Monday, February 2, 2009

Borage (Borago officinalis L) 琉璃苣

Borage (Borago officinalis L.), also known as "starflower" is an annual herb originating in Syria, but naturalized throughout the Mediterranean region, as well as Asia Minor, Europe, North Africa, and South America. It grows to a height of 60-100 cm (2-3 feet), and is bristly or hairy all over the stems and leaves; the leaves are alternate, simple, and 5-15 cm (2-6 in) long. The flowers are complete, perfect with five narrow, triangular-pointed petals. Flowers are most often blue in color, blue flowers will fade pink as they age, but provide a lovely summer bloom. The flowers arise along scorpiod cymes to form large floral displays with multiple flowers blooming simultaneously, suggesting that borage has a high degree of geitonogamy. It has an indeterminate growth habit which may lead to prolific spreading. In milder climates, borage will bloom continuously for most of the year. Borage is an excellent companion plant for tomatoes, squash and strawberries. The plant actually improves the flavor of tomatoes growing nearby.

How to grow
Sow seeds 1/8 inch deep and 12 inches apart directly in early spring, about a week before the last expected frost. Prefers fine, well-worked moist soil and partial sun. Borage will bloom nearly all season and will self-seed from year to year. The shallow-rooted prolific plants are easy to thin when overgrown. Planting in thick clumps provides support to top-heavy plants; extra support is beneficial. Pick the leaves in spring and summer when flowering begins.

Borage production does include use as either a fresh vegetable or a dried herb. As a fresh vegetable, borage, with a cucumber like taste, is often used in salads or as a garnish. The flower, which contains the non-toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloid thesinine, has a sweet honey-like taste and is one of the few truly blue-colored edible things, is often used to decorate dessert. Traditionally borage was cultivated for culinary and medicinal uses, although today commercial cultivation is mainly as an oilseed.

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