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Friday, April 6, 2012



Photo by: SharpeShoot 

OCast. borraza, L. Borago officinalis, Ar. abū rās (father of roughness [in reference to the leaves]), Fr. bourrache, Celt. borrach (courage), W. llawenlys (herb of gladness), Eng. borage. It is a winter plant, appearing in autumn and dying out in spring. Spanish borage is a native of North Africa and was introduced into Spain by the Arabs. Although mentioned by Muslim authorities in the 10th C, it was referred to as a plant used during famine. It is estimated that it was not cultivated until the 13th C at least in Christian Spain. As it is easy to digest and pleasant tasting, during the Middle Ages, numerous dishes contained it including pies or pastries, bread rolls, eggs, soups, fried and salads. Certainly, it was cultivated in Christian Spain by the 15th C. as the leaves and stalks were eaten as a vegetable, boiled with cabbage, served alone with grated cheese or fried in batter. Chopped, young leaves were added to salads for their flavor and aroma are like cucumber. They were added to omelets, used as garnish for meats and added to stews. After chopping the leaves, they were made into dumplings or cooked in almond milk and served as sopes. Borage desserts consisted of fried leaves were mixed with sugar and honey for tart filling or coated with eggs and flour to make fritters that were sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon for dessert. The blue and white flowers, appearing from May to July, were made also into desserts and used as garnish. Candied, they were served as such or were used as cake decorations. The flowers, as well as the stems, were used as dye and in infusions as a sudorific. Bees make borage honey. It was important for making syrups, hydromel and electuaries for its taste. A sprig of borage was given to hard-working students to brighten up their day and to hypochondriacs to wear to prevent melancholy and depression. A Greek proverb says: "I, borage, always give courage." It was thought to instill bravery and was given to crusaders upon departure for the Holy Wars. Since, it has been found that the high content of calcium, mineral salts and potassium in borage could work on the adrenal gland producing courage. Dioscorides and Pliny claimed that borage was Homer’s nepenthe, a herb wine, which brought on total forgetfulness. Pliny said borage made men happy. It is questioned whether it was the plant or the wine. Later, Spaniards countered, "It is borage water," i.e. it was something that has come to nothing. In Al-Andalus, it was used as a medicine like spinach.  To fortify it, a little oil was sprinkled over it. [Bremness. 1990:53; ES: Plants. Jul 68; Nola. 1989: xxxii-4: xxxiiii-2: xlviii-1 etc; Nola/Pérez. 1992:190; Villena/Calero. 2002:23a; and Villena/Navarro. 1879:44]


Cooking Borage
Photo by MRSamper

¾  lb borage
½ lb chard
salt to taste
1 ½ c crumbled feta cheese (about 6 oz)
2 garlic cloves
½ tsp pepper
2 hard boiled egg yolks

2 c flour
1 tsp white sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 c lard
1/3 c cold water
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vinegar

A splash rosewater
A drizzle of honey
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp ground cinnamon

Photo by: ctmarie3

Clean the borage and Swiss chard. Skin garlic and chop. Cook them in water and salt. Strain when cooked and press them between two cutting boards to drain off excess water.

Make a dough by mixing together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut lard into the mixture until it looks like coarse meal.

Beat water, egg yolk and vinegar together. Stir into flour mixture. Knead until smooth. Cover and rest 15 minutes.

Chop the borage, chard, garlic, cheese and pepper. Add hard boiled egg yolks and continue mixing. When well mixed add fresh cheese and mix it into the mass. Add salt to taste.

PREHEAT OVEN TO 425º F /210º C

Roll out the dough making it very thin. Cut it into circles. Take the borage mixture and make little cakes about 1/3 c each. Put each in the center of each circle of dough. Fold the dough over making a semi-circle. Seal the edges pressing them together with the back of a spoon. Prick hole in the tops for the steam to escape.

Grease a cookie sheet and bake them about 15 minutes. When golden brown remove them from the oven and pour a splash of rosewater over them and a drizzle of honey. Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon on top and serve.


  1. I absolutely love this recipe. I tried it after growing borage for the first time several years ago. I actually thought it was so bizarre that I refused to try it at first, but people at the party I went to were raving about how good the empanadas were and asking what was in them, so I had to try them. Absolutely wonderful. A great way to eat spring greens

  2. Many thanks for your compliments.

    I am with you. Sometimes after putting so much work into a recipe, I am to exhausted try it! The next day, I give to my "guinea pig" friends. If they do not like it, I try it and then they help me improve it but most of the time they love it so much that I try it and must agree!

    In my home, we are always looking for a new twist to mundane recipes carried down from grandmothers - from the 19th and 20th centuries. The 13th - 15th century hispano twists for the most part are perfect in that they are very tasty and unique.

  3. Good stuff, except that your photo is not of borage (Borago officinalis), but of related green alkanet (Pentaglottis sempervirens).