Thursday, June 19, 2014

Bee Is For Borage

"'Perhaps we'd best go down, Sassenach. It's getting a wee bit damp out.' 
We took a different way down, crossing the roof to an outer stairway that led down to the kitchen gardens, where I wanted to pull a bit of borage, if the downpour would let me. We sheltered under the wall of the Castle, one of the jutting window ledges diverting the rain above.  
'What do ye do wi' borage, Sassenach?' Jamie asked with interest, looking out at the straggly vines and plants, beaten to the earth by the rain.
'Well, when it's green, nothing. First you dry it, and then --' 
I was interrupted by a terrific noise of barking and shouting, coming from outside the garden wall."   
- From OUTLANDER, by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 24
We never get an answer to Jamie's question. It appears to have been forgotten as he leaps over the garden wall to rescue Father Bain from an attack by a pack of wild dogs.

But it is likely that an 18th century herbalist would make a tea from the dried leaves as a remedy for depression or to relieve menopausal discomforts. According to Mary Preus, author of the NORTHWEST HERB LOVER'S HANDBOOK, borage has a centuries-long reputation for elevating spirits and bringing comfort after long illness or hard work. As the ancient Greeks used to say, "I Borage bring always courage."

Botanical Information

Family: Boraginaceae
Genus: Borago
Species: Borago officinalis
Common names: Borage (rhymes with "garage," not "porridge"); bee bread; starflower

Borage is an annual herb, native to the Mediterranean region. It grows easily from seed, much like forget-me-nots, which belong to the same botanical family. Borage self-sows so freely that it can become weedy, so keep an eye on it. It can go from seed to seed in just 8 weeks.

Borage has great value in the garden because it is much loved by bees. Take a look.

Medicinal Uses

Borage seed oil has an anti-inflammatory effect on the cells of the body because of its high concentration of GLA (gamma-linoleic acid). It has been found to be effective in the treatment of autoimmune disorders, skin problems, PMS and diabetic neuropathy. This video explains how borage oil and other healthy fats benefit us.

Culinary Uses

Borage flowers are edible and are prized for their true blue color - few flowers in nature are actually blue.  Young borage leaves, which have a cucumber-like flavor, can be added to salads, soups and sauces. Borage is also used to flavor beverages, including cocktails, according to The Drunken Botanist.

Need more ideas? Check out Hank Shaw's recipe-filled blog post, "The Courage to Cook with Borage."

It is important to keep in mind, however, that borage leaves contain small amounts of a liver-toxic alkaloid. It is therefore best not to overdo your consumption of this herb. 

1 comment:

  1. After I posted this, there was a lot of conversation on Twitter about the pronunciation of "borage." I was surprised to hear it pronounced as it is in the videos. I've always pronounced it BOR-ij. So I put it to the folks on Twitter to get their take on it. So far I have heard from people in England, Germany and the US - no one pronounces borage the way it is pronounced in the videos. How about you? Where do you live and how would you pronounce "borage?"


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