What is Borage?

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

An herb is a plant whose leaves, seeds, or flowers are used for flavoring food or in medicine. Other uses of herbs include cosmetics, dyes, and perfumes. The name derives from the Latin word herba, meaning “green crops.” Borage, also called bugloss, is an herb, Borago officinalis, in the same family, Boraginaceae, as the Virginia cowslip and Virginia bluebell. It is an annual that grows wild in the Mediterranean, notably in Crete and Sicily, and is cultivated elsewhere.

Borage is an herb that grows wild in Sicily.
Borage is an herb that grows wild in Sicily.

History. Though less well-known than other herbs, borage has nevertheless been used for centuries as an herb and a pot herb. There are records of Roman use, dating back to the early years CE.

Borage flowers can be sprinkled atop a green salad.
Borage flowers can be sprinkled atop a green salad.

Description. Borage, which grows up to two to three feet (60 to 90 cm) tall, is notable for it’s blue or purplish star-shaped flowers. The “furry” foliage is a grey-green color. The flowers and young leaves have a mild, cucumber-like flavor, and the plant is a great favorite with bees.

Most blue borage honey is produced in New Zealand.
Most blue borage honey is produced in New Zealand.

Gardening. An avid reseeder, borage prefers a sunny site and well-drained soil. It spreads assiduously, so plant it in spots where this is a desired trait. It can be used as a border plant.

Borage has a taste that many compare to cucumbers.
Borage has a taste that many compare to cucumbers.

Food and Other Uses. Borage is often not available in United States grocery markets, so if you wish to use it, you may have to grow your own. Note, however, that some sources recommend that pregnant and nursing women refrain from eating borage, so check with a medical professional for any health-related concerns. The flowers can be used sugared for decorating or sprinkled on salads, and young leaves are used in salad, soup, and pasta. The leaves may be cooked in quantity, like other greens, and served as a vegetable side dish or used as a pasta stuffing or crepe filling. As noted, the leaves are “furry,” but the covering is said to disappear after cooking.

Borage seed oil is used in topical treatments for dry skin, for people with diabetes and eczema, for example. Borage honey is also available.

Borage seed oil may be used to treat eczema.
Borage seed oil may be used to treat eczema.
Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is passionate about reading, writing, and research, and has a penchant for correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to contributing articles to wiseGEEK about art, literature, and music, Mary Elizabeth is a teacher, composer, and author. She has a B.A. from the University of Chicago’s writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont, and she has written books, study guides, and teacher materials on language and literature, as well as music composition content for Sibelius Software.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments

catapult43

Borage is good for making tea which helps reduce fever. In summer borage can be enjoyed as a nice cool lemonade drink.

Post your comments
Login:
Forgot password?
Register: