate their salads and to make liquors. The oil extracted from its seeds is extremely rich in essential fatty acids. Although less common, it is also possible to consume its leaves. Lastly, its medical attributes are undeniable as the flower is widely used in Homeopathic Medicine.
Above all, borage inspires fascination and amazement in every garden or backyard.
Some history first
Ancient Greeks were already using borage flowers to perfume their salads and wine. They used to call it Euphrosine (happiness bringer).
Borage was introduced in Europe quite early, may be even before antiquity, but had been forgotten since. It is not even cited in the “Capitula de Villis” which identified the most useful plants as recommended by Charlemagne (Charles the great). The flower returned to the limelight upon the crusades and other great movements. Since the Middle Age, borage was widely used in herb soups. It was also largely prescribed to treat heart diseases.
In 1494, borage is one of the first plants to be introduced to The New World. In the 17th century, large-scale cultivation was already taking place.
Subtle and captivating flowers
Borage flowers are not that large, but amaze anyone who takes time to carefully observe them. With 5 petals and 5 sepals, the flower looks just like a bluish (sometimes pink) star. The 5 stamens carry black anthers that form a little prominent cone when they gather together. Borage being generous and fertile, it flourishes precociously, abundantly and in all seasons except winter.
Freedom loving plant
If left alone, the borage will reseed itself freely. Once you sow it, you will probably encounter difficulties controlling it. You simply have to be ready to let it move to places in which it wouldn’t interfere with other plants. In case you need to remove some plants, you can easily weed them while they are still relatively young. Once they are cut, the leaves lose rapidly their vitality. This would also make it harder to transplant the flower or to put it in a jar. In this case, make sure you water it instantly after cutting it.
You will be all the time surprised to see it move a few meters away from the initial seeding location. As seeds and nutlets are rich in fats and are very well appreciated by birds and insects, ants for example, would stock them up in their anthills and sometimes, drop some of them in their way. If ants do not consume the seeds soon, they would start germinating as long as conditions inside the anthill are favorable. Since borage seeds do not need dormancy, they would sprout easily even in the first year after sowing.
Melliferous and beneficial insect attractive plant
Borage is extremely melliferous. In certain periods of the year, especially during May, it attracts a large number of honey bees. Bumblebees are great adepts of the borage as well. They visit it regularly. I even could see several times lacewings (Chryoserla carnea) satisfy their vegetarian resolutions after their long and extremely carnivore larval life.
Natural compost activator and accelerator
There are many tricks that facilitate the composting process allowing for faster organic material’s decomposition. While many use all sorts of non-organic compost accelerators and activators, the adjunction of different plants, of which borage, is a better natural option. Put borage leaves along with yarrow, comfrey and valerian leaves between compost layers for better decomposition and faster results.
Extracting borage oil
Let’s forget about the garden for a little while, and let’s consider borage oil. Extracted from its seeds, the oil is rich in essential fatty acids of which the gamma-linolenic acid. This molecule is present in good quantities in our bodies. As we age, the enzyme responsible of synthetizing it from linolenic acid, diminishes over time. Yet this gamma-linolenic acid fosters appropriate cells renewal and enhances their elasticity.
It would be interesting to fill the deficit using borage or primrose oil, although the latter contains less of these acids. Put some drops on your salads and enjoy eternal youth. Dreaming is free!!
If you have enough space in your garden, you can seed an important quantity of borage seeds and extract your own oil. You can get manual and automatic oil press machines online.
By Marvin Delany, Veterinary Medicine Student and Author at FarmingStyle.com.