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Grandma's Garden - Borage

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Borage (Borago officinalis) has long been used throughout the world for more than just it's beautiful purple-blue, star shaped flowers.  While our grandmothers loved to preserve and candy the flowers, our ancestors also enjoyed the cucumber flavored leaves as well as it's ability to attract bees to the garden.  It was often called "Bee Bread" because it's only pollinator is bees.



Believed to bring courage to anyone who ingested it, borage has a long history with soldiers or people about to face a frightening challenge.  Ancient Celtic warriors would drink borage flavored wine and have all of their fears disappear in minuets.  Sometimes it was slipped into a drink of a prospective husband in hopes to give him courage to propose.


Borage was also said to raise the spirits and, according to John Gerard, a sixteenth-century British herbalist, "make the minde glad".  It is also believed to be the plant that Greek poet Homer used to expel sorrow.  The Welsh called it "llanwenlys", which means "herb of gladness". 


Herbalists from past to present use borage as a diuretic, demulcent, and emollient.  It's often used to relieve many ailments like fevers, bronchitis and external inflammations.  Many scientists today believe these claims are inaccurate.  According to Varro Tyler, Ph.D, pharmacognosist and author of The Honest Herbalist, laboratory tests conclude that "it has no significant value as a medicine".



Borage is a self seeding annual that grows to around 30" tall and blooms throughout the summer.  It has hollow stems and wrinkled, mid green leaves, both covered in small, stiff white hairs.  Grow it in any reasonably well drained soil, in full sun or part shade.  Borage self seeds freely but to propagate, sow in situ in spring.



Today, Borago officinalis is used as a flavoring in food. The leaves stems and flowers are edible and have a crisp cucumber flavor. It is used for companion planting to attract bees and it's said to strengthen resistance to pests and diseases in all surrounding plants.



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