An herb is a plant whose leaves, seeds, or flowers are used for flavoring food or in medicine. Other uses of herbs include cosmetics, dyes, and perfumes. The name derives from the Latin word herba, meaning “green crops.” Borage, also called bugloss, is an herb, Borago officinalis, in the same family, Boraginaceae, as the Virginia cowslip and Virginia bluebell. It is an annual that grows wild in the Mediterranean, notably in Crete and Sicily, and is cultivated elsewhere.
History. Though less well-known than other herbs, borage has nevertheless been used for centuries as an herb and a pot herb. There are records of Roman use, dating back to the early years CE.
Description. Borage, which grows up to two to three feet (60 to 90 cm) tall, is notable for it’s blue or purplish star-shaped flowers. The “furry” foliage is a grey-green color. The flowers and young leaves have a mild, cucumber-like flavor, and the plant is a great favorite with bees.
Gardening. An avid reseeder, borage prefers a sunny site and well-drained soil. It spreads assiduously, so plant it in spots where this is a desired trait. It can be used as a border plant.
Food and Other Uses. Borage is often not available in United States grocery markets, so if you wish to use it, you may have to grow your own. Note, however, that some sources recommend that pregnant and nursing women refrain from eating borage, so check with a medical professional for any health-related concerns. The flowers can be used sugared for decorating or sprinkled on salads, and young leaves are used in salad, soup, and pasta. The leaves may be cooked in quantity, like other greens, and served as a vegetable side dish or used as a pasta stuffing or crepe filling. As noted, the leaves are “furry,” but the covering is said to disappear after cooking.