The Courage to Cook with Borage


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A close up of borage flowers
Photo by Shutterstock

Not everyone knows that the borage plant is edible. So are borage flowers.

Most people barely even know what borage is, let alone what you might do to highlight its flavor. Borage arrived in my garden years ago when I planted it not to eat, but as a bee attractant: The more bees in your garden, the better they pollinate its other plants.

Once you plant borage, like purslane, you have it forever unless you nuke your garden. It so readily seeds itself I get volunteers sprouting all year long; sometimes those seedlings get, well, a little aggressive.

Then it was time to prep that bed to plant a round of summer cannellini beans. I pulled everything — including the borage plants — turned the soil and added lots of compost. I planted my beans, watered, and waited. What came up? Borage. Lots and lots of borage. No beans. Grrrr… Then I got zen about it and thought that if life has given me borage, I ought to make borage-ade. Or something. And as borage seedlings are not nearly as prickly and spiny as an older borage plant, this was the time to use as many of them as I could.

Well just what do you do with 100 pounds of borage seedlings? Frankly, you compost most of them. But borage, especially young borage, has a crunchy, cooling flavor that can best be described as herbal cucumber.

Borage plays well with fish, and indeed, every now and again I get a faint fishy aroma coming from this plant. Holly can’t detect it, so maybe it’s just that I’ve smelled too many fresh fish over the years; many species, especially smelt, smell like cucumbers.

Salads were the obvious choice. Beyond that, I looked around my cookbook collection and came up nearly empty. Yes, Euell Gibbons has some excellent ideas in his Stalking The Wild Asparagus: Borage drinks, borage jelly, etc. But Euell likes jellies with his meat, a la lamb with mint jelly. I don’t, and I eat jellies and jams rarely. And borage juice requires a juicer — doing it with a food processor means you need to press everything through a sieve, which is a big pain in the ass.

I found a few hippy-dippy recipes for borage that looked too mystical for me.

At a loss, I decided to make one of my green soups. Long-time readers of this space know I really, really like bright green sauces and soups. So why not a borage soup?

Borage being an herb, I figured I needed something to add body. A russet potato worked fine. A little veggie stock and a smidge of duck fat added to a heap of blanched borage (borage only needs about 30 seconds in salted boiling water to blanch, by the way), and, after sufficient buzzing, I had a nice green soup.

I like this soup. It is filling, savory, a little herby, and you get just enough of the cucumber-y flavor of borage to make this soup cooling, even served hot. I ate it hot, at room temperature and cold, and I preferred it at room temperature. (Here is the full recipe.) But still… While it was a good soup, it did not scream BORAGE to me.

Ligurian Pansotti, a triangular ravioli filled with borage and ricotta cheese, was another good choice. Borage stands in for the more common spinach.

borage plant flower with a bee
Photo by Shutterstock

This rocks. It’s just a variation on that classic ravioli filling we all know and love. Only here you definitely get that cucumber taste, making the filling light as air. A dash of nutmeg helps a lot, too. Making ravioli can be fiddly, but it’s worth it, as these ravioli are pretty cool-looking. (Full ravioli recipe here.)

So now we have salad, a soup and a pasta course. I definitely had this Iron Chef Battle Borage thing going on. Time for a main course. Borage goes well with fish, and as I’ve been reading Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way, I had chimichurri on the mind. So yeah, I made borage chimichurri.

It’s definitely good stuff, and definitely a sauce I’d use with fish, pheasants, quail or chicken. Turkey would be pretty good with it, too. Not so sure I’d do borage with red meat, though. The chimichurri is cooling from the borage and cutting from the vinegar, with a hit of raw garlic and a base note from fresh oregano.

All it needed was some grilled chinook salmon. Borage chimichurri is both pretty to look at on the salmon, and a good balance to its richness.

Salmon with borage chimichurri
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Main course down. Dessert? Nope. Didn’t go there. Not sure a borage ice cream or sorbet would be good, although a savory borage sorbet would be a good palate cleanser between courses, I suspect.

What was the point of all this? Well, those damn seedlings choked out all my beans, so I felt I needed to exact a measure of revenge against the interlopers. Besides, I may never get such a flush of borage seedlings again, and I wanted to make hay while the sun shined, so to speak.

But it’s really an issue of getting to know an ingredient — really getting to know it — that made this so much fun. Sure borage is obscure. But it’s easy to grow and I’m glad to have it around. Now I know what I can do with it.

I also know I did not come near to exhausting borage’s uses. Anyone out there have any others? I’m all ears, as there will always be more borage lurking somewhere in my garden.

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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  1. borage is used like spinach in Mediterranean countries and turkey. use it to make fritters, pesto, omelettes, etc. It good sauted with goji berries, shallots, pasta, olive oil.

  2. I planted sone edible seeds : looks like borage is predominant lol lots of bees.
    I will probably c my 18ft by 24ft sandbox growing borage next tear:(

  3. Thanks for the creative ideas about how to use borage. I’d like to ask though, not to be given links to information that requires me to purchase something to get the information, such as the link to Stalking the Wild Asparagus. It’s a real time waster.

  4. I have lots of borage and this answered a lot of questions. I have made pesto with just about everything including spinach and combinations of things like parsley and basil. I see borage/ basil pesto in my future. I look forward to the soup. I have sorrel growing in my garden, as well and that makes the most fantastic soup. All it needs is butter, egg yolks and broth . So delicious . I might try it with a combo of borage and sorrel

  5. You’re not the only one who finds Borage to have a slightly “fishy” odor. While I like using the flowers in salads & as edible decorations, the fishy odor has turned me off using the leaves.

  6. Thanks for the great ideas! re: drinking borage — I find a simple sun tea is awesome (but the borage in water, in the sun, or not), and leave for 20min to overnight (but not longer). Yummy borage flavour. Tons of nutrients (potassium, etc etc etc) and SIMPLE AF. I recently did it with rose petals, too (nice). Could be added to lemonade, etc. Enjoy!

    Still looking for borage root recipes … Anyone?!

    1. Evyan: I’ve never ever heard of that! Borage has been eaten for thousands of years. I wonder if it is an alkaloid in seeds? Or extracted from the plant itself? Sometimes there are things as part of a plant’s makeup that, when divorced from the rest of the plant, are toxic.

      1. The pyrrolidazine alkaloids found are mainly in the seed oil. Some commercial brands of borage seed oil contain unhealthy amounts. But the flower, young leaves and even the stalks are used in many salads, cooked recipes, and even alcoholic drinks.

        They have been used these ways for many hundreds of years, in many countries.

      2. This is a thing. A friend and Herbalist (serious. She teaches for a certifiying college and all that) told me that this can be an issue. Especially if eating (or drinking) in quantity. And/or with certain health condidtions. She told me that this is more of an issue with young plants. As the plants grow up, this becomes less of an issue.

  7. Thanks for the recipe ideas. I am going to try and stuff some leaves to see what happens. Will let you know.

  8. Borage leaves and flowers with lemon slices were the classic Pimm’s Cup garnish–before the cucumber, mint and fruit bits became popular.

  9. I’m beside myself with your full on borage recipe investigation. I’m going to make the chimichurri. Thanks for getting zen with the borage!

  10. All these recipes and ideas are wonderful, I’m thinking if it can be used in place of spinach or other wilted greens, maybe in place of spinach or mustard greens in saag might be an interesting flavor. Off to try it!

  11. What is your borage chimichurri recipe? It has taken over my garden and I’m trying not to waste it!

  12. These comments from wonderfully generous people sharing their recipes, together with the main blog about the chimichurri and lots of other recipe, are brilliant. Thank you so much!
    I’ve planted a PILE of borage seeds in a tub for the bees. Now I know what to do with their leaves.

    1. Just Yesterday my friends brought me borage milk (like an english tea with milk with borage, linden, anise, aniseed, camomille) they say its great to calm the nervous system. Drink warm and sweetened with honey! It was delicious!

  13. In Baja we had batter fried borage layered with fresh mozzarella and tomatoes as an appetizer. It reminded me of tempura. Delish!

  14. What about the roots?
    We’ve had borage all season, and left to themselves, a handful of plants have gotten huge – rain-forest huge (which, in the Pacific NW warm summer weather, isn’t too surprising).
    Pulling up a couple of these now-wilted overgrown plants I find their roots to be large – over an inch in diameter and shaped like a carrot.
    They have the look of edibility – white & moist inside, smell nice – but I can’t find any info on whether they’re good to eat. Anyone have experience here?

  15. Thanks for these tips! I have been using borage in smoothies and it’s delicious! I put 2-3 large leaves, 1 overripe frozen banana, and top it off with water, and it’s fantastic. The borage blends into nothing but pure green, similar to spinach. You don’t need a juicer or to strain it.

    1. That is a wonderful tip! I’m going to purée it and use in place of cucumber in my cream cheese, yogurt, onion cucumber dip!

  16. Love the cold soup and the chimichurri idea. I planted some this year in my container garden strictly for the blossoms which I’m freezing in ice for G&Ts.

    Now, thinking the leaves might work in my cucumber kimchi. But I’m wondering if they might turn slimy?