Who isn’t entranced while walking a shady wooded path strewn with a carpet of wild violets? It instantly creates an almost magical atmosphere, intoxicating with the sweet scent of the blooms. Makes me wonder what virtue of the violet gained it prominence on the Napoleonic Imperial Army’s emblem! It is certainly a plant full of offerings for us, be it for just sensory enjoyment or for practical purposes. There are many varieties of wild violets, some more fragrant than others, but all are edible and beautiful. Johnny jump-ups, or Viola tricolor, are a well-loved cousin to the violet, also with many uses. (They are also the forefathers of the cultivated garden pansy, which are also edible.) The violets I collect are Viola odorata. To add violets to your home herbal apothecary, collect the leaves and flowers in mid-late spring. Dry carefully as they are delicate, which is also why they don’t withstand the summer heat. The plant likes some shade and can often be found at the edges of woods, stream beds and thickets, where the soil is rich and moist. Flowers sprout up on their own stems apart from the surrounding orb leaves, which is interesting. Leaves are heart shaped and often curl a bit on the edges. The flowers can be yellow or white but are definitely most commonly found in a shade of purple - hence, violet! Because the violet doesn’t seed until autumn when a new stem with a seedhead emerges where once in spring the beautiful flower resided, you can harvest violets to your heart’s content, knowing that you aren’t restricting their reoccurrence! I like that! Violets are also rich in medicinal characteristics. In an infusion, the leaves and flowers have expectorant action, helpful with any mucus buildup in coughs and especially bronchitis, and also have an alterative action, helping your body to rebalance and cleanse - especially your nerves, lungs, reproductive and immune systems. Their anti-inflammatory action is helpful for any condition related to inflammation, with people noting results in conditions as varied as eczema and rheumatism. As a diuretic, it can aid the body in ridding the urinary tract of infection. There is ancient and not-so-ancient medical literature that cites violets - specifically the leaves- as a viable anti-tumor agent, be it fibrocystic tumors or cancerous tumors. Check it out. Also consider extracting properties of the violet by making tinctures and violet oil. Remember when making an infused oil to dry your herb first so that the moisture from the herb doesn’t cause mold in the oil. Violet leaves would be a welcome addition to any wound-healing oil to be made into a salve, because of the antiseptic, dissolving, cooling and healing properties they harbor. Pink eye? Get some violet leaves and make a hot poultice! As part of a beauty regimen, it is told that soaking a cup of violets in a cup of warm fresh goat’s milk overnight and then soaking a heated washcloth in the milk in the morning and applying it to the face and neck does wonders for the complexion. As an edible, we have just eaten the flowers and leaves as we pick them, strewn them into salad for a touch of beauty and tastiness and also have dipped the flowers into beaten egg whites (with a smidge of water) and dipped in sugar to let dry into beautiful decorations for edible creations. You can also add the greens to a collection of spring potherbs, a vitamin and mineral-rich treat of the spring season! The leaves are especially rich in vitamins A and C. (100 g fresh leaves = 10,000 IU vit A and 264 mg it C) Yum! Don’t eat the roots of the violet, however, or you will wind up with a belly ache. I’m going to add a fun recipe I found in an old book of mine on wild foods. It’s something I plan to make before the violets disappear for the year!
Violet Jelly 1/2 cup fresh purple violet petals 1 cup sugar 3 cups water 1 1/2 Tbs plain gelatin 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice Whipped cream Fresh spring violets Add stemmed violets to a boiling syrup of the sugar and water. Simmer, covered, 20 minutes. Strain and measure out 2 cups of syrup. Soften the gelatin in the orange juice and add. Pour into a mold and jell in the refrigerator. Unmold and garnish with whipped cream and fresh violets.
Happy Spring everyone! ~Carin
Disclaimer: Of course we claim no responsibility for your experience with these herbs. Everything we share is for information purposes only and is not to be taken as professional or medical advice. Do your own research! Always consult a professional. Be wise. Consider always the chance of an allergic reaction. We are all unique in body chemistry. We are NOT a medical professionals by any means, however we have saved our family a boatload of annoyance and money by being resourceful and using what is right at our feet – literally. See full disclaimer here.