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- tastefully useful herb
- Borage is an excellent bee plant and the leaves contain copious amounts of vitamins and minerals, especially calcium, potassium, and vitamin C
- This is a very easy to grow ornamental plant for beginning gardeners
- Seed comes in 1 gram pack
- Borage officinalis
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The Borage, 'Borage officinalis', is like a handful of little stars plucked from a deep blue sky and sprinkled on a summer salad that may drive away all melancholy and it is nutricious, tastefully useful herb! Borage is a large plant. The flowers are usually blue, but may be pink or lavender. The Borage is an excellent bee plant and the leaves contain copious amounts of vitamins and minerals, especially calcium, potassium, and vitamin C. Borage leaves can be steamed as you would spinach or chard or used raw in salads, iced beverages, or in salad dressings. The stems can also be peeled and chopped and used like celery. The edible flowers can be used as garnish on green or fruit salads or candied for winter use. This is a very easy to grow ornamental plant for beginning gardeners. Plant in the spring after all danger of frost has past and in mild climates, plant anytime. Borage prefers well drained rich soil.
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Unfortunately, the first batch flopped over, hung on pathetically for less than a week after flopping, and died. I saw no signs of fungal wilt, temperature was a steady 60-70 degrees, and it received water twice a week. My only guess as to why it may have died comes from the instructions: make a single hole with your finger, drop 3 seeds in, and thin down to one seedling when they become so tall. All three sprouted, and were doing well until I plucked two as instructed. The third wilted within two days and never recovered. Was its taproot disturbed when I yanked the other two? Did it consider them family and die of a broken heart? I have no idea.
When I replanted it, I planted ONE seed. It came up predictably and did well, growing well past the height of the other three even though all conditions except for crowding and thinning were the same.
I still have it, and it's performing even more admirably now that I've added a steady drip from a punctured 1.5L bottle to the twice weekly watering (in moisture-controlled indoor potting soil).
A note on flavor - I ate the two seedlings (why let them go to waste?) and they do indeed taste like cucumber, if cucumber were the kind of rebel who wound up on the streets, joined a gang, and threatened your person all while maintaining that original cucumber charm it grew up with before it gave in to aggressive tendencies. If cucumber could punch you in the face, it would taste like this. If you could condense cucumber flavor down to a mouth-puckering potency, it would taste like this. I like it less than I had hoped I would, and I *like* cucumber. Perhaps the flavor will mellow out as the plant grows. Here's hoping!
A note on bug control: Borage is supposed to be the panacea companion plant, improving all neighbors with its powers of Good Bug Attraction and Bad Bug Repulsion. This isn't working in my garden: the fungal gnats have no issue climbing around in the dirt beside it, and the spider mites are perfectly happy on neighboring pepper plants. Drat.
I do not, of course, expect it to find good bugs to attract inside during winter. That's asking a bit much, I think. I have seen the occasional spider in the garden, but this was pre-borage.
That's all! I'll keep growing the thing and update this if anything else interesting happens as the plant matures. I'm a little disappointed, but glad I tried it. The flowers will be interesting when it blooms!
The promised update: Late March: The borage thrives with water and survives with less, but it's looking good! six inches high with broad prickly leaves and no blooms yet.
May update: The borage is a foot high with pretty blooms that taste like sugared cucumber. (none of the violent cucumber flavor described earlier!) I can bring myself to eat the smallest of leaves, but even the very young ones are prickly. I've heard that this might be from using rich soil, but I have no way to confirm that. It's hard to verify the claim that bad bugs are driven away by borage, but I do see pollinators stopping by, and I have a few spiders and a host of ants.
June update: The borage is 2 feet high, but dying off. Most of the foliage is gone, but it's still blooming like crazy, and some of the seeds have formed. I think this will be the last update, as it seems to be at the end of its life cycle. It was worth it.
Just to give you an idea of how big these plants can get, some of the plants have about 6" diameter stems and the plants are about 5 feet in diameter, and about 4 feet tall, and this is only after a few months. I had one smother a lupine plant because I didn't notice it getting so big.
I had to cut one down because I needed the area for a grape vine, and it was surprisingly easy for the size of the plant. The stems are hollow and light for their size. All parts go great in the compost pile because they all break down easily. I'd actually consider growing these just for the purpose of the compost pile if I had more room.
Update from the future (3/2015): These come back every year and I let a bunch of them grow because they attract so many bees. They are growing in a perfect spot and are very easy to collect seeds from. These, Flax, and Marigolds are the easiest plants I've ever grown from seed.