Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Borage, which is known in Maltese as fidloqqom, is also known as starflower. It probably originated in Syria and surrounding countries but is now found throughout the Mediterranean as well as in much of Europe, North Africa, Asia Minor as well as South America.
Borage has been cultivated for a long time for culinary and medicinal uses. Nowadays it is grown mainly for the production of a health supplement known as starflower oil or borage oil.
The active substances are found in the leaves and in the flowers which contain mucilage, nitrates of calcium and potassium, etc. Thanks to its mucilage borage is a demulcent and sooths respiratory problems. It is also used as diuretic, depurative as well as to treat inflammation and itchiness. For skin conditions one should soak the flowers and leaves in the water before having a bath.
The leaves are used in salads or as a garnish while the flowers are the source of a blue colouring agent used in desserts. Different parts of the plant are used in various dishes in many parts of Europe including Germany, Spain and Greece. I once tried a recipe from the Ligurian region of Italy in which the leaves are used for the filling of ravioli and the flowers to make a very good tasting sauce.
The English name is similar to its scientific name borago. There are many explanations for the origins of this name such as borago being a corruption of corago from cor (heart) and ago (I bring) but the most likely origin is from Arabic abou-rach, “father of sweat” because when drunk as an infusion it encourages sweating as it has been known since antiquity to have an effect on the adrenal glands and by increasing the production of adrenaline it gives courage. (This article was published in The Times on 28.12.10)