Sunday, March 31, 2013

Flowers--More Than Just a Pretty Face! (And An Ode to Borage)

Lately I’ve been reading organic gardening message boards on the interwebs and it seems the most asked questions are, “what can I use in my garden to get rid of pests…” I have an easy solution to this! 


When planting your organic vegetable garden, you may want to consider planting flowers for numerous reasons. Yes, they are beautiful, making your back yard garden a pleasurable place to be, but flowers are the organic gardener's secret weapon and best ally! Flowers attract bees and butterflies and beneficial insects that eat the bad insects, and often support the growth of your veggies by providing needed nutrients! 

The following is a list of flowers that actually make your job easier as an organic gardener—they attract and enlist the help of beneficial insects that will eat the bad insects. I encourage you to do some further research to see how these plants can help you in your garden: 

Bergamot, Borage, Butterfly weed, Caraway, Cilantro, Cosmos, Dill, Fennel, Gloriosa daisy, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Lobelia, Marigold, Parsley, Penstemon, Poppies, Queen Anne’s Lace, Spearmint, Statice, Stonecrop (Sedum), Sweet Alyssum, Yarrow, Zinnia.

A Closer Look At Borage:

Last year I did not plant flowers in my veggie patches, save for the rows of marigolds in between my tomato plants. For some reason they did not survive long. I deadheaded them and gave them plenty of water. I do not know what I could have done differently, and upon further research (that is, asking advice of local organic gardeners…) I have come to the conclusion there is nothing I could have done to extend their life span. 

It turns out that while marigolds are beneficial companions to tomatoes, there are other plants that are far superior. For instance, take borage. Borage reseeds itself, attracts bees and other pollinators and also staves off the tomato hornworm. It is a good companion plant and mulch for most plants, being an excellent source of minerals, especially calcium and potassium.

Borage Flowers

Borage Leaves
Borage Plants


In particular, borage and strawberries really like each other! An old time farm trick is to add a few borage plants in their strawberry beds to enhance the fruits flavor and yield. 

Borage and tomatoes also make great companions! Both seem to improve in growth and disease resistance when planted near each other. 

The borage plant blooms pretty little blue flowers and in folklore/magickal tradition, borage is a plant of courage. I have planted blue flowers in my flower beds for strengthCeltic warriors were said to drink a wine infused with the blooms of this plant before battle. Medieval knights wore scarves embroidered with borage blossoms for the very same reason. 

In the kitchen, the leaves can be eaten in salads (it has a fresh, cucumber like flavor.) What’s more, the leaves can also be used as a poultice, soothing and healing to inflamed or irritated skin. Additionally, an infusion of fresh, bruised borage leaves are an old-time herbal remedy for de-stressing. In fact, this is a great plant to have in the herbalist’s garden because it can be used to heal so many ailments. I encourage you to further research this lovely little plant!* (It does get big though, so stake off plenty of room for this one or plant along the edge of the garden!)



Mixed Fruit Salad and Borage-lime Syrup

Make a mixture of fruit e.g. Passion fruit, kiwi fruit, pineapple, selection of berries, melon. Combine fruit in a large bowl. Add borage-lime syrup, toss gently to combine, cover, refrigerate for several hours, even overnight. Upon serving, sprinkle grated coconut for a garnish.

½ c lime juice
½ c sugar
¼ c chopped fresh borage leaves

Combine juice and sugar in small saucepan, stir over heat without boiling, until sugar has dissolved. Bring to boil, reduce heat, simmer, uncovered without stirring for 5 minutes, cool. Stir in borage.

Red, White & Blue Salad

1 medium cucumber
3 medium vine ripened tomatoes
¾ cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon course black pepper
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon chopped dill leaves
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated lemon peel
1/4 teaspoon finely grated red onion
salt to taste
Borage flowers to garnish
Combine all the ingredients except for the tomatoes and flowers. Slice tomatoes and arrange them, overlapping, around the edge of a serving platter. Mound the cucumber mixture in the center of the platter, just covering the inner edge of the tomatoes. Chill well, and place the borage flowers decoratively on the salad just before serving.
Serves 4 to 6

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