It’s a hardy old plant, borage. Last year our patch in the front garden was so tough it survived two frosts before giving up the ghost and to be fair, once you have the plant it is very likely to self-seed everywhere. People of tidy dispositions despair.
The starry blue flowers make it well worth your while, though. They can be popped into jugs of summertime Pimms, frozen into ice cubes to impress your friends and used as a lovely garnish to salads, along with the smallest young leaves from the plant. You can also get a pretty stunning white cultivar which is just as glorious.
It was used by medieval knights as the “cup of courage” because they would float borage flowers in their wine cups before a battle, thinking it would grant them courage to fight. In Victorian times, gardeners would grow it year round to flavour claret cups, which were a kind of red wine punch with sherry and brandy.
John Gerard in his 1597 herbal said it “makes a man merry and joyfull’ ‘Leaves and floures (sic) of Borrage put into wine make men and women glad and merry, driving away all sadnesse, dulnesse and melancholy.’ No wonder the bees seem so happy around it!
We use cold, pressed oil from the seeds in our hand cream. It contains even higher levels of gamma linolenic acid than the fabled evening primrose oil making it a wonderful treatment for dry or mature skin and in reducing inflammation.