A relative of the rose (Rosa spp.), salad burnet is one of 15 to 20 species in the genus Sanguisorba — a name that refers to the herb’s traditional use to staunch wounds. Sanguisorba comes from the Latin sanguis, meaning “blood,” and sorere, meaning “to soak up.” Native to Europe and western Asia, this perennial herb was once a common addition to salads and wines and was extensively cultivated as fodder for sheep and cattle. The dried leaves of salad burnet are popular for making pressed flower arrangements.
Common Names: Burnet, Salad Burnet
Description: Perennial, up to 3 feet tall, in bloom; basal rosette of toothed, parsleylike leaves; small, thimble-shaped, purplish to pinkish flowers
Hardiness: To Zone 3
Flowering: May to June
Parts Used: Leaves and roots
Range/Habitat: Native to western Asia and Europe, naturalized in North America
When bruised, salad burnet leaves smell and taste like cucumber. Use the tender, young leaves in salads, dressings, herb vinegars, herb butters, and iced beverages. Add the seeds to vinegars, marinades, and cheese spreads. Toss the edible pink flowers into salads or use them as garnishes.
Salad burnet contains astringent and antiseptic tannins and has been used throughout history to staunch the bleeding of wounds. Herbalists still sometimes suggest applying a leaf poultice of this herb to stop external bleeding. A tea made from the herb’s roots and leaves has been used to stop internal bleeding and to treat diarrhea and fevers. A salad burnet leaf infusion can be applied as a wash to soothe sunburn and other skin irritations.
In spring, salad burnet’s flowering stems grow to 3 feet tall, bearing rounded heads of tiny pink flowers. Consider using it as an edging plant for your herb or kitchen garden.
How to grow it
Salad burnet prefers full sun to partial shade and average, well-drained soil. It is not drought tolerant, so provide water during dry periods. Remove flower stems to encourage new foliage growth. Although it’s easily grown from seed sown directly in the garden, the herb can also be propagated by root division in spring or fall. Once established, burnet needs little attention. Harvest the leaves for fresh use as needed throughout the growing season. (The leaves do not hold their flavor well when dried.) A few of the roots of established plants can be harvested in fall.