I know spring is on its way when the yellows and purples start to show up in the garden. Daffodils start to show their sunny faces and purple wild violets peek up at me from the ground.
Make Me Smile Flowers
Violets are my favourite flower. Each year when I see the wild violets show up, it always brings a smile to my face. I know winter is receding and the weather warming.
I love violets for their delicacy, but also their resilience. They get trodden underfoot, as they hide within the ground cover, and yet year after year they return, opening out and raising their faces to the spring sun.
Finding Wild Violets
Each spring, once I spot that first wild violet, I go foraging for them. Not only are they pretty but they are tasty too! If you go looking for them, they generally can be found in shady, slightly mossy places, under tree canopies. Look for 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. The violets will be easier to see then. Collect by pinching the stem between your fingers, below the flower. Or, if you are organised, take along a pair of small scissors and cut at the stem. Put them loosely in a container as ideally you do not wish to crush the flowers. Particularly if you wish to make sugared violets.
The Day Dawns
Once I see that first little violet, I wait with anticipation for a sunny day. When the day arrives, I thoroughly enjoy the wander about the garden in the morning light, listening to the bird song, watching our ducks run about searching for worms.
It’s so peaceful, and the actual collecting is really fun as I search for flowers to pick. I don’t normally collect a large quantity as they don’t last long, Rather only what I need for a few interesting recipes I want to try.
What to Make?
But why would you collect wild 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.
A Recipe or Three
I make Violet Syrup each year as it is 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, add 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 options I mentioned? Here are a few recipes:
The Nerdy Farm Wife offers a recipe for Wild Violet Jelly (Jam)
The Spruce tells you how to Sugar Coat Violets (candied violets) for decoration
Grow a Good Life gives you how to make Wild Violet Vinegar
Important! 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. Dave’s Garden gives a good synopsis and pictures if you would like to see.
If you are a keen gardener or forager like us, do visit our Shop, where we offer a selection of unique gardening themed gifts:
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