Updated April 24, 2022
Violets are one of the first plants to come up in the spring, bringing a pop of cheery color to the forest floor as it wakes from its winter slumber. In addition to being incredibly beautiful, these lovely little plants have a variety of uses in food, medicine, and skin care.
There are over 200 species in the Violaceae family that can be found growing abundantly in temperate and tropical areas all across the world. In North America, the violets start appearing in late February and generally bloom by the end of April.
In this post, I’ll be discussing, Viola odorata, which grows in the Midwest region of the United States, where I currently reside.
Violets have heart shaped leaves and drooping flowers that are generally a deep purple. Light purple, blue, yellow, and white colored flowers are also common. The many different types of violets have similar properties and can be used the same way.
The flowers and leaves of this plant are both wonderful food and medicine. They are rich in nutrients, like vitamins A and C. The flowers are sweet and a little astringent. They make a festive spring garnish on salads or desserts. Their delicate flavor is quite nice in infused liquors, vinegars, jellies, and springtime beverages.
There are many ways to enjoy violets. Gin infused with violets has a nice flavor and turns a beautiful purple color when mixed with tonic water. Apple cider or rice vinegars infused with violets are wonderful in a light spring dressing. Violets can be added to tea, wine, and make a pretty purple lemonade or violet jelly.
Another simple way to enjoy this sweet spring flower is by making violet syrup. Herbalist, M. Grieve, published this classic recipe in her book, A Modern Herbal.
Infuse 1 lb of freshly picked violet flowers with 2 1/2 pints bowling water in a covered pot or glass jar for 24 hours.
Then strain the flowers out, put the liquid in a pot, and add double the weight of the liquid in sugar. Simmer until liquid cooks down into a syrup. Do not let mixture boil.
Violets are so versatile & pretty, that I look forward to foraging them each spring. Some of my favorite ways to use them are as a garnish on spring salads, in facial toners & salves, infused into vinegar & gin, and in a pretty purple violet syrup.
What are your favorite ways to use violets? Let me know in the comments below.