We do have a rather unhealthy hankering for borage (borago officinalis). Not just the blossoms. For the whole plant! Besides freezing individual, brilliant blue blossoms into ice cubes for your summer Pimm's Cup, you can craft up a Borage Punch. There's one recipe floating about the internet that is called a Charles Dickens Punch that seems to have a bit of a kick to it:
Charles Dickens Punch
120 ml caster sugar
2 tbs lemon zest
a handful of borage flowers
1 litre medium dry cider
500 ml sherry
250 ml brandy
Steep sugar, lemon zest, and borage flowers in 500 ml boiling water for about 15 minutes. Strain into a jug and add cider, sherry, and
What we did find more to the point was a series of "cold cup" recipes that the great author scribbled down for his host's daughter during
his second tour of the US in 1867-1868.
"Put into a large jug, 4 good lumps of sugar, and the thin rind of a lemon. Cover up [leave it two stand for ten minutes] and stir... Add a
bottle of champagne, and a good tumbler and a half of sherry. Stir well. Then fill up with ice. [If there be any borage, put in a good
handful, as you would put a nosegay into water.] Stir up well, before serving."
"4 or 6 lumps of sugar,as before; give the preference to 6. The thin rind of a lemon, as above Cover up and stir, as above. Add a wine
glass of brandy, then a bottle of claret, then a half bottle of soda water. Then stir well and grate in nutmeg. Then add the ice If borage
be used for this cup, half the [champagne cup] quantity will be found quite sufficient. Stir well, before serving."
Thing is, just about anywhere that calls for cucumber can be better made with borage. And if it's a Victorian or pre-Victorian mixed drink
recipe that you're messing with, the cucumber was originally a call for borage.
HOW TO GROW IT
We got seeds from both The Green Chronicle and Seeds of Italy. We propagated ours in February from seeds that we planted in our handy-dandy heat propagator.
When the seedlings are about 5-7 cm tall, they can be sown outdoors in a sunny spot in March or April. During the summer harvest time, save the seed from flowers allowed to remain on the plant and turn brown to be grown next year.
Now you do have to be careful how much borage you grow because they do tend to reproduce like weeds if not kept under control. But if you have space, please let them grow. They are a great source of food for honeybees and makes a good green manure. (Before the borage flowers, you can dug them back into the ground to release nutrients back into the topsoil.)
WHAT ELSE TO DO WITH IT
The leaves may look like candidates for the compost heap. But don't you dare! Make Ricotta and Borage Stuffed Cannelloni...
Ricotta and Borage Stuffed Cannelloni
12 precooked cannelloni pasta, or 12 sheets flat lasagna pasta
800 ml bechamel sauce, diluted with 240 ml whole milk
400 gr fresh ricotta
100 gr fresh borage leaves
3 tb grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1 egg yolk
1 tb butter, cued
salt and pepper
Preheat the over to 200° C
Prepare the bechamel sauce and add the extra milk.
In a pot of boiling water, blanch the borage, drain and squeeze; mince. Sieve the ricotta into a bowl. Add the borage, half of the
Parmigiano Teggiano, the egg yolk, salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.
Fill the cannelloni with the filling, or if you are using the pasta sheets, place some filling on each sheet and roll up to form the
cannelloni. Butter a rectangular baking pan. Pour in a third of the bechamel sauce. Delicately add the stuffed cannelloni and finish with
the remaining besciamella. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmigiano and the butter. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
[Photos: © 2010, Jared Brown]