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Want courage? Try borage

By Penny Stine

Every year, I like to plant something I’ve never grown before in my garden, which is how I discovered pattypan squash, kale and tomatillos. Much to my delight, I discovered that all grow quite well in our climate and my family enjoys eating all three, which makes it even better.

This year, I tripled my garden space, so I added a lot of plants I’d never grown before, like borage, which is an herb that’s supposed to be a good companion plant for strawberries. It’s also supposed to give you courage or lift your melancholy spirits. Both the leaves and the flowers, which have yet to appear on my plants, are edible.

After 10 minutes of Internet research, I learned that the leaves supposedly smell like cucumbers and are good infused in vermouth and can also be eaten in a salad. Being the adventurous gardener and cook that I am, I picked some to sample before putting it in my Asian shrimp salad.

Personally, I think you have to display courage to eat borage because it’s one of those plants with a weird texture. While it does smell faintly of cucumber, the leaves are not fuzzy like peaches. They’re hairy like gorillas.

I tasted it anyway. Hmmm, interesting. Maybe you’re supposed to eat it only after you’ve drunk a bottle or two of borage-infused vermouth. Maybe then you’ll agree that it tastes more like cucumber and not fish oil.

Regardless, I put it in my salad anyway. Since I also put in home-grown arugula and other salad greens, along with mint, basil and cilantro, I figured the hairy texture and fishy flavor would be masked.

My husband loved the salad, but thought he detected a faint taste of dirt, which could have been the arugula. He’s not a big arugula fan.

I brought borage leaves to work and had a few courageous people sample it. They all agreed it smelled like cucumbers. Some thought it tasted like cucumbers; two people detected a fishy after-taste and one woman thought it tasted like watermelon. She’s always upbeat and positive and sees the good in everything, though, even hairy, fishy edible herbs.

I doubt that I’ll be eating any more borage, even when it flowers. It should look pretty, though, which counts for something in my book.


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