Calendula and borage add color to your herb garden throughout summer with a succession of long-lasting blooms. These are two of the prettiest herbs you can grow, and they are relatively carefree. Both are annuals, but once they are established in your garden they are eager reseeders.
I bought my first packet of borage seeds many years ago, and grew the plants as a companion to tomatoes. Borage actually helps to improve the flavor of tomatoes when grown nearby. I was misled by misinformation on the seed packet that said that the plant should not be consumed because it is poisonous and grew the plant only for it’s properties as a companion and it’s pretty clusters of flowers.
In truth, borage is not poisonous. The leaves have a refreshing cucumber taste, and can be used in salads and chopped up for herb butters and dips. Borage greens are a little too plain-tasting when cooked alone, but when combined with other greens, particularly cabbage, they add a unique flavor. The flowers can be used as a garnish.
Candied borage flowers make beautiful decorations for cakes and pastries, and it’s easy to do. First, use a fine paintbrush to coat the flower in egg whites. You can also try dipping the flower in eggwhites, but I destroyed quite a few flowers trying to perfect this technique. Next, dust the flowers lightly with sugar (a very fine sugar works best) and lay them out on baking sheets lined with waxed paper to dry. The flowers will become crispy when completely dry.
Calendula is also called pot marigold, but don’t confuse this plant with the marigolds grown in your annual bed (Tagetes). Pot marigolds are smaller and more delicate in appearance than the more familiar Tagetes, and they have a number of medicinal uses.
Calendula is said to encourage healing, aid digestion, fight fungal infections and cure diaper rash. These properties alone are enough to make the plant an essential addition to your herb garden, but it also has a number of cosmetic uses. Calendula petals can be used to make a nourishing skin cream or cleanser, and a strong infusion made from marigold petals can be used to lighten hair.
Creamy Marigold Cleanser
4 tablespoons olive or almond oil
2 tablespoons dried pot marigold flowers
few drops of violet, orange blossom or rose water
Warm the oil in a bowl placed over a saucepan of hot water. Stir in the dried flowers and continue to heat gently for 30 minutes. Remove from heat, allow to cool, and stir in the flower water.