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Saturday, April 16, 2011
SALAD BURNET : AN OLD - FASHIONED HERB WITH MODERN USES AND HEALTH BENEFITS: SALAD BURNET WINE CUP RECIPE
Salad burnet is not as popular as it used to be, but it can be found growing wild in Europe and western Asia as it originates in the Northern Temperate Zones. It is distinguishable because its flowers don’t have petals. The Greater burnet is the one most commonly used in medicinal treatments, but the smaller, salad burnet is useful as an astringent and coolant. It’s a member of the rose family of plants as is the peach tree and the apricot.
You can add the tender young leaves to salads or use it in soups and sauces along with dill, oregano and basil. Older leaves are bitter–tasting but the young ones taste of cucumber, which is why they are used to flavour drinks (try the one below). Salad burnet is also one of the French fines herbes along with others such as tarragon and rosemary. It is sweet-smelling and Francis Bacon remarked that it should be grown in pathways along with thyme and water mint “to perfume the air most delightfully, being trodden on and crushed.”
Gerard writing in his Herball of the 16th century says that “It gives a grace in the drynkynge” which is a reference to the way it was commonly used both in the Renaissance and in Pliny’s time in ancient Rome. It was steeped in wine sometimes with other herbs to make it more refreshing. One of its Latin names Poterium means “drinking cup” reflecting this use. Sanguiscorba means absorbing blood, and warriors would drink this herb in wine before going into battle in the hope that their wounds would be lessened by its effects.
Gerard also says of salad burnet:-
It gives “a speciall helpe to defend the hart from noysome vapours and from the infection of the Plague or Pestilence and all other contagious diseases for which purpose it is of great effect, the juice thereof being taken in some drink.”
He continues “ It is a capital wound herb for all sorts of wounds, both of the head and body, either inward or outward either in juice or decoction of the herb, or by the powder of the herb or root, or water of the distilled herb, or made into an ointment by itself or with other things to be kept.”
The whole herb is best harvested in July and hung in an airy, sunny room to dry in small bundles so that the air can pass through it. An infusion of the whole herb can help in fevers to promote sweating, and can be used on wounds. It used to be recommended to those suffering from gout and rheumatism. It contains the bioflavonoids, quercetin and kaempferol and vanillic, caffeic and gallic acid along with tannins and saponisides. It also contains vitamins C, A and some of the B-complex ones, along with the minerals iron and potassium.
You can make a tisane with the whole herb by chopping up a plant and pouring 2 pints of boiling water over it and allowing it to steep for 15 mins. The tisane is good for fevers and for diarrhoea and upset stomachs. It can also be used on the skin to clean wounds.
Try this cooling drink recipe in summer using salad burnet.
SALAD BURNET WINE CUP
1 bottle sweet white wine
500 ml sherry
6-8 sprigs of salad burnet (young tender shoots and leaves)
1 lemon sliced
1 litre soda water
Mix the white wine and sherry in a jug and add the salad burnet and lemon slices.
Chill for an hour or two and when ready to serve add the soda water and pour into glasses over crushed ice.
This has Taste and is a Treat.