Salad burnet is a lovely herb that is not only a delightful addition to salads and dressings, thanks to its cucumber-flavored leaves but is also a beautiful addition to the herb garden. Salad burnet is easy to grow and care for, perfect for herb gardeners at all levels. Learn tips and techniques for how to plant and care for this unique and culinary perennial.
What is Salad Burnet?
Salad Burnet (Sanguisorba minor, a.k.a. burnet) is an edible, perennial herb with rounded, saw-tooth-edged leaves and is classified botanically in the Rosaceae family. This beautiful and hardy plant grows outward in a large rosette pattern with new green growth emanating from a central stem. Crimson flower clusters on long stems emerge mid-season to produce seeds.
Salad Burnet is prized by herb growers (and me!) for its crisp cucumber-flavored leaves, which are quite tasty when freshly picked for green salads and dressings. It’s also — and I can’t say this enough — just a gorgeous plant. It frequently sends up new growth throughout the growing season, with ruffly, tender leaves unfurling quite attractively.
This is a hardy herb that returns year after in plant hardiness zones 4-11 (find your hardiness zone). In zones 4-8, the plant dies back during cold winter months but regrows in the spring. In Zones 9-11, burnet often acts as an evergreen, growing year-round, as long as the summers are not relentlessly scorching.
As an avid cook, I usually focus on herbs for their culinary value, regardless of their looks. But salad burnet has it all: a lovely flavor and a gorgeously lush growing habit.
Where to Buy Salad Burnet
Salad burnet is not, unfortunately, commonly sold as a starter plant in garden centers and big box stores in the U.S. Your best bet to find a starter plant is to search online for smaller growers willing to ship (which is where I found the first burnet plant I ever grew in 2015).
Burnet can also be grown from seed, and you might have better luck locating seeds than starter plants from a seller such as Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.
How to Plant Salad Burnet
If you’ve purchased a starter plant, wait until temperatures are consistently above 50ºF and no danger of frost persists. In a bed of rich soil that receives full sun (or a minor amount of shade), dig a hole slightly larger than the pot that the starter plant is in.
Pour water into the hole to confirm it drains completely away. If water pools in the hole, you’ll need to amend the soil with peat and compost. Burnet does not like to be water-logged, so proper drainage is important.
Carefully remove the plant from the pot and set it in the hole. Pack soil around the plant and firm it down. Water thoroughly.
How to Grow from Seed
Salad burnet can be grown from seed with a little care, planning, and patience. The seeds have a moderate germination rate, which can vary depending on the quality of the seed. Typically, you can expect around a 50-70% germination rate.
Germination time generally runs from 7-14 days, depending on the growing conditions. The seeds prefer a temperature range of 60-75°F for germination. Salad burnet seeds can be sown both indoors and outdoors.
Indoor sowing: If you are starting the seeds indoors, sow them in pots or trays filled with seed starting mix about 6-8 weeks before the last frost date in your area. Keep the trays on a heat mat. When the seedlings emerge, keep in a brightly lit area, or under grow lights.
Once the seedlings have grown to a size of 3-4 inches tall, they can be transplanted outdoors.
Outdoor sowing: If sowing seeds directly outdoors, wait until the soil has warmed up to at least 50°F and all danger of frost has passed. Sow the seeds in well-drained soil about 1/4 inch deep and water.
Care for seedlings: Keep the soil consistently moist but not puddled. Once the seedlings emerge, thin them out to about 6-12 inches apart to give the plants enough space to grow.
How to Care for Salad Burnet
Once established, burnet is a hardy plant and requires little attention. It’s fairly drought-tolerant but prefers consistent, light moisture. Take care not to overwater, though, as the plant does not like to be soaked for long periods of time.
Like most herbs, salad burnet does not really require fertilizer, but if the soil you began with is nutrient deficient from previous growing seasons, apply a diluted dose of fertilizer or fish emulsion every month or so.
To keep the plant producing new leaves, prune back leggy growth and harvest leaves frequently throughout the growing season. In terms of flavor, young growth is the tastiest and most tender.
How Does Salad Burnet Spread or Propagate?
Salad Burnet can perpetuate in one of two ways: self-seeding or propagation.
If burnet’s flowers are allowed to bloom and go to seed, those seeds will drop to the ground, and a small percentage of those seeds will germinate the following year.
In fact, doing so creates a healthier plant that produces tender, tasty leaves.
How to Use Salad Burnet
Fresh leaves can be harvested throughout the growing season: just snip off a stem, and then strip the leaves from it.
Here are some of my favorite ways to take delicious advantage of the cucumber-flavored leaves:
- Salads: Use salad burnet as you would any other fresh, leafy green herb by chopping up the leaves and sprinkling it over green salads.
- Salad dressings: Salad burnet makes a lovely addition to homemade vinaigrettes, as it adds a cool, crisp, herbaceous note to the dressing. Chop or mince the leaves first if you won’t be sending the dressing through a blender.
- Ice water: Liven up your water intake by adding whole leaves or lightly crushed leaves to your ice water. A mint-lime-salad burnet combo is amazingly refreshing.
- Lemonade: Infuse sweet lemonade with chopped or crushed leaves for a lively summer beverage.
- Vinegar: If you love making artisan vinegar, chopped or crushed leaves add an interesting cucumber zing to the flavor.
- Dips: Mix minced leaves into a creamy dill dip for a tzatziki-leaning vegetable. So delish!
- Cream cheese spread: Create a tasty and unique cream cheese spread for bagels and other appetizers. Stir minced salad burnet, dill, chives and a little garlic powder into softened cream cheese for a unique party platter spread.
I hope you’ll try salad burnet in your garden this year. It’s not only a lovely herb to have on hand for summer recipes, but it’s also decorative to grow in the yard and easy to care for!