Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Eternal Herb: A Buzz Guarentee and Cheap

For a reason now lost, I planted the herb Borage, maybe ten years ago. Young borage seedlings have been popping up all over the vegetable garden this spring, as they have every year since, and yesterday the first two began to bloom; they are the first of hundreds of plants which will be covered with “talk of the garden” blue, star shaped flowers.

Besides adding vivid color to a veggie garden, the flowers attract bees by the the droves from sun up to sundown. There are so many bees you don't have to strain your ears to the bzzzz. That is a guarantee. Here the two main species attracted to the flowers are honeybees and the big yellow bumblebees. I've never been stung by the bees feasting on the herb; maybe they are so contented, they just ignore us humans.

Once Borage is planted, it readily reseeds itself every year. If several get too gangly, or even after the infamous visit by Jack Frost, I just take the plants and place them where I want more to grow next year. No tilling, no mess, no fuss.

According to all sources, the herb originates from the Mediterranean area and is widely grown in Spain. Some bee keepers keep fields of Borage because of the light colored and highly flavored honey produced by the honeybees. Borage can bloom in white and shades of pink. Mine are good ole blue.

Borage is edible; the flowers, the stalk and leaves. It has a mild cucumber taste and can be used in salads, stews and soups, dried and used as a tea, and the flowers are used as garnishes, sometimes placed in ice cube and used for some drinks. Never tried one in a drink, but there is a recipe to fry the leaves in a battered like a fritter. That will be on the list this summer, well, maybe an ice cube or two as well.

Borage is also reputed to be a good companion plant for tomatoes, squash and strawberries. It is claimed that the herb enhances the flavor. But it certainly has to increase the amount of vegetables with all the bees it attracts.

The lone photograph of the herb without an insect was taken the first day of summer, June 21st; the others were taken in previous years. Borage is a good herb to consider in the vegetable or pollinator garden, even as July approaches, it is not too late at all for this spectacular herb.

For some additional great reading, click On My Way to the Top, by Kathleen Richardson. She also writes a blog on the nearby Southern Tier section of New York. Also Dan at Urban Veggie Garden , in Ontario is already picking brocolli!

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