This magical ruled by Jupiter and Leo was eaten for courage by Roman soldiers before they went into battle. Medieval knights wore scraves embroidered with the flowers for the same reason. Pliny said that borage-flavored wine was the Nepenthe of Homer, which when drunk brings forgiveness. In Elizabethan England, it was considered to lift melancholy; according to Culpeper, borage expells pensiveness and melancholy, and the candied or jellied flowers comfort the heart and spirits of those who are sick from consumption or from the passions of the heart. Gerard recommended eating this herb in a salad for joy and said that a syrup made of the flowers “purgeth melancholy and quieteth the phreneticke and lunaticke person.” A contemporary commented that the flowers also “cheer the hard student.” In Hoodoo, borage flowers in the house help bring about domestic tranquility. The flowers sprinkled in the bath are good for courage or for Jovian protection, and a cup of borage tea can help with feelings of vulnerability and disjointedness. Logically enough because of its connections to Jupiter, this herb is associated with the Hierophant in the tarot deck. This big, rough herb with its very blue flowers is great for cottage and herb gardens.
Borage has been cultivated since at least 1440 in Castille, Spain, in herb and ornamental gardens, and was brought to Europe by the Moors (it originated in Aleppo, Syria). It has been grown in the New World since 1494 and is naturalized throughout Europe, North and South America, and parts of Asia. The name “borage” comes from the Arabic name for this plant, abu arak, “father of sweat” because it induces sweating, which can be good if you have a cold coming on. In the Mexican botanical medicine formulary, a tincture for sweating consists of equal parts of red poppy petals, borage petals, elder flowers, and violet flowers. But the Celtic name for it, barrach, means “man of courage” and obviously focuses on borage’s psychological effects. Borage is also known as tailwort, bee’s bread, and starflower.
To eat and drink..……..
The fresh young leaves are good for salads, although many people dislike the fuzzy texture (and some people are sensitive to the hairs on the bigger leaves). The leaves are good for special effects – they spark and pop when they are burned due to their mineral content. Both the leaves and the pretty blue flowers smell and taste like cucumber. A tea of borage flowers and mint is especially cooling in the summer. Try freezing the flowers in an ice cube for a nice garnish to iced tea, especially if you have a suitor. According to folklore, if the person drinking the tea is someone you would like to marry, it will give them the courage to propose.:) The flowers will keep their color if dried carefully and are nice in pot pourri. The flowers are also a traditional garnish for summer drinks containing alcohol. Steep dried borage and rosemary in white wine for two weeks: “To drinketh wine imbued with the floures of borage is to increase his countenance and bringeth courage to the weak.” You can also make a beautiful vinegar from white wine vinegar and borage flowers (add some of the leaves for extra flavor), and the flowers make a blue dye that turns pink with the addition of acid. It is okay to use this herb as a condiment, but don’t eat large amounts on a regular basis, as it contains alkaloids believed to harm the liver in large amounts – the same ones as in comfrey, although it has only 5% of the alkaloids comfrey does. If you have a tender liver from past damage, don’t use it. The oil of the seeds doesn’t contain this alkaloid; I can attest that borage seed oil is great to add to your food if you have problems with dry eyes.
How to grow…..
Barely cover the seeds of this hardy annual to germinate in 7-14 days at room temp, or you can direct sow them in well cultivated soil May-June. Transplant to 12″/31cm apart to full sun, although it can grow in partial shade. It loves clay. This plant gets 3ft/.9m tall and 12″/31cm wide. Borage is a good companion plant for tomatoes, squash, and strawberries. Plant borage in a bunch so the plants can support each other – they can flop over in windy areas. Borage gets a taproot, so is good for breaking up previously uncultivated soils. Bees love the flowers, which have a lot of nectar. The flowers are normally blue, but sometimes they will be pink, even on the same plant. An occasional plant will have white flowers. Self-seeds when happy.