This often overlooked, and somewhat forgotten herb should be near the top of the list for every homestead garden! With alternate names like Bee Bread, and Bee Bush the reason should be obvious… pollinators absolutely go
crazy for it! Borage gets another of its common names, Starflower, from its brilliant blue, five petaled, small but prolific flowers. I have a video here showing several different types of pollinators all over the borage in my greenhouse (there’s even a hummingbird in there). The honey produced from bees foraging on borage is supposed to be phenomenally tasty!
I make sure that there is plenty of borage growing in my greenhouse specifically, but in the rest of my garden as well, to attract the pollinators, predators, and other beneficial insects. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that suggests interplanting your tomatoes with borage improves the flavor, and vigor of the plants. Borage is said to be an almost universal companion plant for most garden species, as well as essential for food forest or permaculture orchard plantings.
Borage is an annual, but it self seeds so easily and prolifically that once you plant a patch you should have all the borage you can handle for years to come. This hardy herb transplants easily when young, but as it comes to maturity borage develops a pretty fierce tap root that will break up hard, compacted soil. This deep tap root also makes borage a decent dynamic accumulator of nutrients, pulling minerals from deep in the soil and concentrating them in the leaves and other plant structures. For this reason borage makes a pretty good chop and drop mulching plant(if you have a surplus and don’t mind losing some of those attracting blossoms), similar to its perennial relative comfrey.
The young leaves can make an interesting addition to salads, and were historically used as a pot herb for additions to dishes like soups and stews. If eaten raw make sure to use only the young leaves as the entire plant gets covered in a light fuzz that gets stiff and can be irritating as the plant ages. Leaves of any age can be dried, crumbled and added to soups for added nutrition. The flowers are edible and are often used as a garnish, added to salads, frozen in ice cubes, or candied for decorative use in baked goods like cakes. The flavor of the leaves and flowers is cucumber-like
and quite refreshing. All parts of the plant contain mucilage which can be beneficial in herbal remedies. Dried leaves and blossoms make a refreshing tea, either iced or hot, that is said to have a calming effect on the nerves. Borage does contain alkaloids, like its cousin comfrey, that can be harmful to the liver if consumed in massive quantities, so try not to subsist solely on borage for a long period of time. The seeds are high in oil that can be a vegan substitute for cod liver oil supplements. With that being said the oil contains many of the same essential fatty acids that cod liver does, and so has a similar effect on your body. The oil is for health supplements only and not used for cooking. Borage makes a fine fodder crop to supplement your animal feed. My chickens devour the leaves with gusto!
With so many uses and benefits, it’s a wonder that every gardener, homesteader, or permaculturist hasn’t heard of borage, or incorporated it into their lives! Borage is another one of our Homestead Heros here on the Traditional Catholic Homestead, and we hope you make it one of yours too!