The popular cucumber herb is often found in cottage gardens. This article will walk you through everything you need to know about buying, planting, and caring for borage.
Borage ( Borago officinalis ) is a real wonder herb – wonderfully fragrant and tasty, with beautiful flowers that not only adorn your garden but also attract many pollinating insects into your garden. So if you don’t have your own borage in your garden, it’s high time you did it. Our article is the first step for you on the way to your own cucumber herb. We’ll tell you everything about the origin, different varieties, planting, care, and harvesting of the aromatic culinary and medicinal herbs.
Borage is a plant belonging to the Boraginaceae family. It is also called cucumber herb or Kukumerkraut. The former is probably since the smell of its leaves is very reminiscent of that of cucumbers. Another name for the herb is sky star, alluding to its star-shaped flowers. Beekeepers appreciate borage as a bee pasture, as bees and bumblebees are magically attracted by the flowers.
Borage is used today in the kitchen as well as in herbal medicine. The beautiful flowers decorate salads and desserts, the green leaves can be eaten in salads or herb dips. Even Goethe wrote the borage in his famous green sauce recipe and Hildegard von Bingen also swore by the herb. She recommended soaking it in wine and drinking it as a remedy for nervousness. The herb is also said to have the effect of luck and courage. So get your own borage in the garden for the bees and yourself. We’ll tell you what to do about it.
Origin and characteristics of borage
Originally from Asia Minor and the Mediterranean area, borage has conquered almost the whole world today. It occurs mainly all over Europe and North America, but also in New Zealand, West Asia, and South America. The ancient Greeks and Romans already knew borage and used it in a variety of ways. Borage did not reach Central Europe until the late Middle Ages. It was first cultivated in France and later also in Germany. Today it is an indispensable part of many herbs and cottage gardens.
Borage is an annual herbaceous plant that grows in clumps. It can grow up to a meter high. In its short lifetime, it develops long, branched roots that are brown on the outside and white on the inside. The leaves of the herb are hairy spiky. The dark green leaves can be up to 10 to 15 centimeters long and are shaped like a lance. Depending on the variety, the flowers can bloom white or blue. They appear from May to June and are star-shaped. If the flowers are pollinated, the typical Klausen fruits develop from them. Each fruit consists of several partial fruits (Klausen), which contain black, small borage seeds.
Borage species and varieties
There are only five species in the borage genus. The most important, of course, is the common borage. But the creeping and persistent borage are also interesting for amateur gardeners. In the following, we give you a brief overview of the most important types and varieties of borage.
Common borage (Borago officinalis)
The common borage is certainly the best known of the different types of borage. This borage shows intense blue flowers with contrasting black stamens. Two varieties of common borage deserve special attention.
- Variegata: This interesting colorful variety shows delicate blue flowers and green, white-spotted leaves.
- ˈAlbaˈ: Also known as white borage, alba is a great choice if you are looking for a plant with intense white flowers. White borage stems are usually a bit more robust than borage, and the plant usually blooms later in the season than its blue cousin.
Creeping borage (Borago pygmaea)
Creeping borage is a sprawling plant with fragrant, light blue flowers that appear from late spring to early fall. Most borage varieties are fast-growing annuals, whereas creeping borage is a perennial.
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Perennial borage (Borago laxiflora)
Due to its graceful growth, this species is ideal as a pot plant. It originally comes from Sardinia and Corsica and is similar in taste and use to the common borage. Only the leaves are a bit rougher and more prickly.
You can buy both young plants and seeds for borage in stores. With a lot of luck, you will also find a borage plant in the supermarket near the kitchen herbs or the hardware store. You could also find what you are looking for at weekly markets or special plant markets. Various online retailers also offer borage plants for sale on the Internet.
What Should You Look For When Buying Borage?
- Aphid free
- Strong shoot axes
- Lush green leaves
- No stains on the leaves
- Leaves should smell intensely of cucumber after light rubbing
When buying young plants, pay attention to the exact name of the species, because Borago laxiflora is often offered instead of Borago officinalis. These two species look very similar, but the latter has a much lower flavor than the common borage.
You can get borage seeds in garden centers, nurseries, and on the Internet. The seeds are cheaper than young plants, but of course, you have to do more work to grow them. For both sowing and planting borage, we recommend high-quality herbal soil.
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The best time to plant the borage is in spring; it is best to sow directly outdoors from mid-April to early May. You can put purchased young plants out in the garden bed from mid-May. Borage prefers a sunny and sheltered location. He has few demands on the soil, but he prefers loose, permeable soil with a pH value between 6.5 and 7.5.
How is borage planted correctly?
- Litter sowing: 90 seeds / m³
- Row sowing: Distance from 35 to 45 cm
- Plant spacing: 15 – 25 cm
- Press the seeds 1 – 3 cm deep into the ground
- Water well
- Germination time: 2 weeks
- After 4 weeks, isolate to a size of 15-25 cm
Tip: Borage likes to have neighbors in the bed. It goes particularly well with cucumbers ( Cucumis sativus ), zucchini ( Cucurbita pepo subsp. Pepo convar. Giromontiina ), and strawberries ( Fragaria).
Once your borage is planted, it requires little maintenance. Regular watering, fertilizing, and weeding are of course still part of it. Fortunately, as a weak eater, the borage does not need a lot of nutrients. It is sufficient to provide it with a single fertilizer with organic long-term effects in spring. The fertilizer releases the nutrients slowly and gently to the plant and provides it with all the important substances in the long term.
The borage needs water regularly and is sensitive to prolonged dry phases. On particularly hot days, you may even have to water your borage several times. Even in pots, the herb is dependent on a regular water supply.
How is borage properly cared for?
- Free the bed from weeds regularly
- Apply a fertilizer with an organic long-term effect in spring
- Water regularly
Borage is good at self-sowing. This can sometimes even become a real nuisance if your borage spreads wildly in the garden. However, you can simply uproot or chop unwanted plants. Either let your borage do the sowing itself or you collect the seeds and keep them for next year. Wait until the flowers die before harvesting the seeds and pick the Klaus fruits before they fall to the ground. The ideal time to pick the fruit with the seeds contained in the compound is shortly after they start to turn brown. Store the seeds in a dry, cool place over the winter. Then they can be used for re-sowing next spring.
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Harvest, store and preserve borage
You can harvest and use both the borage leaves and the flowers. We are now presenting options for harvesting, storing, and preserving both parts of the plant.
Harvest, store and preserve borage leaves
Borage leaves are great in salads, or you can prepare them like kale or spinach. Pick only the young, tender leaves as the older ones will get hairy. Harvest the leaves in the morning when the dew has dried off but the sun has not yet got too hot. In this way, the unmistakable taste of the oils is retained. The fresh leaves can be kept in the refrigerator for a few days. Dry the leaves in the oven at 40 ° C or air dry by hanging the plants in a warm, airy room. The leaves are best kept in cloth or paper bags. So they can be kept for one to two years.
Warning: Dried borage leaves contain many more toxic substances than fresh ones. You should therefore only consume very small amounts of the dried borage.
Harvest, store and preserve borage flowers
Pick the flowers in the morning before they wither too much in the sun. Fresh flowers only stay fresh for a few days in the refrigerator. Candied in sugar, however, the beautiful flower stars have a long shelf life. Frozen with water in ice cube trays, you can use the flowers for a long time – and they are a real feast for the eyes in cocktails or cold drinks. The flowers can also be preserved in vinegar and oil, but unfortunately, the flowers lose their color.
Is borage poisonous?
Borage contains so-called phytochemicals, in this case, alkaloids, which are toxic to humans. Even so, you don’t have to give borage a wide berth in the future. The herb is harmless in small quantities. If you follow a few simple rules, you can still use borage in the kitchen.
How toxic is borage really?
- Borage contains poisonous alkaloids
- These are liver-damaging in large quantities
- Smaller amounts are safe for adults
- The consumption amount per adult is a maximum of 3 grams per day
- Pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and young children should not eat borage
- Safe for animals