Saturday, September 01, 2007

Borage


Borage. The very name has me shaking with fear. My garden in London is overrun with the stuff, and it's all my fault. I planted it about fifteen years ago, because I thought the flowers were pretty - but before I knew how invasive it was. It self seeds like crazy. And it has long thick taproots which, in an established plant can go down for two feet or more, making digging it out extremely hard work.

Had I been living there, it would have been no problem - I could have kept it under control. But ten years of non-gardening tenants means that it's just been allowed to run riot. By the end of the month I was digging it up in my dreams, as well as all day. Luckily the seeds germinate quickly, so by about a week after I'd cleared each area, I was able to go back and get the next generation. but I know there's no way I could have got them all, and next summer the garden will be back to square one ...

I came back relieved that at least I wouldn't have to think about borage any more. But I hadn't turned my calendar over before I left, and when I did ....



At least I've only had to put up with it for a couple of days. But it shows that borage can be pretty when it's planted in the right place and kept under control. I love the combination of plants in this picture. It can also be very useful in the garden. Firstly, because it attracts bees - and in fact, my garden was full of them. And also as a companion plant. It is supposed to stimulate the growth of strawberries, and act as a deterrent to tomato worm. It attracts blackfly, and can therefore be used as a sacrificial plant to attract them away from other things in the garden.

Borage is edible, although the leaves do contain a liver-toxic chemical, so don't exaggerate. The flowers, on the other hand, are perfectly safe. The leaves are often added to salads, and to soups and stews during the last few minutes of cooking. They're also used in drinks like Pimms. The flowers can be frozen into ice cubes and added to any gin-based drinks, or used to decorate desserts - they have a sweet, honey-like taste. You can find a selection of borage recipes
here.

Borage is also used medicinally in the form of infusions, creams and oil. It contains gamma linoleic acid (GLA), an omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid, and has a whole range of uses from alleviating the symptoms of skin complaints such as exzema and psioriasis, to combatting pre-menstrual syndrome, to the treatment of certain
cancers.

Traditionally, borage is associated with courage. Celtic warriors drank borage wine and painted their bodies with it before going into battle. it is thought to stimulate the adrenalin glands, producing adrenalin which helps the body deal with stressful situations. I can believe it. Over the last four weeks, my adrenalin levels have been sky high just looking at the stuff ....

1 comment:

Carol said...

I've unleashed a few plants in my garden, but luckily I was here to watch them and contain them early. Thanks for the warning about borage, I've never planted and I probably won't!

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