Salad Burnet – A Foraging Guide to Its Food, Medicine and Other Uses

Salad Burnet is one of the few wild species which supplies edible greenery for most of the year.

During the winter and spring months, you will frequently find new growth sprouting, and this may be used in salads, while you can add more mature leaves to soups and pottages.

The leaves have a bitter flavour reminiscent of cucumber skin.

Salad Burnet was grown and used as a foodstuff for many centuries. In addition, it has been grown in Britain as a fodder crop for cattle because it grows year-round in favourable conditions.

It also responds to being cut back by sprouting new leaves (indeed, this trick of cutting back the foliage as the plant started to produce its flower buds was the gardener’s method of keeping leaf production going).

Scientific Name

Sanguisorba minor subsp. minor

Family

Rosaceae

Botanical Description

The plant grows to between 30-60 cm in height. Leaves: Ovate, serrated leaflets between 0.5-2 cm. Flowers green to dull purplish, 7-12mm.

Status

Perennial. Native.

Habitat and Distribution

It likes poor, dry soil and grows well on dry chalky grassland. Common in Britain but rare in Ireland.

Salad-Burnet-Sanguisorba-minor
Photo Identification Salad Burnet (Sanguisorba minor subsp. minor)

Parts Used for Food

Leaf.

Harvest Time

Best when the plant is starting to flower. If you regularly harvest a community, the leaves will grow throughout the year, providing an excellent salad crop even in Autumn and Winter.

Food Uses of Salad Burnet

Leaves are eaten in salad and added to soups and pottages. Gerard tells us that: ‘it is thought to make the heart merry and glad.’

Rutty, in 1772, mentions that the leaves were ‘put green into Wine as a cordial, and to give it a grateful taste and smell like Melon; also fresh infused, they mend stale drink’.

The bruised leaves make a tasty infused vinegar.

You can add the fresh leaves to a claret cup. A claret cup is an iced drink made from claret wine and carbonated water, often with lemon juice, brandy (or other spirits) and included fruits and sugar. They were the precursor to Pimms.

If you dry the leaves slowly, they retain their aroma and make a delightful tea.

Nutritional Profile of Salad Burnet

5.65% protein, 1.23% fat, 11% carbohydrate, 1.72% ash.

Salad Burnet Recipes

Salad-Burnet-Sanguisorba-minor
Photo Identification Salad Burnet (Sanguisorba minor subsp. minor)

Herbal Medicine Uses of Salad Burnet

Rembert Dodoens (1517-1585) recommended it as a wound healer. Gerard (1545–1612) tells us the juice can be drunk to heal internal bleeding or a decoction of powdered dry leaves in water. For external wounds, you would need to bruise the leaves before applying.

Other Uses

The plant, when eaten by cows, increases its milk yield.

Safety Note

I can find nothing specific to Sanguisorba minor, however, for Sanguisorba officinalis (Greater Burnet), it is recommended that the plant be avoided if you take quinolone antibiotics.

Salad-Burnet-Sanguisorba-minor
Photo Identification Salad Burnet (Sanguisorba minor subsp. minor)
Salad-Burnet-Sanguisorba-minor
Photo Identification Salad Burnet (Sanguisorba minor subsp. minor)

Join the Eatweeds Family

Each week you’ll receive wild food recipes, plant profiles and foraging tips directly in your inbox. Read by over 25,000+ foragers, herbalists and plant lovers.

References

Bown, D. (2002) New encyclopedia of herbs and their uses. Rev. ed. London New York Munich: DK Publ.

Couplan, F. (2009) Le régal végétal: plantes sauvages comestibles. Paris: Sang de la Terre.

Facciola, S. (1998) Cornucopia II: a source book of edible plants. Vista: Kampong Publications.

Fleischhauer, S. G. et al. (2014) Enzyklopädie essbare Wildpflanzen: 2000 Pflanzen Mitteleuropas?; Bestimmung, Sammeltipps, Inhaltsstoffe, Heilwirkung, Verwendung in der Küche. Aarau München: AT-Verl.

Grieve, M. (1971) A modern herbal vol 1 (a-h): the medicinal, culinary, cosmetic and economic properties, cultivation and folk-lore of herbs, grasses, fungi, shrubs, & trees with all their modern scientific uses. New York: Dover Publications.

Karalliedde, L. et al. (2008) Traditional herbal medicines: a guide to their safer use. London: Hammersmith.

Mackay, J. T. (1836) Flora hibernica: comprising the flowering plants, ferns, characeæ, musci, hepaticæ, lichenes and algæ of ireland, arranged according to the natural system with a synopsis of the genera according to the linnæan system. W. Curray jun.

Maloney, B. (1972) Traditional herbal cures in county cavan. Ulster Folklife. 1866–79. Michael, P. & King, C. (2015) Edible wild plants & herbs: a compendium of recipes and remedies. Paperback edition. London: Grub Street.

Read, B. E. (1946) Famine foods listed in the Chiu huang pen ts?ao, ????: giving their identity, nutritional values and notes on their preparations. Shanghai: Henry Lester Institute of Medical Research.

Rutty, J. (1772) An essay towards a natural history of the county of dublin: accomodated to the noble designs of the dublin society … W. Sleater.

Schuler, S. (1990) Simon & Schuster’s guide to herbs and spices. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Wyse Jackson, P. (2013) Ireland’s generous nature: the past and present uses of wild plants in Ireland. St. Louis: Missouri Botanical Garden Press.