Borage is one of my favourite herbs, and yet it's much underrated, in my opinion. Every year I grow it from seed in pots in my back yard, and in the garden, and love the intense blue of its flowers.
When they first open they are pink, and then progress through violet to blue.
In Medieval paintings the blue colour inspired the colour of the Virgin's robes, and the flowers were woven into tapestries, as well as decorating manuscripts and embroideries. There are some beautiful ones in this book which is full of gorgeous medieval illustrations.
Looking at the back of the flowers is fascinating. The five petals make a star, hence borage's other name of starflower, and they droop on their hairy stems. Butterflies and bees love the flowers, and are frequent visitors.
The buds are incredibly hairy too. Borage is often used as a companion plant with crops such as strawberries and tomatoes as a natural pest control.
It is classed as a herb and can be eaten in salads or cooked as a green vegetable. I can't imagine eating those hairy, bristly leaves raw but apparently they taste of cucumber.
The name borage is said to come from the French word for hairy, borrache, or the Welsh word for courage, borrach, and it was put into drinks which the Crusaders drank before they departed. It was also known as the 'herb of gladness' because it was used as a herbal remedy to cure melancholy and depression.
In his famous Herbal of 1597 John Gerard says that 'the leaves and floures of Borrage put into wine make men and women glad and merry,driving away all sadnesse, dulnesse, and melancholy'. How lovely that we now use the flowers to decorate summer drinks like Pimms.
I am gladdened just by having borage in my garden every year, and plan to enjoy its heavenly colour for years to come.