In Tudor times, salad burnet was planted in knot gardens in Britain. Originally a native of the Mediterranean countries, it was later taken to America by the Pilgrim Fathers.
Salad burnet, pimpinella saxifraga, is a small, slender perennial herb with dainty leaves consisting of seven to fifteen leaflets. The flowering stems stand out above the foliage and the whole plant grows about 12 in (30 cm) high. The stems and the little round flowers are reddish in colour and the flowers bloom in June and July. The leaves, when crushed, smell of cucumber. It is also known as burnet saxifrage.
The taste of cucumber in the leaves makes salad burnet a useful herb in the kitchen. It gives a delicious flavour to salads and salad dressings; it can be added to soups and home-made cream cheeses, and the pretty leaves add a refreshing flavour to fruit drinks and wine cups. Salad burnet tea is pleasant-tasting and good for digestive problems and loss of appetite.
Salad burnet is a hardy plant and can be propagated from seed or division of roots in spring or autumn. Sow the seeds when they are ripe in autumn in ordinary garden soil, and when large enough thin the seedlings to a handspan apart. Plants will thrive year after year if they are kept free of surrounding weeds.
The leaves are gathered for drying in June before the flowers start to bloom and are dried and stored in the usual way. For winter flower arrangements, dry the flowerheads on long stems.
Salad burnet is an excellent herb for improving the texture of the skin and is used in the form of a compress or complexion lotion.
* To make the infusion: Pour 1 cup of boiling water on to 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped leaves. Leave to infuse for 10—15 minutes. Strain and pour into stoppered bottles when cold. For a skin treatment, cleanse the face then dip pieces of lint into the lotion and lay them on the face for 15 minutes. Lie down and relax, covering the eyes with cold water compresses. Remove the compresses and leave the skin to dry. After washing the face night and morning dip a
cotton wool pad or ball in the lotion and smooth over the skin.
For a facial steam, dried or fresh salad burnet can be added to a mixture of herbs to help the skin.
* To make a facial steam: Mix together any of the following herbs: chamomile flowers, lime flowers, marigold petals, nasturtium flowers, nettle, fennel and yarrow. All have a beneficial effect on the skin. Put 2 handfuls of the mixture into a bowl and pour 4 cups of boiling water on top. Use a towel to cover both head and bowl so that no steam escapes. Steam the face for up to 10 minutes, then wipe the face with cotton wool and pat cold distilled water over the skin to close the pores.