Growing and Using Sweet Violets

Growing and Using Sweet Violets
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During the 19th Century violets were so popular they were keptin cold frames so the ladies of the house would not be withoutthem during the winter.  Sweet violets were used in perfumes,worn for decoration and acres of violets were grown as cutflowers. Long before this, for over 2000 years,  it was used forfood and medicinally for many ailments. It's hard to believe thatthis charming herb is now the scourge of some homeownerswho search for a way to eradicate them from their lawns.
Viola odorata is known as sweet violet and all parts are edible,though the seed and root can be toxic in large quantities. It canbe grown in pots or in your garden and is perennial. Yes, in veryfertile, ideal soils it can become invasive. Though I've never hadthis happen and actually transplanted some plants from a familymember's garden to have more of them. V. tricolor is known asthe wild pansy, heartsease or Johnny-jump-up and is a perennialthat is often grown as an annual that reseeds generously.

Bothvarieties will grow under trees and some shrubs because they likepartial shade and cool weather. They will grow in full sun if the soilis not dry, but rather on the moist side.  If you do wish to divide yourplants to give as gifts or place in other locations you can dig up andbreak off a small section that has roots. Place it in a pot with goodsoil and either give away or transplant after a few weeks when it'srecovered. This is best done in the spring. Violet seed does need aperiod of cold to germinate. You can grow it in a cold frame in theautumn and transplant in the spring. A note before we go on to theculinary uses.  African violets are a different species of plant andare not considered edible, so only use the sweet violet mentionedhere, and ALWAYS be sure they have not been exposed to anychemicals or animal excrement. Rinse gently and dry in a saladspinner or drain on towels before using the blooms or leaves. Theblooms of Viola tricolor, Johnny-jump-up can be used much thesame as sweet violet.

The leaves of sweet violet can be used as greens in salads yearround but are more tender early on. They are rich in Vitamins Aand C. The older, larger leaves can be used in soups, stews orcooked as other greens are.

Tea can be made from the blooms or leaves. Pour boiling waterover and steep for 5 minutes. Use about 2 tsp. or so of freshchopped leaves and strain after steeping. Add honey to sweeten.

Violet blooms can be stirred into vanilla yogurt at night and in themorning you will have a pleasant treat for breakfast. If you do thiswith plain yogurt you can use it as a facial!

Place chopped violets in a simple 2 egg omelet made with cream,eggs and salt and pepper to season, or garnish scrambled eggswith whole violets. Make a lovely violet vinegar by filling a quartjar with violet blooms (or a pint) and add your choice of vinegarto the top, place on the cover and allow it to sit for 2-3 weeks,occasionally shaking gently.  Remove the violets by strainingand rebottle. Use the vinegar in salad dressings.

An interesting and fun, but not necessarily healthy, treat is to dipviolets in a thin pancake banner and fry quickly. Drain and eat!Float in glasses of white wine, or in a spring punch for a prettypresentation. Use violet blooms on cakes or as garnishes.

Violet ice cream is a special treat. Chop violet blooms and addto homemade vanilla ice cream right before freezing or allowyour favorite brand of ice cream to soften, then blend in theviolets and replace in the freezer. Garnish with whole violetswhen serving.

Violet Syrup

4 cups sweet violets; freshly picked, unsprayed
2 cups boiling water
6 cups granulated sugar
1 fresh lemon, squeezed for the juice
2 cups water

Place violet blooms in a deep glass or ceramic bowl and pour theboiling water over them. Weigh down with a heavy dish or platethat will fit into the bowl to keep them submerged. Place the bowlat room temperature for 24 hours. Line a colander with layers ofclean, rinsed cheesecloth and use to strain the violet water. Whenthe water has strained through the cheesecloth, gather and squeezeany excess moisture out of the violets, then discard the used blooms.Place the sugar, lemon juice and 2 cups plain water (not the violetwater) in a saucepan and boil until the mixture becomes a very thicksyrup.  Add the violet water and bring to a rolling boil. Boil 10 minutesor until thickened again. Pour into sterile bottles, allow to cool, thenseal and refrigerate.

USES: Place several tablespoons in tall iced tea glasses and fill withsparkling water and ice cubes, ganishing with violet blooms. Usedrizzled over ice cream pancakes, waffles or cake slices.

Nasturtium and Violet Salad

4 cups nasturtium blossoms
1/2 cup of sweet violet leaves
handful of sweet violet blooms
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons herb vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped chervil leaves
3 tablespoons olive oil

Trim stems off the blossoms. Wash the flowers and leavesunder cool water and drain on paper towels. Rub the inside ofa wooden salad bowl with the garlic clove. Place the blossomsin the bowl, add violet leaves, chervil, salt and pepper. Sprinklewith lemon juice and oil. Toss gently and serve. You can alsomake a nice wild greens salad doing this with a mixture of purslane,dandelion greens and any other greens that you grow. Simply adda little more vinegar and oil.

Wild Violet and Dandelion Bath Tea:

1 1/2 cup wild violet leaves and petals, chopped
1 1/2 cup dandelion leaves and petals, chopped

Add the leaves and flowers to a glass bowl. Pour boiling waterover all so it's covered, steep for 15-20 minutes, strain and addto your bath water. You can place the herbs in a square piece ofcheesecloth or muslin bag and tie tightly. Steep as instructed thenadd the water and bag to your bath.


About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at


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