Native to the eastern Mediterranean, Borago officinalis is a hardy European herb that is not only delicious, but also has wildlife attracting qualities that make it a unique plant in any herb garden.

Scientific Name: Borago officinalis L.
Common Name: Borage, Common borage, Tailwort
Plant Family: Boraginaceae (Borage Family)

Etymology: Borago comes from Old Latin, and was defined as “father of roughness,” which refers to the textured leaves.

Traditional Uses

Borage is traditionally used as an edible supplement in salads and is added to omelettes, ravioli, and even used to make green pasta by Italians in place of spinach. Ancient Greeks added the leaves to wine and called the plant euphrosynon because those who drank borage garnished wine became euphoric.

Medicinal Uses: Though not recommended, parts of the borage plant have been used as a mild diuretic, to induce sweating, and even to increase lactation rates in breastfeeding women. None of these uses of borage have been clinically tested, so don’t try them at home.

Edible Parts

Leaves and flowers.

Gathering and Using

To harvest leaves, simply cut at the base of the leaf, leaving enough behind to keep the plant producing. When using the leaves in salad, chop it finely, as the hairs of the plant can have an unpleasant mouth feel. The flowers can be picked and eaten raw; it makes a great garnish as it is both pretty and tasty. Oil can be gathered from the plants’ seeds; however, the oil contains a significant amount of pyrrolizidine alkaloids, and can cause liver issues if consumed in excess.

Permaculture Functions and Considerations 

Attracts many pollinators and wildlife, but also deters pests such as Japanese beetles and tomato hornworms. Flowers may be turned into a blue dye, but a large amount must be used to get desirable results. Borage has many edible functions, and this is probably the biggest reason for having it around. Before planting, consider if it could become invasive in your area, as it is very prolific in spreading seeds.


Grows well in normal garden soil, or in slightly sandy soils, with a pH range of 4.8-8.3! It prefers dryer soils, with full sun to partial shade. It is native to many parts of central/southern Europe, and can be considered invasive in North America.

How to Identify

Borage can be easily identified with its loose, hairy, oblong leaves and clusters of blue star-shaped flowers. It has one stout taproot and is found in sunny places with well-draining soil. The leaves and flowers taste like salty cucumber.

Wildlife Support

Great for bee populations and provides shelter for smaller animals such as birds and rodents.


  • Wright, Clifford. A. Mediterranean Vegetables: A Cook's ABC of Vegetables and Their Preparation in Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, the Middle East, and North Africa with More than 200 Authentic Recipes for the Home Cook. Boston :Harvard Common Press, 2001.

Web Sources

Planting Considerations

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 6-9
  • Native Range:  C. Europe and Mediterranean
  • Forest Garden Layer: Shrub and herb layer
  • Height: 3 ft.
  • Spread: circular spread, grows in patches
  • Growth rate: annual
  • Sun: full to partial shade
  • Bloom: early April until August
  • Attracts: Pollinators and wildlife
  • Tolerates: poor soil and extreme sun
  • Drawbacks: Can be invasive
  • Soil moisture: Dry to very dry
  • Soil texture: sandy
  • Soil pH: 4.3-8.3

Plant profile by Hannah Perkins '24