by Barbara Porsch, Master Gardener, Herb Enthusiast
Salad Burnet Sanguisorba minor
At this time of the year and earlier, one of the few green herbs in the garden is Salad Burnet. It winters over and is ready to grow now. When it blooms, it has a beautiful little bloom that I liken to a green strawberry.
Salad Burnet is an evergreen perennial and grows in a circular mound that can reach a foot high and more across with featherlike leaves that arch gracefully from the center of the plant. It does best in well drained soils with a moderately high pH and in full sun... except in west Texas where everything appreciates some afternoon shade. I read that the flower heads are male at the bottom, bisexual in the middle and female at the top. Who would know.
It is native to the Mediterranean area and western Asia and has become naturalized in parts of North America even being declared invasive in some places. But do not worry. That will not be the case here. I don’t think mine has ever reseeded like parsley and arugula do. Just replant every couple of years to have a supply of young plants which have a more delicate flavor.
Speaking of flavor, the fresh young leaves have a slight cucumber taste best used fresh, and can be used in salads, soups, cheese spreads, and to make flavored vinegar. It has also been used to enhance water, or wines, but my favorite is to muddle a few stems in an icy cold gin and tonic. It has been used medicinally since ancient Greece. The great herbalists recommended it for a variety of ailments and Revolutionary soldiers drank burnet tea.
Salad Burnet was once much more common in the herb and kitchen garden. It is attractive, tasty, easy to grow, and deserved to be used more in our gardens. Look for it at our plant sale in April.