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Borage
Borage flower
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: (unplaced)
Family: Boraginaceae
Genus: Borago
Species: B. officinalis
Binomial name
Borago officinalis
L.

Borage, 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 (2.0–3.3 ft), and is bristly or hairy all over the stems and leaves; the leaves are alternate, simple, and 5–15 cm (2.0–5.9 in) long. The flowers are complete, perfect with five narrow, triangular-pointed petals. Flowers are most often blue in color, although pink flowers are sometime observed. White flowered types are also cultivated. 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.

Characteristics and uses

Borage plant

Traditionally borage was cultivated for culinary and medicinal uses, although today commercial cultivation is mainly as an oilseed. The seed oil is desired as source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA, 18:3, cis 6,9,12-octadecatrienoic acid), for which borage is the highest known plant-based source (17-28%).[1] The seed oil content is between 26-38% and in addition to GLA contains the fatty acids palmitic acid (10-11%), stearic acid (3.5-4.5%), oleic acid (16-20%), linoleic acid (35-38%), eicosenoic acid (3.5-5.5%), erucic acid (1.5-3.5%), and nervonic acid (1.5%). The oil is often marketed as "starflower oil" or "borage oil" for uses as a GLA supplement, although healthy adults will typically produce ample GLA through dietary linoleic acid.

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 as one of the few truly blue-colored edible things, is often used to decorate dessert. It is notable that the leaves have been found to contain small amounts (10 ppm of dried herb) of the liver-toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids: intermedine, lycopsamine, amabiline and supinine.

Vegetable use of borage is common in Germany, in the Spanish regions of Aragón and Navarra and in the Italian northern region Liguria. Although often used in soups, one of the better known German borage recipes is the Green Sauce (Grüne Soße) made in Frankfurt. In Italian Liguria, borage is commonly used as filling of the traditional pasta ravioli. The leaves and flowers were originally used in Pimms before it was replaced by mint. It is used to flavour pickled gherkins in Poland.

Naturopathic practitioners use borage for regulation of metabolism and the hormonal system, and consider it to be a good remedy for PMS and menopause symptoms, such as the hot flash. Borage is sometimes indicated to alleviate and heal colds, bronchitis, and respiratory infections, and in general for its anti-inflammatory and balsamic properties. The flowers can be prepared in infusion to take advantage of its medicinal properties. The oleic and palmitic acid of borage may also confer a hypocholesterolemic effect.

Borage is also traditionally used as a garnish in the Pimms Cup cocktail, but is often replaced by cucumber if not available.

Borage is used in companion planting; if planted near tomato plants it is said not only to improve their growth but also to make them taste better and to repel the tomato hornworm.

Detail of flower
A white flower cultivar

References

  1. ^ NNFCC. "Borage", Retrieved on 17 March 2009

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

BORAGE (pronounced like "courage"; possibly from Lat. borra, rough hair), a herb (Borago oJJicinalis) with bright blue flowers and hairy leaves and stem, considered to have some virtue as a cordial and a febrifuge; used as an ingredient in salads or in making claret-cup, &c.


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