My Love-Hate Relationship with Borage

by Cynthia

When I first started gardening at this house we live in 2 ½ years ago I planted some seeds of borage to grow amongst the vegetables and other herbs. I have always grown borage wherever I have gardened. It really is a pretty herb with all sorts of benefits to its name. The flowers are so nice and are a vivid shade of blue. Its leaves are rather bumpy and covered with fine little hairs that are prickly on the older leaves. It isn’t fussy about soil type and will grow in poor dry soil.

I planted it for several reasons those 2 ½ years ago. My main reason being for the fact that it really attracts bees. It’s amazing to me how many bumblebees I will find buzzing from borage flower to borage flower. For this reason alone I planted some near my squash plants. Another reason I grew it was because I read somewhere (and now I can’t remember where) that borage has been found to be one of the best herbs for attracting beneficial insects. Yet another reason for growing borage is because it is a companion plant for tomatoes. It is said to enhance the flavor of tomatoes and repel tomato hornworms.

The leaves of borage taste and smell like cucumber so the young leaves make a nice addition to salads. You can also steam the leaves like spinach but I have never tried that. The lovely blue flowers can be frozen in ice cubes for a pretty presentation in iced tea. They can also be candied.

To all its wonderful attributes, borage does have a few downfalls in my opinion. It can and will reseed with abandon which it has done in this particular garden. It must like it here as I never had it reseed so much before. It is EVERYWHERE! In fact, it is down right close to being a weed now. There is borage coming up in every garden bed as well as along the edges of the compost piles. It is slightly annoying to have it coming up so much but it is easy to pull out. To me it is worth having it come up everywhere when I factor in just how many bees it draws to the garden.

The other downfall I feel borage has is its prickly fuzzy leaves. It doesn’t seem to bother anyone else in my family all that much but oh does it bother me! When I brush up against those leaves I itch and itch. In fact the other day I was having to maneuver around some borage to do some weeding and foolishly wasn’t wearing long sleeves or gloves (but who wants to wear long sleeves when it is in the middle of summer?!). I came in with my arms and hands itching and burning and little hives breaking out all where I had been pricked by those fuzzy leaves. Maybe it is because I have always had more sensitive skin and I am prone to eczema but no one else reacts like that to the borage around here. Only I, the main garden keeper, am the lucky one.

That day was the worse I have ever reacted to the borage. It was driving me so crazy that I ended up grabbing for the jar of oil that was still infusing with herbs that I posted about recently.

I grabbed that jar of infusing oil and dipped my fingers into it. I then quickly rubbed it all over the insanely itchy and hot patches of skin that were beginning to turn into hives. Instantly I started to feel better. The burning was cooled and the itching ceased almost immediately. I have been making herbal salves for about 10 years now and have never experienced that before! I was very impressed and thankful!

So, it seems that as much as I love to grow borage in the garden for all the various reasons I listed above it seems to not really like me much. If anyone decides to grow it for all the wonderful attributes it does have just keep in mind that it can reseed to the point of annoyance. Also watch out for those prickly leaves especially if you already have sensitive skin.

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