Saturday, July 01, 2006

The Electric Blue Borage Acid Test

One of my favorite perennial herbs in the garden is one that may be unfamiliar to many of you: borage.

The name derives from an old Celtic word meaning "courage," and one of the medicinal uses of this herb is to relieve the mild depression that follows an illness. Though I have yet to use it medicinally, I enjoy borage as a culinary herb because of its mild cucumber-like flavor (in both the leaves and the blossoms) and its harmonious partnering with dill.

I'm also quite fond of how it tends to cover one corner of my garden with tall, fuzzy stalks crowned with vibrantly blue star-like flowers that draw the bees to the rest of the garden.

Though I sometimes will add the tender leaves and blossoms to salads, my favorite use is to combine the blossoms with dill to make herbal vinegar. And since the borage is at its peak and I had a willing helper today (none other than the lovely Phoenix), I decided it was time to make this year's vinegar.

Phoenix and I headed out to the garden with clean, empty Mason jars after our farmers' market outing, and we picked fresh dill leaves and borage blossoms (removing the stamens) to fill the jars. We carried them back inside and lined them up while we heated a pot of white vinegar.

Once the vinegar started to boil, we ladled it over the herbs to draw out the flavor. Phoenix noted that the heated acid also drew the color from the borage blossoms, rather like a litmus test:

The color doesn't usually linger in the vinegar, but it's fun to watch the changes anyway.

When all the jars were filled and lids were screwed on snugly, we set the jars on the windowsill to allow the flavors to permeate the vinegar for a week or two before we strain them.

We'll find some decorative bottles for the vinegar, and I know that from my batch, a couple of bottles will be given as gifts to other friends who enjoy using this vinegar in salad vinaigrettes or dashed over cucumbers for a refreshing treat.

As for Phoenix, who knows what she'll do with her bottles? All I know is that she enjoyed learning something new (and ridiculously easy) and feels just a smidge more confidence in the kitchen.

After all, she already has courage!


At 1/21/2009 4:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I realise I'm two and a half years late in commenting on this post which I found when I googled "blue borage".
The theory about growing bee-friendly flowering plants in order that the bees might pollinate neighboring species is flawed if the intention is to attract the common honey bee (Apis mellifera). Research had shown that honey bees collecting nectar or pollen at any given time are on a mission to work only that species and will not be sidetracked. However, I'm sure there are other other useful insect species that forage in a random manner and will be attracted by a prolific nectar source such as blue borage.


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