Guess what? You probably didn’t realize this until this very moment, but you need borage. Your local bees need borage, too. But your garden especially needs borage, stat. And I’m going to tell you why all of this is true.
Oh, but wait. Maybe you don’t know what borage is. Let’s start there, first.
Borage (borago officinalis) is a freely seeding, easy-to-grow annual plant with delicious blue flowers, and prickly leaves that taste a bit like cucumbers. Borage is considered an herb, but is often grown as a flower. Borage is one of those plants that–once you’ve planted it in your garden–you’ll never have to plant it again (cue clap of thunder).
Important Note: if control is very important to you in your gardening experience, then borage may not be the plant for you. If you garden, however, with a penchant and an appreciation for serendipity, and you like the occasional surprise, and you’re grateful for plants that pop up without your planting them, like borage, and mint, and dill, or whatnot, then it could be a great addition to your garden.
Speaking of serendipity: when I gave birth to my first daughter, Bethany, it was August. Finding myself in an intense nesting phase early in the summer, I had planted our back yard to an ambitious and beautiful (and probably too big, just guessing at that) garden. Then as the last weeks of pregnancy and the first weeks of new babyness left me without energy to tend it, my lovely garden succumbed to neglect. Stuggling a bit with postpartum blues, I wandered around my sad, unkempt garden, holding and admiring my baby girl and yet mourning my wreck of a garden. And then I saw them: the radish seed pods!
My radishes had gone to seed, and they were a riotous mess of stems, flowers, leaves and little pods. I plucked a pod sadly, bit into it out of curiosity and . . . you’re thinking perhaps that I’ll say that my postpartum blues were cured. No, they were not, although that would have been sweet. But–I discovered that the radish seed pods were crunchy and delicious, tasting quite a bit like radishes (surprise!) and I found that they even made a nice addition to green salads. What–do–you–know!? That’s what I thought.
I learned a lesson: even a neglected garden can yield sweet surprises, if you keep your eyes open for them. It is a treat to be able to actually keep up with a garden. But if Life Happens (as it so often does) and you have to let it go for a time . . . things will be okay. If I hadn’t let those radishes go to seed, if I had been all Control Freakish about the weeds and pulling up spent plants and so forth, I never would have discovered the serendipity of radish seed pods. And that leads us . . . back to borage. Naturally.
Some folks might consider it a nuisance that borage so cheerfully pops up in the early spring, wherever the parent plants from the year before dropped their seeds, but I consider it a blessing. You can spot the big oval flat leaves immediately in the early spring, coming up in pairs wherever you had borage growing the year before. I actually let the plants grow until they are in the way of a melon patch or a corn bed or a radish row, and then I’ll pull them and throw them to my chooks. They eat every bite. Easy-peasy chicken food. There are always enough plants that come up on paths and in corners that I can leave to grow until they produce the achingly beautiful little blue flowers that gave this plant its second name: star plant.
So let’s get to the reasons that you might just want to plant borage yourself, in your own garden. Then I’ll share with you how you can win some free seeds!
Reason #1: You don’t see this shade of blue just anywhere. I have a particular fondness for the color blue in flowers. It seems unusual to see a blue flower, like blue ice cream or blue popcorn or blue cheese. It’s just different and a garden is an awfully nice place for the color blue. Just look.
Reason #2: You can eat it. You can take great delight in eating flowers as you go about your gardening chores. And the leaves make a very refreshing tea. You can also go a bit Victorian and dip the flowers in whipped egg whites and then sugar, and decorate cupcakes or birthday cake with them. They would look absolutely stunning perched atop glazed petit fours. Everybody will applaud. I’ve seen it. The younger leaves are tasty in salads, and shredded in soups.
Reason #3: Borage flowers are bee magnets. This is a great reason to plant borage in your vegetable and flower gardens. Although it can be a gangly plant, and will invariably flop over and die at the most inopportune times (late summer, when the pressure to have a gorgeous garden is highest, or just before somebody you want to impress comes for the weekend) the bees love it. And I’ll do nearly anything to help the bees out in their current, struggling-to-survive-state. Many vegetable plants, too, that need pollination in order to be fruitful, do not have showy flowers, so these little intensely blue flowers attract attention from the bees like nobody’s business.
Reason 3: Free chicken food. As I mentioned already, my chooks love borage, and yours probably do, too, though perhaps they don’t know it yet. I appreciate free chicken food wherever it turns up: when I’m pulling the weeds in my garden, for instance, I pile up the ones that I know the chickens will eat: dandelion, lambsquarters, borage, nettle, purslane, grasses, and so forth, and at the end of my weeding time, I’ll toss them to the chooks and they all rush happily to me, throwing me kisses. Or they would, I know, if they had lips. Along those lines, if you don’t use chemicals on your grass, grass clippings are something else that your chickens will be delighted to consume for you. But borage–they will smack those non-existent lips over borage, I guarantee it. 🙂
Reason 4: It’s a great companion plant for strawberries, squash and tomato plants. Haven’t heard of companion planting yet? Here’s a bit of info for you.
Reason 5: Borage deters tomato hornworms and cabbage moths. And who doesn’t have problems with cabbage moths? Everybody I know (and their dog) have problems with cabbage moths. I’ve always wondered why I never see tomato hornworms in my garden, and maybe this is the reason. Anecdotal, I realize, but there it is. I’ll take it.
Reason 6: Borage oil is the richest known source (24%!) of an essential fatty acid called gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), found in its seeds. Of course you would have to eat a lot of the seeds to get the benefits of this oil, but you can buy borage oil and lotions online or in health food stores. People with skin disorders such as eczema, atopic dermatitis, and psoriasis show increased levels of linoleic acid and a simultaneous decrease in gamma-linolenic acid. This decrease can cause serious skin problems. Recent studies indicate that borage oil, taken orally, increases PG1 levels in the skin and suppresses chronic inflammation in those who are afflicted. Learn more here.
Reason 7: Mulch. The borage plant grows quickly, flowers riotously, and then when it’s tired, will flop over and beg to be pulled. It’s an easy plant to pull, and then you’ve got yourself an armful of mulch. It’s a big plant. You can lay it in the path of your garden where it can decompose and add organic matter to your soil, or toss it in the compost. Either way, you’ll improve your garden soil. Almost without effort, too. Win-win-win.
There they are! 7 excellent reasons to plant borage in your garden. And guess what. You can plant it early in the spring, or you can plant it now, or you can even scatter seeds in the fall, and they’ll come up in the spring.
There are many places you can purchase borage seeds, but I’ll do you one better: if you have time to wait a bit, little Mack and I are going to collect borage seeds, and you can enter my borage seed giveaway! I’ll choose ten entrants to receive free seeds from my own borage patch. Cool, huh?
So what are you waiting for? Enter today!
a Rafflecopter giveaway