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What is Salad Burnet?

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  • Written By: A. B. Kelsey
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 27 November 2016
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Salad burnet (Sanguisorba minor) is a perennial herb in the Rosaceae family, making it a relative of roses. This plant is native to western Asia and Europe and was originally cultivated in medieval gardens. Salad burnet has become naturalized in much of North America.

Salad burnet was very popular in Elizabethan England. Members of the upper class would often serve their guests goblets of wine with salad burnet leaves floating in it because they thought it added a touch of class and elegance. When the Pilgrims ventured to America from Europe, they brought this herb with them.

Sir Frances Bacon was a big fan of the pretty, aromatic herb and suggested planting salad burnet along garden paths. Thomas Jefferson valued the herb for different reasons, however. Because this plant grows well in poor, dry soil, Jefferson sent his young workers out with the salad burnet seeds to help stop erosion and to create fodder for his livestock.

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Salad burnet possesses the same medicinal qualities as medicinal burnet (Sanguisorba officinalis). The species Latin name, sanguisorba, translates as "blood-drink," which refers to the traditional use of salad burnet to stop internal bleeding and hemorrhages. Soldiers of yesteryear would drink tea made from the herb because they believed it would make any wounds they received less severe and they would be less likely to bleed to death. Salad burnet was also thought to be a cure for the bubonic plague and was one of 21 herbs combined and dissolved in wine to make an anti-plague tonic.

Today, salad burnet is a popular herb in European cuisine. As its name implies, the herb can add a refreshing spice to salads because the leaves taste like cucumbers. The leaves also blend well with rosemary and tarragon and are often considered interchangeable with mint leaves. Salad burnet can also be used in any casserole dish, dip or soup that calls for dill, oregano or basil. Only young, tender leaves should be used because salad burnet becomes bitter with age. This herb should be used fresh or frozen because it loses its flavor when dried.

Salad burnet is a hardy herb that 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.

Whether grown in a container or on the ground, the plant needs partial to full sunlight. Although soil conditions can be poor, salad burnet must receive moderate water and have good drainage to avoid rotting the roots. Cutting back the blossoms will produce many new, tender leaves. If the flowers are not cut back, a salad burnet plant can grow to be twenty inches high and as wide across.

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bythewell
Post 2

@croydon - Burnet has small reddish leaves, so it was probably associated with blood for that reason. Back in the day, people often thought that plants looked like a particular part of the body because they were good for that part of the body. Sometimes an herb was used because it was observed to make people better, like willow bark for fevers. But the placebo effect is very strong, so a lot of the time old remedies have no basis in science.

On the other hand you never know. I think Chinese herbalists still use it to help stop nosebleeds and similar conditions. Until it is tested, there's no way to be sure.

croydon
Post 1

I wonder if anyone has ever tested burnet herb for compounds that might stop bleeding. Often old uses for herbs have some basis in reality. Maybe it has some kind of chemical in the leaves that helps blood to clot or something. That could help people with hemophilia.

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