Grow Borage in Your Fall Garden

With its cucumber scent, borage doesn’t quite fit in with the pumpkin spice of the fall, but a late-season harvest lifts our moods as the days grow shorter.

by Dawn Combs
PHOTO: Tracy/Flickr

Time of year, I usually have ended my walks out to the garden. I’m typically so busy that I haven’t had time to put in a late-season crop or think about extending the harvest into winter. This year, I’ve managed to change all of that!

Here in Ohio we’ve had a number of light and killing frosts. I’ve wandered out to see what damage mother nature has done to my crops—it’s been my little experiment to see what remains viable under these conditions. At some point rather soon, I’m going to have to strategize what can be done to keep the harvest going when the ground freezes. That won’t happen for another couple months, though, so I can still act as though my garden is alive and productive.

So far, my carrots and beets are still wonderful fresh additions to the dinner table. I also put in a large stand of parsley and cilantro. Some of my cilantro was trying to go to seed before the frosts hit. They look a little sad, but the plants that were still primarily greenery are making it indoors for late-season chips and salsa on movie night. My parsley is a bit deflated, but hanging in there. I love to eat the leaves in my morning smoothies, and they go well with the apples that are at their best right now.

fall borage
Lotus Johnson/Flickr

Two plants have surprised me more than any others. I took my apprentices out to dig roots yesterday, and stumbled upon a row of chamomile. Chamomile! In November! I expected that these delicate-looking flowers would long ago have been toast, but no! There they stand with their cheery yellow centers demonstrating tangibly that even the most gentle medicine can be powerful. The other plant that has surprised me is the borage.

“I, borage, bring courage.” I remembered the saying as I looked over the ruin of my garden. Where lie the brown, deflated remains of my tomato plants there can be found a new crop of blue star-shaped flowers rising above the hardy, fuzzy leaves of the borage plants.

Borage (Borago officinalis) is an adrenal tonic and mood lifter. The leaves reek of cucumber when you bruise them. It is jarring to smell that in a time that we are thinking of pumpkin spice, sage and sweet potatoes. I can only assume that these leaves, which feel much like the tongue of a cat, are working their prickly fur coats for all the protection they can provide. I have several pounds of borage out in my late-fall garden that I can harvest right now and put in front of the fire to dry.

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I plan to harvest my borage and remember next year that I don’t need to rush quite so much to get everything into the garden at once. Borage is courageous in the face of the coming cold and can wait its turn. It’s still providing food for my honey bees as they batten down the hatches. I’m sure they are as thrilled as I am to see these plants thriving. Perhaps borage will give me a deeper level of adrenal support this winter, keeping away the winter blahs every time I sip the tea and think of my brave winter garden holdout.

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