706 Sanguisorba minorCommon Names: salad burnet, garden burnet, burnet Family: Rosaceae (rose Family)
Salad burnet is an evergreen perennial that grows in a circular mound about a foot high and 2 ft (0.6 m) in diameter. The mound is formed by pinnately compound (featherlike) leaves about 1 ft (0.3 m) long that arch gracefully outward from the center of the plant. The rachis (stem of the compound leaf) is wiry, and the 6-10 pairs of leaflets are more or less rounded, about 1 in (2.5 cm) across, and have toothed margins. Tiny purplish or pinkish flowers are borne in compact thimble shaped heads about a 0.5 in (1.3 cm) in diameter on flowering stalks that stand 1 ft (0.3 m) or so above the leaves. The flowers within the heads are male at the bottom, bisexual in the middle and female at the top. Although interesting, the inflorescence is not at all showy.
Salad burnet, Sanguisorba minor, is native to Europe and western Asia, and has become naturalized in parts of North America.
CultureSalad burnet does best in well drained soils with a pH of 6-8. Cut off flower heads and older leaves to stimulate production of more tender young leaves. Light: Burnet does best in full sun, but tolerates light shade, especially in warmer climates. Moisture: Average garden watering. Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 - 10. Burnet stays green in the face of frost, survives freezing, and can be harvested until covered with snow. In the deep south, burnet tends to peter out in the hot summers, and usually is grown as a cool season annual, replanted in fall or winter. Propagation: Plant salad burnet seeds after the last frost, and thin plants to 12-15 in (30.5-38 cm) apart. Under ideal growing conditions, burnet will reseed itself.
Burnet is a low growing evergreen perennial that makes a great edging around beds and borders. For the kitchen, harvest whole leaves as needed, but wait until the plant is well established, which may be several months. Strip the leaflets off the wiry rachis (leaf stem) and use in salads or sandwiches. The taste usually is likened to that of cucumbers, and burnet can be used interchangeably with borage. The slightly bitter flavor goes well with cream cheese, and salad burnet is especially delicious sprinkled on cottage cheese. Use it in cole slaw and yogurt. Salad burnet is used to make a flavored vinegar, and was once added to claret.
Salad burnet was once much more common in the herb and kitchen garden. It is attractive, tasty and easy to grow, and deserves to be used more in American gardens.
The related great burnet (S. officinalis) was once the most important herbal medicine used to stop bleeding, but there is no scientific evidence that it actually worked.
Steve Christman 6/10/00; updated 9/21/03