As I was cooking with my Virginia Bluebells this year, I started looking around in my library for recipes specifically calling for borage greens, since Virginia Bluebells are in the Boraginaceae. Borage has been cooked in the Mediterranean for a very long time, but I also found different recipes from Eastern Europe like Georgia, as well as Turkey.
The flavor of the leaves is a bit stronger than some other wild greens I cook. Some have described the flavor as “mushroomy” but aquatic is probably a better descriptive term in my opinion (some people will call them fishy).
One constant I kept seeing in some of the recipes was a pairing of borage greens with rich sauces made from walnuts. In Italy, borage is combined with a number of different plants to make something called the Prebboggion, a mix of anwywhere from 7-16 (roughly) different plants that can be blanched and cooked with garlic and olive oil, or mixed with ricotta to make the famous pansotti dumplings of northern Italy, which is served with a walnut sauce.
In Turkey, the greens are simply simmered and tossed with a very similar sauce. Mine is a hybrid of a few of the different recipes I found for borage greens, but you could use many different wild plants here, some with a little bitterness to them are an especially good foil for the richness of nuts.
Virginia Bluebells or Borage Greens with Walnut Sauce
- 4 oz Virginia Bluebell shoots, 4-8 inches borage, or another green you like can be substituted.
- ¼ cup black walnuts or other nuts or seeds that are easily crushed
- 1.5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Pinch of kosher salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 1 medium clove of garlic
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice and a scrape or two of zest
- Immerse the Virginia Bluebells in cold water and allow to soak for 5 minutes to clean them, then remove and gently spin dry. Reserve a few flower clusters for a garnish (optional).
- Toast the nuts lightly in a hot oven or pan until aromatic, then cool completely. Crush the garlic clove with a pinch of salt and pepper (they act as abrasives) and mash it up well, then add the nuts crush them, and gradually add the olive oil and lemon juice, mashing to a coarse paste.
- Season the paste with an extra pinch of salt to taste-it should be well seasoned. Reserve the nut paste.
- Meanwhile, prepare a steamer basket in a pot with 2 inches of boiling water, add the Virginia bluebells and cook until just hot and wilted (30-60 seconds was fine for me, but borage leaves could take 5 minutes or more, and I would probably blanch it instead of steaming).
- Taste a shoot here and there to make sure the texture is to your liking. If your shoots are longer than 5 inches, cut them into 1 inch segments before or after cooking.
- When you’re pleased with them, remove the shoots and leaves with tongs to a bowl, allowing some water to drip off in the process.
- Add the walnut paste to the greens and mix thoroughly but gently. From here the greens can be put in a covered container and held for serving later, but I think they’re probably best, still a bit warm, straight from the pot.
- Before serving, double check the seasoning quick and adjust as needed for oil, salt, pepper, and lemon until it tastes good to you. Serve at room temperature, warm, or cool.