Borage (Borago officinalis) is a versatile plant valued for its cool cucumber aroma and flavour. This annual has large, hairy, oval leaves with robust stems and five-pointed, sky blue, star-shaped flowers surrounding black stamens. Borage, thought to have originated in the area of Aleppo, Syria, was probably brought to Europe by the Romans; it is most popular in Great Britain, central Europe, Spain, Italy, and Greece.
British summer drinks like Pimm’s cup and claret cup, a red wine and brandy punch, are traditionally garnished with a stem of borage, complete with leaves and flowers. The lovely blue flowers can be preserved, candied, simmered in syrup, or used as garnish. In Spain, the succulent stalks are boiled and fried in butter. In Liguria, Italy, borage and other wild spring greens are gathered to fill pansotti al sugo di noci, triangular pasta served with a creamy walnut sauce. The flower corollas can be used to colour vinegar blue. Both leaves and flowers are brewed for tea, and the flowers yield a honey much appreciated in New Zealand.
- Other Names
- Beebread; borragine (Italian); borraja or rabo de alacrán (Spanish); borretsch or gurkenkraut (German; also used for dill); bourragé or bourraio (Provençal French); bugloss, burrage, or hodan (Turkish); lisan athaur (Arabic); llanwenlys (Welsh); star flower (blossom)
- Borage greens are most tender in spring and may be found wild in many places or purchased at local farmers’ markets. The flowers bloom in midsummer.
- Purchase and Avoid
- Look for the most tender, least hairy borage if you’ll be using it as an uncooked herb. The flowers should be sparkling blue and wide open. If using borage as a cooking green, larger, older leaves are acceptable.
Freeze borage blossoms (without the inedible calyx) in ice cubes and use to chill summer drinks or punch.
Briefly boil older leaves, steam like spinach, or dip in batter and deep-fry.
Category: Spices and Herbs
Sub Category: Herbs
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