Monday, June 21, 2010

What’s Growing ~ Borage

The first blossom on my Borage is a brilliant sky blue

With the recent reduction in the honey bee population here in America, there has been a lot of buzz about pollinators. Of course, honey bees are a European import, and prior to the early 1600s, America did without them, making use of a host of our native pollinators, bees, wasps and other insect who don’t make honey, to pollinate the crops and wildflowers. But whether it is a honey bee, a wasp, or any old bug you want to pollinate your garden, you need to work on attracting them. This is especially important with cucurbits who do not self pollinate like the nightshade family. Squashes and Cucumbers especially depend on a pollinator to bring the pollen from the male flower to the female flower. So how do you attract the pollinators? You plant some really enticing flowers on the edges of your garden.

I’ve tried several different attractors in my garden ranging from Basil to Zinnias.

Red Rubin Basil is a colorful and useful addition to the garden.

Besides bringing in pollinators, Zinnias are excellent cut flowers

Some of my favorites are Nasturtium and Sunflower. This year I’m trying Borage. If you read up on Companion Planting, Borage will keep popping up. It is said to improve the growth of tomatoes and strawberries as well as make them taste better. It deters tomato hornworms and cabbage worms. It adds trace minerals to the soil and composts well. It increases the pest and disease resistance of almost anything it’s planted next to. And it attracts pollinators!

Borage (or Starflower) is a Middle Eastern herb originating in Syria. It is found naturalized all through out the Mediterranean region as well as Asia Minor, Europe, North Africa, and South America. The leaves have a cucumber like taste and are used in salads. The flowers are one of the few true blue edibles and are honey sweet. No wonder they attract bees.

So this year I have invited Borage into my squash beds. The plant grows two to three feet high and will probably self seed all over my garden. But it will be a welcome “pest”, and I hope it takes over the edges of the wood line and rougher parts of the lawn.

And just in case it takes over the garden, I’ve looked up a recipe for it:

Borage and Cucumbers
3 large cucumbers½ pint sour cream2 tablespoons rice vinegar½ teaspoon celery seed1/4 cup chopped green onion1 teaspoon sugarsalt and pepper to taste¼ cup fresh, young borage leaves (chopped finely)
Slice the cucumbers thinly. Salt lightly and set aside in a colander for 30 minutes, then rinse and pat dry with paper towels. Mix the remaining ingredients, add the cucumbers to the mixture, and toss lightly. Garnish with borage blossoms. Chill for one hour before serving.

1 comment:

  1. I have been planting borage for a couple years now. I love not having to buy seeds every year, and having giant bumblebees flitting here and there. I agree with you this is one pest I don't mind having around. I was so nervous about my squash making last year I did the Qtip method of pollinating. Now with the borage making an abundant show, I don't think I will have to work so hard. Already I've seen 3 different types of bee in the yard. Even a blackish and gray striped variety I've never seen before.