The star-like blue flowers of borage make this a favorite plant in old-fashioned gardens. Borage is easy to grow, thriving in dry conditions and in poor soil. The leaves and flowers add a cucumber-like flavor to salads and beverages. Its large leaves can be sauteed as a green, and the flowers make an edible decoration for desserts. Borage contains gamma-linolenic acid, which horticulturalists at Kansas State University report has been shown to stimulate the adrenal glands. Traditionally, borage has been used to treat kidney ailments, coughs and rheumatism.
Harvest borage leaves and flowers in the morning, after the dew has dried but before the intense heat of midday. This will help preserve the oils that give herbs their distinctive flavors, according to horticulturalists at North Carolina State University.
Pick borage flowers before they are fully open. The flowers are edible and make colorful additions to salads.
Pull the leaves and flowers off with your fingers or clip them with scissors. Discard any brown or withered portions.
Dry the leaves
Dry borage leaves to use in teas or tinctures. Spread freshly picked leaves on a cookie sheet or newspaper. Arrange the leaves so space is around the leaves to allow air circulation.
Set the trays or sheets of leaves in a place where they'll be out of direct sunlight or drafts. Leave the leaves undisturbed until the leaves are dry but still green. Discard any black leaves. Drying time depends on the temperature and humidity of the room, as well as the size of the leaves and their moisture content. Most herbs will dry in one to two weeks, according to West Virginia State University.
Dry borage leaves in an oven set at 180 degrees if you don't want to wait for them to air dry. Arrange the leaves on a cookie sheet and slide the sheet into the oven. Check after half an hour and every 20 minutes thereafter. It may take up to three hours to dry the leaves this way, depending on the size of the leaves and their moisture content.
Store the dried leaves away from heat or direct sunlight in glass or plastic containers with lids. Dried herbs like this don't spoil but will lose their flavor over time. Herbs stored properly can be kept for up to a year, as noted by North Carolina State University.
Candy the Blossoms
Candy the flowers to decorate cakes or tarts. Pick the flowers early in the day, after the dew has dried but before the blossoms have begun to wilt.
Clip off excess greenery, leaving only a short stem to serve as a handle.
Holding the blossom by the stem, dip it in egg white. Allow the excess egg white to drip off, then tip the blossom into granulated sugar.
Set the sugared blossoms on a rack to dry. The candied flowers are completely edible as well as decorative.
About this Author
Cynthia James is the author of more than 40 novels and her nonfiction work has appeared in publications ranging from Modern Bride to Popular Mechanics. A graduate of Sam Houston State University, she has a degree in economics. Before turning to freelancing full time, James worked as a newspaper reporter, travel agent and medical clinic manager.