Borage is an excellent culinary herb and can be used in a variety of ways. Borage is far better used fresh, as the flavour and colour deteriorate when dried and some essential oils lost.
The leaves taste of oil and cucumber and together with the flowers (say three leaves and three flowers) can be added to 500ml (1pt) of homemade lemonade.
To make lemonade combine the juice of a lemon with 30ml (2 tbsp) of sugar or honey dissolved in 500ml (1pt) of boiling water, and then chill. For a different refreshing drink, add borage flowers and lemon balm leaves to apple or pear juice.
Young leaves can be boiled as a spinach substitute or cooked with cabbage (two parts cabbage to one part borage). Chopped leaves can be added, for the last few minutes of cooking, to pea or bean soup and to stews, or finely shredded in salads (before the hairs on the leaves become stiff with age).
Traditional recipes recommend borage leaves and seeds, together with fennel in salads for increasing the milk supply in nursing mothers. The leaves and flowers are still added for flavour and garnish to wine cups, Pimms and gin-based summer cocktails and the flowers are still candied for confectionary as cake and ice cream decorations.
A delicious herb butter can be made by finely chopping young borage leaves, parsley and dill, producing one 15ml (1 tbsp) of each herb, blending them into 150g (5oz) of butter and then adding a little lemon juice, one 5ml spoon (1tsp) of chopped onion plus salt and pepper. For a sandwich filling or party dip, try blending 15ml (1tbsp) of finely chopped young leaves into 100g (4oz) of cream or cottage cheese and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Here is a recipe for biscuits, adding the flowers for decoration.
225g (8oz) self-raising flour
110g (4oz) sugar
160g (6oz) butter or margarine
Pinch of salt
One beaten egg
12 drops vanilla essence
Runny preserve for brushing eg homemade redcurrant, apple or raspberry jelly.
Sift the flour into a bowl, add the salt and then rub in the fat until the mixture is like breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar. Add the beaten egg and the vanilla essence and mix to a stiff paste. Roll out, cut into shapes and place onto a greased baking sheet. Brush the tops with jelly. Place a borage flower on top of each biscuit, pressing down the petals so they adhere to the jelly. Gently drizzle and brush jelly onto the flowers. Bake in an oven preheated to 190C (375F) Gas mark 5 for about 20 minutes, until the biscuits have a good warm colour. Remove from the oven but leave on the tray for a few minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool.
Alternatively, for a darker, crisper effect, bake the biscuits without the flowers. Once removed from the oven, brush over more jelly, add the flowers as before and then, instead of jelly, sieve icing sugar over the flowers and biscuits. Place them on the wire rack of a grill pan and grill for one minute.
For a good all-round read about herbs, try Leslie Kenton’s Healing Herbs: Transform Your Life with Plant Power. You have only to look at the front cover of the dust jacket to know the author acknowledges the beauty of the borage flower. It has some excellent reviews.
Photography Sine Chesterman ®
Sine Chesterman, Contributing author
NB At this time of year it’s possible to sow some seeds that will still give flowers and seeds for cooking in about two months. You can freeze the flowers in an ice tray and use them to brighten up drinks in the winter months. Thompson & Morgan sell an excellent variety. Editor
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