“Yes, it really is that green,” my partner said to tell you. Danny is giddy about the borage soup I made. He still has not quite recovered from the hopelessly bitter nettle lasagna we tried in the spring. So must the families of experimental foodies suffer. Despite its shocking verdure this soup is enjoyable, with a flavour not unlike squash soup.
Borage has performed admirably in the garden this summer despite the drought. In fact it was growing vigorously two nearby tomato plants, so I had to use it somehow. Borage soup calls for 1 kg (roughly 2 lbs.) of leaves.
As a teenage herb gardener I developed a fondness for the borage plant. It is rarely used in North American cooking, but I have never found an English herb book that failed to mention borage. Unfortunately I found few recipes. We did not have this thing called internet back then, and I was too ignorant about culinary practices to experiment. So beyond nibbling a leaf or flower, I never ate borage.
I was attracted to the uncommonly blue flowers. So are bees. Borage does an excellent job of inviting pollinators to the garden. It is a coarse, bulky plant but the charming blooms demand a spot near the front of the garden for close inspection. They open a deep pink colour and quickly mature to blue. Borage will grow and sow itself rambunctiously. Gardeners must maintain a firm stance.
It has a mild cucumber flavour. Supposedly you can dry the leaves, but I cannot imagine it being worth the trouble. Likewise, I doubt the wisdom of using it raw in salads because the foliage is prickly. However, the edible blue flowers make an excellent garnish or decoration for cakes and sundaes. I have long sought a decent recipe to employ the cooked greens, and at last I found it. It requires quite a mass of them, but several borage plants will easily supply it. So will the seedlings, once the second generation starts volunteering.
Take care to remove all the stems. I thought cooking would soften them enough for puréeing, but they were somewhat woody and left bits of tough fibre in the soup. It was still delicious so I will try for better next time. This recipe is slightly adapted from Hunter Angler Gardener Cook.
- 1 kg borage leaves and flowers
- 4 green onions
- 1 handful fresh parsley
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 3 medium potatoes
- sea salt
- Boil a large pot of water with ¼ cup of salt
- Peel potatoes and cut into large chunks. Boil them for 15 minutes then fish them out with a slotted spoon and set aside.
- Prepare an ice water bath.
- Boil onions 3 minutes then scoop them out and place in ice water.
- Boil parsley 2 minutes then scoop into ice water.
- Boil borage 1 minute then scoop into ice water.
- Drain cooled greens.
- Bring stock to a simmer.
- Mash potatoes into the stock and simmer 15 minutes.
- Chop greens, add them to the stock and return to a simmer.
- Season with salt to taste.
- Purée soup in a food processor.
- Return to the pot, heat through, garnish with borage flowers and serve immediately.
Here are a couple more ideas:
- Freeze borage flowers into ice cubes to add visual appeal to summer drinks.
- Cooked borage greens make an excellent addition to creamy or primavera sauces for pasta.
- Borage and ricotta filling for gluten-free ravioli sounds enticing.
This is the second in a Saturday series about soups to take advantage of midsummer vegetable harvests. Also check out Midsummer soups: gluten-free New England clam chowder and look for the last in this series next weekend.