Salad burnet (Sanguisorba minor) is a medicinal and culinary herb and a beautiful ornamental plant. It is one of those pretty yet useful herbs in the garden. An herbaceous perennial, this relatively small plant grows to about a foot wide and one-half foot tall. It stays green above ground for quite a long time, dies back in the winter, and re-appears in the spring. The plant grows in a clump, in a rosette formation. The small summer flowers are very small on wiry stems — barely noticeable.
As a medicinal herb, salad burnet has astringent qualities and staunches bleeding. As a culinary herb, the young foliage is tastiest so pick from the center of the rosette and use leaves in a green salad, egg salad, herbal vinegar, butter, cheese spread, or as “lettuce” with sandwiches. The foliage can be added to lemonade and is a popular garnish for gin and tonic cocktails. It has a clean green flavor, much like cucumbers.
The foliage has a delicate, lacy appearance which makes it a great garnish. When my daughter and I made a charcuterie board for Thanksgiving, we decorated the board with stems. We also used the green lacy leaves as a contrast to red cranberries and white mashed potatoes.
I have been growing salad burnet for years, but not necessarily the same one. It does self-seed a little, just enough for babies to show up in odd places. I dig them up and put them where I know they will thrive. Over the years, I have learned that salad burnet prefers moist areas, in full or partial sun, depending on the amount of soil moisture. I now have a plant growing next to my cutting celery and lovage, all of which are moisture lovers.
You are not likely to find the plant in local nurseries, but you can purchase seed from online seed companies. Start seed indoors in the spring, under lights, much like starting tomato seeds. You can direct sow in the summer, but my birds always steal my seed before they germinate. Or if you have a friend who has salad burnet growing in the garden, ask for a division in the spring. Try growing salad burnet in your garden or in a container.