A perennially growing herb, garden burnet has slender stems that emerge from a basal rosette of leaves that are divided like pinnate and grows up to a height of 10 inches to 30 inches. This herb produces gray-green leaflets that are jagged and oval shaped. The plant bears pale green to yellowish green flowers growing in clusters from May to July. The female flowers have overhanging red hued stigmas on the upper part and these red stigmas impart a reddish glow to the herb. On the other hand, the male flowers of garden burnet have wilting stamens on their lower part.
The plant garden burnet belongs to the Rosaceae family and is indigenous to the western, central and southern regions of Europe, southwest Western Asia as well as the northwest regions of Africa. Currently, this herb has been naturalized almost throughout North America. Sanguisorba minor is a perennially growing herbaceous (herb-like) plant that is usually found growing in arid verdant meadows and generally on limestone soils. This plant has the aptitude to endure drought and grows throughout the year.
The garden burnet plant is edible and is used as an ingredient in salads as well as dressings. In a number of recipes, this plant can be substituted by mint leaves conditional on the desired effect. Generally, the most tender or youngest leaves of the plants are used for this purpose since the leaves of this herbaceous plant have a tendency to become bitter as they mature. Garden burnet, also known as salad burnet, possesses the similar therapeutic properties as medicinal burnet (greater burnet, botanical name Sanguisorba officinalis). Earlier, this plant was also used in the form of a tea to provide relief from diarrhea.
According to old tales, soldiers who fought in the American Revolution took a dose of the tea prepared with garden burnet on the night prior to their battle with the belief that in case they suffered any injury during the battle on the following day, the herbal tea would save them from profuse hemorrhage or bleeding to death. In effect, the plant derives its name from the Latin term ‘Sanguisorba', which when translated into English denoted ‘blood absorber'.
Besides being traditionally used as a medication to stop hemorrhage or flow of blood for a long period, people have also used garden burnet for treating stomach ailments, such as diarrhea and digestive problems. People in the 16th century England used garden burnet as a medication for gout as well as rheumatism. In the 17th century England, the plant was prescribed as a medication to protect people from plague and other contagious ailments.
Garden burnet is held in high esteem by chefs in France and Italy owing to the herb's cucumber-like savor and they use the leaves of the herb in preparing appetizing salads. In addition, the leaves of garden burnet have also been employed in cream cheese, vinegars, iced drinks and herbed butters. The culinary uses of garden burnet are similar to those of its close relative greater burnet (botanical name S. officinalis). In fact, both these herbs are often known as salad burnet.
Aerial parts, roots.
Garden burnet has a number of uses, including culinary and therapeutic. In Europe as well as in the Middle East, this herb is used as a traditional medicine. The roots as well as the leaves of the garden burnet plant possess astringent properties, which help in stopping bleeding. In addition, an infusion prepared with the herb is used for treating rheumatism and gout.
Since scientists are yet to undertake research on the herb's therapeutic properties, it is not possible to corroborate or disprove the claims regarding the medicinal use of garden burnet. However, currently, the plant is mainly used as a culinary herb in preparing salads, cheese, butter and vinegars.
The tender leaves and shoots of the garden burnet plant can be consumed both raw as well as cooked. It is best to use the leaves and shoots for culinary purpose before the plant begins to blossom. The tender leaves and shoots of the herb are consumed in salads, added to soups, used in the form of a garnish, added to claret cups and cooling drinks. The young seedlings of garden burnet are also consumed after boiling. It is somewhat tricky to harvest the leaves of the plant and at times they become bitter during hot arid summers. Nevertheless, the leaves are generally somewhat mild to taste during winter. Some people find the leaves of garden burnet to possess a cucumber-like essence. The leaves of the plant have a discrete bitter taste when grown in acid soils. However, when the plants are cultivated on a chalky or calcareous soil, they produce leaves that have a comparatively mild taste. The leaves of the plant are dried and used to prepare an herbal tea.
In order to use the garden burnet leaves for culinary purpose, it is recommended that the leaves are harvested as a whole as required. However, it is advisable to keep patience till the plant grows up properly and this may take many months before you can harvest the leaves. Shed off the leaflets of the plant from the sinewy rachis or the leaf stem and use them in salads or sandwiches. The flavour of the garden burnet leaves is usually compared to that of cucumber and this herb can also be used as a substitute for borage. The leaves that have a somewhat bitter taste are excellent for preparing cream cheese and salad burnet is particularly scrumptious when it is interspersed on cottage cheese. You may also use garden burnet leaves in Cole slaw and yogurt. In addition, salad burnet is also used to prepare spiced vinegar and there was a time when it was also added to claret.
Habitat and cultivation
Garden burnet is indigenous to southern, central and western regions of Europe, southwest regions of Western Asia and northwest Africa. This herb was introduced into North America and over the years it has neutralized in spread locations ranging from Nova Scotia to Ontario, and in the south to Virginia and Tennessee. This is a low growing perennial herb that is evergreen which makes the plant excellent for edging around beds and borders.
This plant can be cultivated easily in locations receiving full sunlight. It is important to cut down the older leaves on a regular basis with a view to support the growth of young leaves that possess the most excellent taste. The plant self-seeds liberally. It is also important to cut down the flower stalks soon after the plant blooms if you do not desire self-seeding. The plant also remains evergreen in warm winter climes. Nevertheless, the leaves of the plant can be collected even after the first frosting.
Garden burnet plant has a preference for light arid calcareous soil, but grows well on majority of good quality soils. This herb also has the aptitude to survive in inferior or relatively infertile soils. According to a report, garden burnet grows excellently even in swampy soil, but, in all probability, this is a misconception. On the other hand, it has been found that garden burnet grows excellently in spring meadow. This plant does not like shade or partial shade. It is only some times, that garden burnet is grown in an herb garden. As aforementioned, garden burnet is a perennially growing herbaceous plant that produces edible leaves throughout the year - even during the harsh winter. If garden burnet is cultivated for use in salads, the plant ought to be prevented from producing flowers. Usually, one does not require sowing this plant, as it is self-sow and at times, when it grows rapidly covering an entire area, it even turns out to be a botheration.
In laboratory studies, extracts from garden burnet have displayed that it has positive physiological effects. A research undertaken by a team of scientists in Spain have discovered that the extracts of garden burnet showed anti-HIV actions in vitro. Studies undertaken in Germany have exhibited that extracts of garden burnet have helped to reduce the blood sugar levels considerably of laboratory mice that were treated with the extracts in comparison to control mice. Another study undertaken in Turkey has shown that the extracts of the herb provided noteworthy safeguard against ulcers in laboratory mice. In addition, a research conducted in Iran showed that garden burnet extracts obtained from Iran and Canada possessed fungicidal properties.
Chemical analysis of extracts of garden burnet leaves have shown that they enclose approximately 5.65 per cent protein, 11 per cent carbohydrate, 1.2 per cent fat, 1.7 per cent ash and 74.5 per cent water.