Bountiful borage... beware!!
I've been curious for a while about borage. I've seen it on menus, in Pimms and in a bag in a certain supermarket but I'd never seen it in a garden. So this year I grew some from seed. As with all seedlings it started off small, delicate and in need of care and attention. Having transplanted six seedlings to the greenhouse I soon found myself potting them up once, and then twice within a couple of weeks. Hmm, borage grows fast. Soon they became too big for the pots so I planted them in random spots around the garden. One in the herb bed, one in the shady bed in the back corner....I'd read about best conditions and all that, but sometimes you just have to find a spot and put them in!
Then we went away for a lovely break to northern Italy, ate a lot of pasta in sage butter sauce and chocolate gelato and drank our way around Piedmont forgetting all about the borage. (If you are ever near Treiso just outside Alba check out the little wine bar to the side of the church!) Two weeks later we returned and as always when we get back from a trip, the first thing we do is take a tour of the garden to see what's been happening...and there was borage everywhere! It's HUGE, particularly in the herb bed where it had got so big it could no longer hold itself up and the other herbs were all wrestling for light under it.
It's not the most attractive plant, with a thick, crunchy (jack and the) beanstalk and prickles all over including the leaves. The flowers however are beautiful, star shaped in all shades of blue and violet which the bees absolute love. So success (yay!) I have grown borage, now I needed to do something with it. I searched our cookbooks and the web. Most recipes involved picking the flowers and putting them either in drinks or in ice cubes to go in drinks so we now have some very pretty ice cubes.
Borage tastes like weak cucumber; a refreshing, slightly watermelon flavour and according to Niki Segnit in her Flavour Thesaurus, is a classic combination with strawberries. I had already made a lovely, smooth strawberry sorbet for our up coming supper club at the end of July so it was too late to add the borage to it but could I create something to go on the side. Looking through my recipe books I was inspired by Diana Henry's 'How to eat a peach' and her inclusion of granitas as a light summer dessert. Following the principles of granita production, I infused a bowlful of borage overnight (disappointed the liquid was brown like cola and not blue!), heated it to a syrup and churned it every ten minutes or so in the freezer to create a 'borage granita'.
It's a very delicate flavour, almost like frozen iced tea and it does work with strawberries! So we will be serving it alongside the strawberry sorbet and seeing what others make of it in a few weeks time.
If you have any suggestions for what I can do with the remaining tonne of borage still in the garden, or if you would like some, please get in touch!