HISTORICAL HINTS: this plant is native to Europe and Asia but has been later introduced and has naturalized in many other countries of the northern hemisphere, especially in British Isles and North America. Burnet is appreciated both for its officinal and gastronomic properties and was brought to New England by the Pilgrim Fathers. It vegetates in dry and well drained soils, along the roads and woods, on rocky soils, on slopes, lawns and glades. The Latin name comes from the terms sanguis (blood) and sorbeo (to absorb) and refers to the fact that the plant is supposed to stop internal and external haemorrhage. During the Tudor dynasty the plant flanked all the paths to perfume the route.
THE PLANT - There are two types of salad burnet. SANGUISORBA MINOR: from the Rosaceae family, it is an herbaceous evergreen perennial rustic plant with a wooden root stock; stalks, to 60 cm tall, are simple and ramified only on top and have a vertically furrowed surface. Inferior leaves, gathered in a rosette, have four-twelve pairs of small leaves plus a terminal one. Small leaves are oval or elliptic and round shaped at the base; borders show several pointed teeth, the upper surface is more green and less dark, the underside is blue-green and very light. Stem leaves are gradually smaller and have less leaves, which are narrower and lanceolate. Flowers, which bloom in summertime, are gathered in short spikes on top of the branches. The fruit is composed of two achens closed in the receptacle which grows during maturation and becomes suberous; elongate oval achens have four corners or four longitudinal wings. SANGIOSORBA OFFICINALIS: perennial and rustic plant, to 1, 2 m tall and 60 cm wide. It produces short apical spikes of dark crimson flowers during summer. Basal leaves are composed of many small oval leaves with pointed borders. This plant is becoming rarer in the wild habitat because of modern agricultural practices .
Its infusion can treat haemorrhoids and diarrhoea. Leaves have stomachic, digestive, astringent properties and treat ulcers and wound if reduced in pulp. It helps to free from catarrh in case of bronchitis or asthma, tracheitis or laryngitis. It is not advisable to take excessive doses of this plant. It is used as a remedy against renal calculus, to stimulate appetite, metabolism, and digestion, to cure stomach-ache and lessen puffiness.
CULINARY USE - Burnet leaves have a rich walnut aroma and a mild taste of cucumber and the youngest leaves can be added to salads or can be mixed to winter vegetables, to soups, soft cheese and drinks or can also replace parsley as decoration or to aromatize cooked dishes (leaves must be added at the beginning of the cooking process). Burnet leaves in vinegar confer it an interesting flavour. Burnet mix very well with other herbs such as rosemary and tarragon. Serve it in a sauce with white fish.