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Borage

 

Synonym: talewort
botanical name: Borago officinalis


Borretsch

 

The borage plant stems presumably from the Mediterranean region. It is at home today in most parts of Europe and North America, and it also grows in the temperate and warm regions of Asia and New Zealand.

 

It is cultivated in only moderate amounts. In addition it is found usually growing wild in hedges and on waysides or in herb gardens.

 

Availability

The young leaves of borage are harvested from spring into late summer. The plant blooms from May to August. The edible blossoms wilt quickly, however, and are not sold separately. Like many other culinary herbs, borage is often sold in small pots.

 

Borage is chiefly used fresh. Only a very small amount is sold dried.

 

Appearance, taste, characteristics

Borage is a robust annual plant and can grow up to 1 m. The thick, pilose leaf stalks are juicy, hollow and inedible.

 

The leaves are up to 20 cm long and slightly wavy, ovate to elliptic, and over time also become rough and pilose. For this reason the tender young leaves are preferred.

 

The star-shaped borage blossoms may be blue, white or violet and are not only decorative but also edible.

 

The culinary herb smells and tastes strongly like cucumbers. It is slightly salty and the flavour is also somewhat reminiscent of onions.

 

Ingredients

Borage contains only small amounts of essential oil, as well as 10% mucilages, 1.5-2% silicic acid, tannins and flavonoids.

 

Harmful substances

Borage should be used sparingly and not too frequently because it contains toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids. Therefore, it should not be eaten as a vegetable or salad, i.e. in large amounts. The medicinal use of borage is also criticized because of these substances.

 

Quality criteria, optimal storage conditions

Use only the tender, young borage leaves, as older pilose leaves can lead to indigestion for sensitive persons.

 

The cut leaves wilt particularly fast and should be used quickly, like all fresh herbs. Even wrapped in a moist paper towel or cling film (plastic wrap) they will keep only 1-2 days in the refrigerator. It helps to keep the leaves fresh by repeatedly spraying them with water.

 

Both borage leaves and blossoms can be frozen. The dried leaves have little aroma and are seldom sold. They should be stored protected from light and moisture.

 

Presumed effect on health

Because of its aromatic flavour, borage is considered to be an appetite stimulant. Folk medicine has long held borage to have a positive influence on mood and to alleviate depression. Even in ancient times the leaves, blossoms and seeds were used for melancholy and despondency.

The name borage is derived from the Celtic word 'borrach' and means courage. The English saying "Borage for courage" points to the thymoleptic, or antidepressive effect of the herb.

 

Form of consumption, use, processing, practical tips for preparation

Borage leaves must be very finely chopped due to the adherent bristles. The leaves and blossoms should be prepared preferably fresh or deep-frozen. The leaves can be bought dried, but they season only weakly. Borage is especially good for preparing tasty salads and sauces. It is often combined with cucumbers and yoghurt or used to season salsas, curd cheese with herbs, green sauce and dressings.

 

Owing to its cucumber-like aroma, borage is naturally an optimal seasoning for cucumbers. However, it also tastes good with cheese, ground meat, fish, vegetables, potato salad, and herb butter.

 

Try eating bread and butter with chopped borage. In Italy macaroni is filled with a mixture of borage and spinach or egg and parmesan.

 

The fresh star-shaped flowers are frequently used to decorate soups and salads. Desserts, fruit salads and cakes can also be eye-catchingly decorated with candied blossoms.

 

Seasoning tip

Borage combines well with garden cress, mint, dill, chervil, garlic and rocket (arugula). It should not be cooked with foods, but rather sprinkled over the warm dish just before serving.

 

 

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