Rooted in History: Borage

August 24th, 2016 Rooted in History

This flowering herb is an ephemeral delight. Just gazing upon it can lift the spirit, and it is no surprise that the wise herbalists of the past frequently prescribed it as a treatment for depression.

Here are some of the wistful and endearing descriptions from these renowned herbalists:

In 1597, herbalist John Gerard applied the “flowers in salads to exhilarate and make the mind glad, to the comfort of the heart and driving away of sorrow.”

Johann Sauer’s Herbal Cures (1762-1778) relates that the “distilled water of borage delights and enlivens the heart, guards against fainting spells and tremblings of the heart, cleanses the blood, and banishes melancholy and tormented dreams, provided six to eight loths of the cordial are drunk regularly according to one’s preference.”

BorageOne of many reasons to adore this plant is its power of seduction upon the Apis species: that’s correct folks, the all-important bees. When having to choose between two plants to place in the garden, I often will opt for the bee-enticing variety. Check out the picture (at right).

Not only is this plant very attractive to the eye, but it is a delicious edible as well. The Forme of Cury, c. 1390, includes Borage as one ingredient among 14 other herbs in Salats (salads). With a delicate cucumber flavor, it makes a wonderful addition to a refreshing summer “salat” and has been used internationally this way since long before 1390.

The English Gardener (1670) labels it a Winter Salad and instructions are as follows: “Put with white-wine Vinegar and Sugar for Winter sallets (such ingredients as clove gillyflowers, and flowers of cowslips, bugloss, borage and archangel).”

I encourage all gardeners to plant some Borago officinalis as it helps in pest resistance for other plants, reseeds with success, is trace-mineral-rich compost, is tempting to many variety of bees, and is an appetizing treat!

A fun hint: add Borage flowers to ice cube trays and freeze! It makes a delightful enhancement to summer cocktail parties.