Salad Burnet: The Cucumber Herb

Depending on which source you believe, salad burnet’s place of origin is either the Mediterranean region or in the British Isles. Regardless of which location it comes from, you can find it all over Europe and in China. It has been used for more than 2,000 years and was known to the ancient Greeks, who used it for its medicinal benefits. Ancient practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine also used salad burnet for healing.

Salad burnet is sometimes known simply as burnet or garden burnet; however, it is different from the taller plant known as great burnet. Salad burnet’s name comes from the French word brunette.

In the 16th century England, salad burnet was viewed as a medicinal herb and as a decorative herb for gardening. A century later, Nicholas Culpeper described it as a precious herb that was good for preserving health. Salad burnet was combined with other herbs to make a wine that was thought to treat the plague. The wine would be served with leaves of salad burnet floating in it. The herb would eventually be used in food as well. It arrived in America via the first European settlers.

Salad burnet has long been used as a styptic and was believed to work both internally and externally in that it could stop both internal and external bleeding. According to legend, soldiers in the American War of Independence used to drink salad burnet tea. The notion was that the tea would help to keep them from bleeding to death if they were shot.

Salad burnet is not a well-known culinary herb in the US these days, as other herbs have risen to the forefront.

Salad burnet flavor profile

Salad burnet is best known for having a flavor similar to that of the cucumber, which means that it can be used as a cucumber substitute in foods or beverages where only the flavor of cucumber — and not the bulk — is desired. It has a fresh, cool taste that can enhance a number of different dishes. Note that only the young leaves should be used for this purpose. The older leaves tend to be bitter.

Health benefits of salad burnet

Salad burnet has a range of health benefits that result from the nutrients it contains. Those nutrients include:

  • Vitamin C: Salad burnet is a great source of vitamin C, much like other green herbs that are typically served fresh.
  • Antioxidants: Salad burnet contains both tannic and gallic acid, which function as antioxidants. It also contains other antioxidants like quercetin and kaempferol in trace amounts.

You can use salad burnet to treat or prevent health conditions like:

  • Urinary tract problems: Salad burnet is a mild diuretic that may be used to treat urinary tract issues.
  • Inflammation: Salad burnet’s anti-inflammatory properties make it effective for arthritis and other health conditions that result from inflammation.

Common uses

As its name implies, the leaves of salad burnet work best when you add them to salads. Think of it as a cucumber-flavored parsley. It can be used in sandwiches as well as salads. French chefs use it like watercress and add it to both omelets and cold sauces. Combine it with basil or cilantro to make a salad dressing or dip. It is also a great addition to drinks because of its cucumber flavor. It is commonly added to iced teas as well as to punches.

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