I know Spring is on its way when the yellows and purples start to show up in the garden. Daffodils start show their sunny faces and purple violets peek up at me from the ground.
Make Me Smile Flowers
Violets are my favourite flower, which in a way is a little surprising as purple is not a particularly favourite colour (something to do with being a redhead maybe?). But each year when I see the violets show up, it always brings a smile to my face. I love them for their delicacy, but also their resilience. They get trodden underfoot, as they hide within the ground cover, and year after year they return, opening out and raising their faces to the spring sun.
If you go looking for them, they generally can be found in shady, slightly mossy places, under tree canopies. They are a little purple flower, about 2cm (1 in) long and maybe 8cm (3 in) high at a push. They will raise their faces to the sun, so it’s best to forage on a sunny morning, after any initial dew has passed. They will be easier to see. Collect by pinching the stem between your fingers, below the flower. Or, if you are organised (unlike me as I thought only to bring a container), take along a pair of small scissors and cut at the stem. Put them loosely in your container as ideally you do not wish to crush the flowers, particularly if you wish to make sugared violets.
This Time Around
I promise myself each year that I will collect them and enjoy them in a little vase as well as wild craft them into some treats. Each year, by the time I get around to the actual doing, the little fellows have been and gone. But not this year! Finally, I reminded myself in time and managed to collect a few. It was waiting for the sunny day that was the issue.
When my day arrived, I thoroughly enjoyed the wander about the garden in the morning light, listening to the bird song, watching our red squirrels flit by. It was so peaceful, and the actual collecting was really fun as I searched for flowers to pick. I didn’t collect that many as I had no plans for any large projects, but there were a few interesting recipes I had found and wanted to try.
What to Make?
But why would you collect violets to eat? Well, besides being pretty and adding decoration to a dish, they are high in vitamin C. As an edible flower, the limitations are only yours. One of my favourites is to put them into a green salad as the colour simply pops, and again makes me smile and feel like spring is finally on its way. You can sugar coat them for decoration on baked goods, or make syrups, jams and vinegars. Or, you can simply toss a couple tablespoons of the flowers (leaves can be included too for a stronger flavour), into a tea pot and brew yourself a floral tisane (herbal tea). I am enjoying mine as I write this.
I tried the Violet Syrup this year as it was easy. Simply put your flowers in a bowl or mason jar and pour over boiling water until they are covered. Let steep until cool. You can let it steep up to 24 hours for a more intense flavour. The water will be infused to a lovely blue. Strain the liquid and throw away the flowers. Measure the liquid and put into a pot, add the same amount of sugar as the liquid to the pot (so 225ml/8oz/1 cup liquid, 225ml/8 oz/ 1 cup sugar). Add a Tablespoon of lemon juice (it will turn the blue to purple) and heat. Bring to a boil and let it reduce to the consistency you like of syrup. Pour it into a clean jar or bottle, et voilà! Pour over pancakes, crumpets, shaved ice, lemon sorbet or use in other recipes.
Fancy trying the other items I mentioned? Here are a few I found that sounded good. (I just love a good excuse for a browse.)
The Nerdy Farm Wife offers a recipe for Wild Violet Jelly (Jam) that sounds delish.
The Spruce tells you how to sugar coat violets (candied) for decoration
Grow a Good Life gives you how to make wild violet vinegar
African Violets vs Wild Violets
Don’t confuse Wild Violets with African Violets. They are not the same thing. Wild Violets are the edible ones, African Violets are not. Normally African Violets are grown, rather than popping up wild. There are many ways to recognise the difference. For one, they look quite different. The African violet is not as delicate and the flowers are generally bunched together. The American Violet Society gives a good synopsis and pictures if you would like to see.
Prefer someone else makes it?
All of these items actually use violets, the real deal, not simply a flavouring.
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