Borago officinalis (Borage)

Borage – Bourrache

Borago officinalis,  through the ages,  has been considered to be a herb to lighten the spirits, to dispel melancholy and to give courage.  According to Dioscorides (40-90AD) and Pliny (23-79AD), Borage was the famous ‘Nepenthe’ of Homer, a herb wine that brought absolute forgetfulness.  Pliny called the plant ‘euphrosinum’ meaning that it made men joyful and merry.  It is widely used in alcoholic drinks, notably Pimms cocktails.  The flowers are a beautiful pure blue, the colour often used by the Old Masters to paint the Madonna’s robe.  Borage is a bee plant, its bright blue star-shaped flowers are always covered in bees or other insects.


It is a native to the Mediterranean region.  An annual, sometimes biennial herb, with erect hairy stems to 60cm, bearing ovate, alternate. rough leaves, hairy on both surfaces, 3-11 cm long with bright blue, dropping star-shaped flowers.  The leaves, flowers and seeds are used.  It is a cooling, saline, diuretic herb that soothes damaged or irritated tissues and has mild sedative and anti-depressant effects.  The seeds are a rich source of gamma-linolenic acids.  The oil from the seeds regulates the hormonal systems and lowers blood pressure.  Borage is cultivated for the oil production.  The leaves contain small amounts of pyrrolizidine alkaloids that may cause liver damage or liver cancer.
Despite the small amounts of pyrrolizidine alkaloids, it is used in many countries as a vegetable.  It is commonly used in Germany as one of the ingredients in the well known ‘Grünen Soße’;  in the Spanish regions of Arragon and Navarra;  on the Greek island of Crete;  and in the Italian region of Liguria, just across the border from France, in their traditional pasta of Pansôti (half moon shaped) ravioli filled with ricotta and borage, served with a walnut, pinenut and yoghurt sauce.  In Poland it is used to flavour pickled gherkins.
Grünen Soße is a typical dish from the Frankfurt region of Germany.  It is quite tasty all on its own, but it is normally eaten with cold or warm beef dishes, fish or boiled new potatoes;  first mentioned in 1860 in a cookery book by Wilhelmina Rührig.  The most important element is that there should be 7 herbs in the mixture.  It is so popular that it is sold in markets ready packed in a bundle of 7 herbs.  The herbs may change according to the season, as it is now eaten the year round.  Traditionally though, Borage is essential to the dish.

Grünen Soße

gruene sosse

gruene sosse 3
5 hard boiled eggs,  1/4 cup of oil,  250 ml sour cream (or 125 ml yoghurt & 125 ml of sour cream);  a handful of the following freshly, finely cut herbs:  Borage, Cress, Chervil, Chives, Sorrel, Salad Burnet, Parsley (or/and Dill, Tarragon, Lemon Balm, Spinach leaves);  the juice of 1/2 lemon,  1 tsp of mustard,  salt,  freshly ground pepper,  a pinch of sugar;  optional:  1 finely chopped gherkin or 1 grated onion.
Press the egg yolk with a fork to a smooth consistency, add the oil, stir till smooth.  Add 125 ml of sour cream.  Mix the finely cut herbs through this mixture.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add the rest of the sour cream.  Cut the egg white in small pieces, mix it through the sauce.

Bibliography:  Die Krauter der Grünen Soße – Margarete Rhades;  Italian Feast – Antonio Carluccio;  Herbs & Herbalism – Malcolm Stuart;  RHS Encyclopedia of Herbs and their uses – Deni Bown;   Wikipedia (Borago officinalis) – Web


About seasonalforaging

We are a group of friends who enjoy walking in the countryside in Provence searching for plants and herbs to identify and use.
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