Quick, before Monsanto gets hold of the seeds … get yourself a borage plant!
Pliny, and others throughout history, have attributed borage with giving people courage, driving away sadness and depression and lifting the spirits – just what we need to help us tackle global warming!
Pliny called the plant Euphrosinum, because it “maketh a man merry and joyfull”
But there’s more! Borage looks stunning, attracts bees and makes delicious honey, and even contains an extremely healthy mixture of potassium and calcium, mineral acids, and a very beneficial saline mucilage …. this forms a soothing film over a mucus membrane, relieving minor pain and inflammation. Demulcents, like borage, are common ingredients in cough mixtures and coat the throat to relieve the irritation causing the cough. A steam made from the plants and flowers is also an emollient and will, apparently, soothe dry and sensitive skin. Your very own chemist shop in one plant.
To top it all off they self seed and before you know it you’ll have plenty. They’re a great companion plant for strawberries and tomatoes and their broad leaves protect the soil. Their roots also draw up nutrients, so they’re a fabulous plant for a developing garden.
AND you can eat them. Today I experimented and had borage and mayonnaise sandwiches …. the leaves are a bit hairy but the texture was an interesting change to lettuce. They’re surprisingly salty but very tasty.
I also froze some of the beautiful blue flowers into icecubes and used them in my blueberry punch tonight:
… and I combined some leaves with lots of other greens from the garden to make an “Eleven Greens Spring Pie” … borage, silverbeet, red mustard, Egyptian and common mints, lemon thyme, chives, shallots, sorrel, curly parsley and Italian parsley. An extension of the classic cheese and spinach pie!
After reading Joan Dye Gussow’s “This Organic Life” I’ve come to realise even more how essential it is eat local food and, if possible, grow your own.
“The homegrown tomato requires no fuel in its transport, no packaging to be sent to the landfill, no political decisions about who will be allowed to work the fields or what level of pollutants is acceptable in our groundwater.”
–John Jeavons, How to Grow More Vegetables
… and, apart from anything else, you’ll never find borage in the shops!
Last night I also made a delicious and unbelievably fresh stir fry with shallots, tatsoi and flowering broccoli from the garden. It was so simple … stir fry diced pumpkin, ginger, garlic and shallots then add soy sauce with the greens and diced tofu. (I later also added sesame seeds and served it over rice with some of last summer’s tomato and chilli jam).
I doubt you’d find flowering broccoli in the shops and the tatsoi will never be as fresh as when you break it off and cook it straight away.
I know I’m incredibly lucky to have the space to grow my own food, but most of what I’ve cooked in the last two days could have been grown in 2 recycled wine barrels on a sunny verandah! It’s amazing how much you can squeeze into a small space. In this small patch there’s broccoli and brussel sprouts in the background, leeks, parsnips, lots of different lettuces, rocket, coriander, dill and two mustards …. haven’t been able to bring myself to thin it out yet, other than by daily pluckings!
One of the most exciting things I’ve learnt in the Permaculture course is that, even in harsh inhospitable climates, the kinds we’ll be experiencing more of in the future, it’s still possible to create microclimates that make living more pleasant and allow the production of food. My borage survived winter (as you can see by its size above) because I inadvertently planted it under an evergreen tree in front
of the warm brick walls of our house. I’ve discovered a tiny microclimate there that stopped lots of my herbs disappearing over winter. Windbreaks, including very small domestic ones, can help to create the microclimates necessary for food production. They also help to filter and catch the dustborne diseases that will become even more prevalent in the future.
As Rosemary Morrow pointed out in our class, permaculture is about creating climate stability, not climate change. She suggested that we should start up climate stability groups instead of climate change groups!
One of the most important factors in doing all of this is creating soil. Without good soil you can’t grow healthy plants. Today I made my first ever “hot compost” (at least I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will be hot). The recipe is out of Rosemary’s book
It’s a Cambodian compost recipe and essentially you create a cubic metre of compost all at once, starting with about 25 cm of cream material (straw, shredded paper, dry vegetation for carbon ), followed by about 15 cm of green matter (Nitrogen), followed by 5 cm of chicken or pig manure. Each layer is thoroughly soaked in water and you just keep repeating the layering process until you fill your cubic metre container. This can be made of corrugated iron, mesh around star posts, pieces of fencing or, as in my compost today, old palettes that I scrounged from the hardware shop and IGA. My first layer was the rose clippings that have been soaking in water for the last week. This bottom layer helps aerate the compost.
In a hot climate this can turn into soil in about a month …. shit hay!
My political action at the moment is to collect as many seeds and plants as I can, especially localised heritage ones, to create a seed and plant bank in my garden – one that Monsanto has no control over! … then to share this with as many people as I can. Biodiversity is crucial for survival. The best way to ward off extinction (and have a really humane and interesting life) is to increase biodiversity in every way we can … can’t think of anything more political, and personal, than that. By the way, yesterday I managed to get 3 Lithgow raspberries, Lebanese cress, another gooseberry, and arrowroot … from two permaculture gardeners in Lithgow. Can’t wait to get those in. Now I’m on the lookout for beeboxes and hives.