Salad burnet – Sanguisorba minor

Flowers just starting to open on salad burnet (Sanguisorba minor)
Flowers just starting to open on salad burnet (Sanguisorba minor)
This one is growing on a light, sandy soil, hence the leaves are quite scant.
This one is growing on a light, sandy soil, hence the leaves are quite scant.

Salad burnet (Sanguisorba minor) is a native plant that is quite often grown as a culinary herb. It is perennial and robust.

The leaves taste a little bit of cucumber. To get nice juicy leaves, the plant needs quite a moist, rich soil otherwise they have a tendency to be bitter and dry. The plant is rich in tannins and generally astringent: the Sanguisorba part of the Latin name means “blood absorbing” and it has been used to staunch wounds, but mainly it is a culinary herb.

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Coltsfoot – Tussilago farfara

Coltsfoot - Tussilago farfara, 7th April 2013
Coltsfoot – Tussilago farfara, 7th April 2013

The cheery flowers of coltsfoot are only just coming out in my area. Usually, they begin popping up in January, but this year they have sensibly waited out the abnormally cold weather we have been having.

Coltsfoot (also known as son-before-father because the flowers precede the leaves) has a long history of medicinal use. Its Latin name, Tussilago farfara, in part derives from its use as an anti-tussive – something to stop coughs – a purpose for which it is still widely used. It is also edible, more especially when young as it becomes tough and woolly with age. The young shoots and leaves can be eaten raw or lightly steamed.

In addition to all of those useful things for humans, coltsfoot also provides much needed early spring food for bees and other insects.

Some sources refer to it as “invasive” – mainly because when the flower runs to seed it is like a dandelion or thistle: each seed has a parachute so it can sail away on the wind. However, it is easily controlled and on managed ground, there is no reason why it should be a problem.