Burnet or Salad Burnet is one of those wonderful old-fashioned herbs that have sadly been relegated to the lower leagues in terms of popularity, which is a pity as it is quite versatile for the cook and gardener alike.
An ancient herb brought to Britain in the sixteenth century it initially found favour with the Tudors as an ornamental herb in manicured gardens. Today, salad burnet is a popular herb in European cuisine.
Francis Bacon (1561-1626) is known to have liked the decorative nature of the plant. It was planted along pathways 'to perfume the air most delightfully, being trodden on and crushed'.
Salad Burnet’s delicate leaves have a subtle cucumber flavour, used to add interest to cold drinks. The leaves are used in salads and as a flavouring for sauces and vinegars, they make a useful addition to compound butters and once chopped can be folded through crème fraîche as an interesting flavouring for summer soups. Salad Burnet is wonderful for popping into cold drinks and lovely when combined with melon. A lovely addition to summer sandwiches.... and, unlike cucumber they don't make the bread soggy!
This hardy herb is easy to grow from seed and can be harvested early the first year, it is practically an evergreen with the base leaves keeping their colour throughout the winter. Salad burnet requires little attention; indeed it almost thrives on neglect with its ability to withstand sustained periods of dry weather.
Salad burnet makes a great addition to any garden. The plant resembles a lacy fern with small, dark magenta flowers. The leaves are greenish grey and grow from a red woody stem. Because these delicate looking leaves drape gracefully from a low, central mound, salad burnet makes a wonderful container plant and can be grown successfully in windowboxes. Do not over water and keep cutting for fresh tender growth and you will be rewarded with an attractive addition to your patio throughout winter.
Salad Burnet is a hardy perennial plant It which can grow in most soil types but does especially well in chalky soils. The plant grows well in semi shade and full sun.
Sowing: Can be sown all year round
Direct sow outdoors in summer or in an unheated greenhouse during the autumn and winter months. Salad burnet can also be grown as an annual, sown in spring.
Seeds can be sown directly where they are to grow, or can be sown indoors in pots and transplanted to the garden until a suitable size to plant out.
Sow seed in a general seed compost. As salad burnet does not like being transplanted, sow in modules and take care when planting out in the prepared position. Cover the seed with a thin amount of compost, or vermiculite. Place in cold frame until a suitable size to plant out.
Alternatively sow ripe seed in the autumn on a prepared site outdoors.
Division of roots can take place in spring or autumn
After planting Salad Burnet requires very little care. It grows to 30 to 40cm, (12 to 15in) in height and keeps in a clump form for quite a few years before it is required to divide.
Cut back the leaves regularly to provide a supply of fresh leaves more or less all year round. Take care not to exhaust the plant, so grow several clumps if possible. Remove flower heads to retain the best flavour in the leaves.
In very hot summers the leaves can become rather bitter. This is because the tannin contained is brought to the surface of the leaves. Cut back to promote new leaves.
Salad Burnet’s delicate leaves have a subtle cucumber flavour, which add interest to cold drinks. The leaves are used in salads and as a flavouring for sauces and vinegars, they make a useful addition to compound butters and once chopped can be folded through crème fraîche as an interesting flavouring for summer soups.
Salad Burnet combines well with other herbs such as tarragon and rosemary, as flavouring in casseroles. It can be added to sauces and salads. Use it to make burnet vinegar. Add it to cheese and use it as a garnish instead of parsley. All parts are edible but young leaves give the best flavour.
Sharing the same properties, but to a lesser degree, as the medicinal herb Burnet (Sanguisorba officinalis), Salad Burnet has been used for over 2000 years. The Latin scientific name, Poterium Sanguisorba or Sanguisorba minor, translates as 'drink up blood' referring to its astringent qualities.
It has been used to prevent haemorrhages and internal bleeding. Knowing this, soldiers of old would drink tea made from the herb before going into battle in hopes that any wounds they received would be less severe.
Popular in Tudor gardens, during the sixteenth century, salad burnet, together with twenty other herbs was included in a special wine drunk to stop the plague.
Cosmetically an infusion of burnet leaves is good for the skin.
Salad Burnett is great food for small animals, guinea pigs, tortoises, iguanas etc.
This plant is native to western Asia and Europe. It was originally cultivated in medieval gardens and first grown in Britain during the sixteenth century.
Salad burnet is an evergreen perennial. Although by simply looking at the flowers you wouldn't guess, it is a member of the Rosaceae family along with the strawberry and the rose.
The genus name sanguisorba comes from the Latin sanguis meaning 'blood', and sorbere, 'to soak up', from the reputed power of these plants to stop bleeding.
The species name minor is Latin for smaller or lesser.
The word Burnet is from Middle English, from Medieval Latin burneta, from Old French brunete, meaning dark brown, also a diminutive of brun of Germanic origin also meaning brown.
Also known as a pot herb, it is derived from the plants use as a salad vegetable and as a garnish for cold drinks.
Salad burnet was a very popular in Elizabethan England. At that time it was not uncommon to be served a goblet of wine with leaves of Salad Burnet floating in it, they thought it added a touch of class and elegance.
"to make the hart merry and glad, as also being put in wine, to which it yeeldeth a certaine grace in the drinking".
- Additional Information
Packet Size 2 grams Average Seed Count 275 Seeds Seed Form Natural Seeds per gram 140 seeds / gram Common Name Formerly known as Sanguisorba minor
Family Rosaceae Genus Poterium Species sanguisorba ssp minor Hardiness Hardy Perennial Time to Sow Can be sown all year round Harvest Cut back the leaves regularly