HomeGrowing TipsThe Complete Guide to Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Borage

The Complete Guide to Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Borage

With its cheerful blue star-shaped flowers and delicate cucumber flavor, borage is a delightful herb to grow in any garden. This easy-going plant has a long history of culinary and medicinal uses dating back to Ancient Rome and Greece. Read on for a comprehensive guide to successfully planting, caring for, and Harvesting Borage from seed to storage.

An Introduction to Borage

Borage (Borago officinalis)
Borage (Borago officinalis)

Also known as starflower, bee bread, and bugloss, borage (Borago officinalis) is an annual herb in the Boraginaceae family. Harvesting Borage is relatively straightforward as it’s an unfussy plant with bristly leaves and branching stems that can grow over 2 feet tall. The flowers are star-shaped with five petals and bloom beautifully in shades of blue, pink, or white during the summer months.

Borage is native to the Mediterranean region and has naturalized throughout Europe, North America, and other temperate areas. Both the leaves and flowers have a refreshing, cucumber-like flavor that makes a tasty addition to salads, lemonade, teas, and more. Medicinally, borage provides antioxidants and has traditional uses as an anti-inflammatory, diuretic, and depression aid.

When choosing borage, key features to look for include:

  • Plant type – Focus on annual varieties for ease of reseeding.
  • Flower color – Select blue for pollinators or white/pink for novelty.
  • Leaf hairiness – Hairier leaves have more flavor.
  • Flowering period – Choose early or late bloomers to extend harvests.

Where to Plant Borage

The Complete Guide to Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Borage

For the best results in Harvesting Borage, plant it where it will receive at least 6 hours of direct sun per day. Sheltered spots are ideal as the brittle stems can break easily in high winds.

Well-drained, average to dry soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0 suits borage best. Waterlogging leads to root rot, so avoid low, wet spots. Before planting, mix in 1-2 inches of finished compost to enrich the soil.

As a companion plant, borage repels tomato hornworms and improves the growth and flavor of tomatoes, squash, and strawberries planted nearby. Consider interplanting with bee-friendly flowers like calendula to also attract pollinators.

When and How to Plant Borage

The Complete Guide to Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Borage

Borage can be started from seed in spring 2-4 weeks before your last expected frost date. For most regions, this is late March through May. Germination takes 7-15 days at soil temperatures between 55-65°F.

You can begin seeds indoors in cell packs or trays 4-6 weeks early for transplanting. Direct sowing into the garden 1-2 weeks before the last frost is also an option. Borage doesn’t transplant well due to its taproot, so direct sowing is preferred.

Plant seeds 1⁄4 inch deep in rows or clusters 12-18 inches apart. Thin young plants to 6 inches apart. Borage reaches its full size within 8 weeks when sown directly outside.

Harvesting Borage

  • The leaves, flowers, and young stems of borage are all edible. Harvest leaves when they are young and tender, before plants bolt in hot weather.
  • Flowers should be harvested when fully open for the best flavor. Snip off individual blooms or take side shoots with multiple flowers.
  • To keep plants producing, cut back flower stems after blooming finishes. This encourages new growth and flowering.
  • Always use scissors or pruning shears for clean cuts that won’t crush the plant tissues when harvesting borage.
  • For continuous leaf harvests, cut leaves regularly so the plant doesn’t divert energy to flowers.
  • Remove any damaged or dry material promptly to maintain vigor.

Caring for Your Borage

When Harvesting Borage, minimal care is needed once the plant is established. Here are its key growing needs:

  • Water 1-2 inches per week during active growth and dry spells. Avoid wet foliage.
  • Fertilize monthly with a balanced liquid plant food or compost tea if growth looks stunted.
  • Mulch around plants to retain moisture and suppress weeds. Replenish as needed.
  • Prune or thin plants for ample airflow and light penetration.
  • Monitor for pests like aphids, slugs, and snails. Remove by hand or use organic sprays.
  • Deadhead spent flowers to prolong blooming. Cut back any damaged foliage.

Growing Borage in Containers

Harvesting Borage is also possible when the plant is grown in containers. Use potting soil blended for herbs or edibles to provide adequate drainage. Add a bit of sand or perlite if needed.

Site containers in full sun. Provide extra water during dry periods as pots dry out faster. Feed monthly. To overwinter containers in colder climates, bring pots indoors before the first frost. Prune back to 6 inches for easy transport.

Trim borage often to keep it tidy and prevent leggy, top-heavy growth. Rotate pots frequently for even sunlight exposure. Transplant to a larger pot or into the garden as roots fill out the container.

Troubleshooting Common Borage Problems

Borage is untroubled by most pests and diseases. Issues are usually caused by environmental stresses:

  • Yellowed leaves may indicate overwatering or poor drainage. Allow soil to dry between waterings.
  • Powdery white spots on leaves or stems is likely powdery mildew. Improve air circulation and avoid wetting foliage.
  • Holes in leaves can be caused by slugs and caterpillars. Remove by hand or use insecticidal soap.
  • Leaf spots or stem lesions could be a fungal issue. Avoid overhead watering and space/prune plants.
  • Slow growth is often from inadequate sunlight or nutrition. Fertilize and move plants to a sunnier location.

Harvesting Borage for Food and Medicine

  • The entire borage plant is edible. The leaves have a mild cucumber flavor perfect for salads, drinks, sauces, and more.
  • Flowers provide a pretty, edible garnish. Remove the hairy sepals before eating. Use them to decorate desserts, float in drinks, or candy in sugar.
  • Harvest leaves and flowers in the morning after dew dries for the best flavor and longevity when harvesting borage.
  • Use scissors to cut young leaves and stems. For flowers, pinch or snip off clusters just above a leaf junction.
  • Rinse harvested borage and pat dry with paper towels or spin dry. Refrigerate in resealable bags or containers.
  • Traditionally, borage tea from dried leaves and flowers was used to treat fever, coughs, depression, and as a diuretic.

Storing and Preserving Borage

Refrigerate fresh borage leaves and flowers in humidified bins or bags for 1-2 weeks. For longer storage, consider:

  • Freezing – Blanch leaves/flowers for 1-2 minutes until wilted. Cool, drain, and freeze in airtight bags.
  • Drying – Hang upside down or use a dehydrator to dry. Crumble and store dried borage in airtight jars.
  • Vinegar – Make herbal borage vinegar with dried or fresh leaves. Use vinegar for salads, cooking, and as a refreshing drink.
  • Sugar – Candy borage flowers in egg white and superfine sugar. Dry on racks and store in tins lined with wax paper.
  • Oil – Infuse olive oil with fresh leaves. Refrigerate and use for cooking, salads and bread dipping within 1-2 weeks.

Propagating Borage from Seeds

  • Harvesting Borage seeds is another aspect of this versatile plant. Allow a few flowers to go to seed at the end of the season.
  • Once dry on the plant, cut off the seed head stalks and place upside down in bags to catch any loose seeds.
  • Further dry the entire seed heads for 1-2 weeks. Then rub between your hands to separate the black seeds from the husks.
  • To plant, sow seeds directly in garden 12 inches apart in either spring or fall. Cover lightly with 1⁄4 inch soil.
  • Forstarts, sow seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before last frost. Keep soil moist and provide warmth for germination.
  • Store seeds in an airtight container in a cool, dry place after harvesting borage. Viability lasts 3-4 years.

Conclusion

Borage is the perfect herb for both beginning and experienced gardeners alike. It requires little maintenance, yet provides abundant edible flowers and leaves that lend a burst of flavor to many dishes. This guide covers everything you need to know about choosing the right variety, planting, caring for, troubleshooting problems with borage, and most importantly – properly harvesting borage leaves and flowers at their peak for use in delicious recipes. With its long history and a multitude of uses, borage is a versatile and easy-to-grow herb that keeps giving all season long. For a delightful, carefree addition to your garden, look no further than cheerful, rewarding borage.

FAQs

When is the best time to harvest borage?

Harvest leaves when young and tender before plants flower. For flowers, wait until fully opened and dry from dew. The flavor is best then for harvesting borage.

What part of borage do you use for tea?

The leaves and flowers can both be dried and used to make borage tea. Steep 1-2 teaspoons per cup of boiling water for 5-7 minutes.

Can you eat dried borage leaves?

Yes, borage leaves maintain their pleasant flavor when fully dried. Use them in teas, soups, broths, and anywhere you’d use dried parsley or basil.

What does borage taste like?

Borage has a cool, faint cucumber taste. The leaves and flowers are often described as having a “cucumber-melon” flavor. They make a refreshing addition to drinks.

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