Once upon a time, in an autumn long long ago, the soggy spot between the chook yard and the custard apple tree looked like this: a jumble of useful greens – mizuna, tatsoi, bok choi, watercress, borage, rocket and giant purple mustard.
Some months later, thanks to a super-dry July, the chickens’ enthusiasm for salad and our squeamish wing clipping (as fellow chicken-blogger Julie Adolph notes, “chickens are not penguins“), this is mostly what the salad patch looks like:
Borage: it’s a survivor. Apparently it’s an unfashionable term in ecological circles these days, but I reckon mustard leaves (“too spicy!”) and borage (“too furry!”) are the the climax community of our salad patch.
In theory, you can eat borage leaves – they taste like cucumber. Very very hairy cucumber. The flowers are gorgeous though: fab in a salad, especially thrown in with some fire-engine red nasturtium flowers and perhaps faded yellow (rather chewy) blooms of aragula, or the tiny white floral clusters that sway around the garden when you let daikon radish go to seed. The idea of freezing blue “starflowers” in ice cubes for fancy-pants drinks rather appeals to me too.
I suspect we will have more borage flowers in time for ice-clinking weather. It self seeds very reliably, it seems, which troubles me a little, since we’re a hop skip and a jump from the edge of the bush. Easy enough to pull out, though, and a bee-flower too. There’s the usual unsubstantiated talk of companion planting – in this case with strawberries, which I imagine must look good at the very least. I’ll keep an eye on it: it may have to be exiled, like lemon balm, that enjoyed our shady slope just a bit too much, or the eye-catching but definitely weedy red orach. But for now, I’ll keep pleasing the bees.