Salad burnet leaves may look like parsley or celery, but this cucumber-flavored perennial is actually a member of the rose family, along with nectarines and blackberries.
If that weren’t surprising enough, its edible young leaves make great additions to salads, sandwiches, dressings, eggs, soups, iced tea, and Bloody Mary’s. This fragrant, mounding, evergreen herb produces stunning red to purple apetalous* flowers in summer. And it is practically pest- and disease-free! I don’t know why we don’t see salad burnet in stores, but we can grow our own at home.
*Apetalous means 'without petals'.
How salad burnet grows
Salad burnet (Sanguisorba minor), also known as garden burnet, salad burnet, small burnet, or simply burnet is a drought- and frost-tolerant plant that grows best in U.S. Hardiness Zones 4 to 8. It has a low-growing rosette shape that may reach 6” to 18” in height. Salad burnet is a short-lived perennial that is often grown as an annual. Leaves are pinnate and toothed.
How to grow salad burnet
Salad burnet grows best in loose soil with good drainage. It prefers a soil pH of 6.8, though it is a tolerant plant. In most regions, salad burnet should be planted in full sun. In hot regions, dappled sun is better. Start seeds in pots filled loosely with potting soil. Only lightly cover seeds with soil (no more than 1/8”) and keep the soil moist until germination occurs. This should take 1 to 2 weeks. [Note: to prevent seeds from being flooded into a corner of the pot, thoroughly water the soil before planting, then cover seeds with vermiculite or just a little soil and then use a mister to keep the soil moist.]
Salad burnet prefers moist soil, so you may want to consider planting it near a hose spigot or next to a rain gutter. Mulching around plants will help reduce weeds, retain moisture, and stabilize soil temperatures. Top dressing every 6 weeks or so with aged compost or feeding with fish emulsion will help keep your salad burnet plant productive and healthy. You may want to remove flowering stems to encourage more leaf growth, but the apetalous flowers really are stunning.
Harvesting salad burnet
Dried salad burnet does not retain its flavor, so you will want to snip off young leaves as they are needed. The more you take the more the plant will produce, as long as you don’t take more than one-third of the plant at a time. You can also freeze leaves in ice cubes for later use in beverages or hot dishes. Older leaves tend to taste bitter so should be tossed to the compost pile.
Salad burnet is predominantly pest-free. The only disease I could find that affects salad burnet is leaf spot. Add salad burnet to your herb garden, storybook garden, or grow it on your windowsill.
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!