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Salad Burnet

Sanguisorba minor

This quiet and unassuming herb is a pretty little one, and deserves a bit more attention.   Easy to grow, it is actually a member of the Rosaceae family - so it's related to roses!  There may be some family resemblance in the leaf shape, but that's about it as far as I can see.

Salad Burnet grows well in a pot.  It has this lovely 'circular', almost fountain like growth habit that makes it quite a striking feature plant.  And better still - it's edible!

With a slight cucumber taste, the leaves make an attractive addition to salads, and a wonderful garnish.  The stalks are a little, well - "stalky" - so unless you use very young tips, it's an idea to run your fingers down the stems to remove the leaves.  My rule of thumb is if the stems snap, it's probably tender enough to leave that part in the salad. 

Try adding salad burnet to cool summer drinks, or freeze leaves into ice cubes.  Add to herb vinegars, use a handful chopped with cream cheese to make a dip, add to soups - the delicate flavour makes it suitable to use in many ways.

Like many herbs, it was one also used medicinally in the past.  Herbalist Penny Woodward uses this old quote in her notes: “the leaves stripped into wine and droken, doth comfort and rejoice thee hart and are good against the trembling and the shaking of the same".  Other annecdotes on the internet refer to it being used to ward off plague and other diseases of the blood.  I'm sure it probably is good for something - but its use seems to have faded out against other herbs over the years.

The plant is available as a mature herb, but is also easily grown from seed in autum through to spring - anytime really except the height of summer.  It may reach a diameter of 40cms, and does bear small flowers on a central flower spike which may reach 50cms or so.  Fairly un-demanding, it grows in most soils, will tolerate sun and part shade, but may need a little TLC (shade and extra water) over the hot months.  Native to Europe, parts of north Africa, Asia and pretty much naturalised in North America, too.  It is a perennial, so may need trimming and dividing from time to time.  Not particularly weedy, it may self seed but is not too rampant.

Definitely one worth adding to your garden - hope it doth comfort thee!

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