About Borage: Native to the Mediterranean region, its summer-long growth of blue star-shaped flowers make borage one of the most attractive herbs to bees and other beneficial insects. Because of its pleasant cucumber like flavor, borage has traditionally been used to infuse drinks; the flowers were preserved or candied. Their lovely form and color make this herb a common subject in tapestries and embroidery work of the Middle Ages. Early historian Gerard states that borage is effective "for the comfort of the heart, for the driving away of sorrow and increasing the joy of the minde." Currently, commercial growers produce borage for the oil in its seeds. This oil has a high percentage of gamma-linolenic acid, an essential omega-6 fatty acid that plays a crucial part in the growth of skin cells.
Borage Germination: Borage thrives in partial shade or full sun and well drained, rich soil; it can also grow very well in poor soil or dry conditions. Since it does not transplant well, direct seeding is the best option. After the last frost of spring when the soil has warmed, sow seeds 1/4" deep and 12-15" apart in rows 18" apart. Germination should occur within 7-14 days. As a companion plant to strawberries or tomatoes, borage improves pollination, discourages pests, and attracts bees.
Growing Borage Seeds: Keep the soil fairly moist and weeds under control. Since too much soil contact can cause the drooping leaves to rot, a layer of mulch may be helpful. If the plant grows tall and begins to fall over, staking or a trellis may be necessary. Remove wilted blossoms to encourage new flowers.
Harvesting Borage: About 6-8 weeks after planting when the plant has been well established, harvesting of the leaves can begin. Small, tender leaves are preferred for culinary use because the older leaves are covered with prickly hairs. Harvest the leaves or flowers in the morning after the dew has dried, choosing flowers that are just beginning to open. Though the leaves and flowers keep for several days in the refrigerator, they tend to lose their flavor when frozen.
Saving Borage Seeds: Borage reseeds itself very easily if left alone, though the seeds can easily be collected. Remove the seed heads when they have fully matured and begin to dry; spread them out in a protected location away from direct sunlight to finish drying. Thresh the seeds and remove the debris. Store the seeds in a cool, dry place.
Detailed Borage Info: Borago officials. Also known as Starflower, Bee Plant, Bee Bread, Cool-Tankard, Tailwort. Annual. 80 days. Zone 5-14. 1,400 seeds per oz. 24-36" height. 12-15" spacing. Produces plants with wrinkled, hairy leaves on hollow stems with drooping clusters of star shaped, bright blue flowers.