Borage flowers are one of the unmistakeable signs of summer. Borage is one of the prettiest summer herbs with both edible and medicinal uses and easy to grow from seed. Once pollinated, the flowers develop large black seeds (the size of peppercorns) - be quick to gather these if you don't have the space to let the plant self-seed.
Growers of the herb know that the flowers can be frozen in ice-cubes and used to glam up summer drinks; they have a slightly sweet cucumber flavour that goes particularly well with Pimms, that quintessential English drink favoured by Wimbledon devotees. In her book 'Good Enough to Eat', Jekka McVicar suggests sprinkling the flowers into a salad, crystallising for decoration on cakes or adding to chilled summer soups; she has a nice recipe for mixing the flowers (stamen and pistils removed) with creme fraiche and layering this with a fruit purée for a lovely summer pudding.
The whole plant is edible: freshly picked young leaves have a salty cucumber taste and can be eaten as part of a salad, or with cream cheese and tomatoes in sandwiches. They're very bristly so are best chopped finely and mixed with other leaves if you're going to use them for this. Both leaves and flowers can be used to make a nice refreshing tea which is said to have a slightly diuretic effect (not dissimilar to normal tea or coffee).
This is the same plant which is elsewhere known as Starflower (you can see why) and whose seeds have a high concentration of Gamma Linoleic Acid, a valuable oil used to regulate female hormones. For me though, it's best use is as a companion plant. Bees absolutely love it so it's a great herb to grow next to your beans for an increased yield. It's also attractive to blackfly which could be off putting unless you grow some as sacrificial plants.
I have a tray of borage, grown from seed, ready to go out into the veg patch but, just in case those didn't work out, I also have two bought borage plants growing on my balcony. A few days ago I noticed that these had produced clusters of buds:
24 hours of sunshine later and warmer temperatures have coaxed the flowers out, first pink then turning a beautiful deep blue.
I have gardener Naomi Schillinger to thank for these seeds. I admired the borage growing in her garden last summer and she swiftly removed a handful of seeds and popped them in an envelope for me. Naomi has done marvellous work with her neighbours' front gardens and the tree pits in her local streets; check out her inspirational blog or if you can get to North London, she's participating in the Chelsea Fringe.
The broad beans are also beginning to flower and I'm on blackfly watch for the broad beans in the veg patch. I spotted a couple on one of the plants this afternoon but I'm afraid that aphids are building in numbers elsewhere - I just hope that the ladybirds can keep up with the feast! For some reason, I thought that my pink Karmazyn beans would produce pink or red flowers but, no... Unless something dramatic is about to happen to these creamy buds!