Foraging: Violets Plus a Violet Syrup Recipe
Lately I’ve spoken to several friends in the New England area and have been reminded of one of the many reasons we decided to move to West Virginia, those warm early springs.
So while there’s still snow at our old home in New Hampshire springtime foraging is really in full swing here.
There’s ramps, may apples, dandelions, creasy greens, and loads of other wild edibles coming up in the woods and fields right now. While I love foraging, violets are something that I’ve actually never tried. Here at the new place our yard is carpeted with them so I decided to give it a go.
The Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia) is what I foraged to be exact. Both the leaves and flowers are edible and high in vitamins A and C. They are found in the woods, meadows, and even lawns but they prefer somewhat moist areas (I have seen a few in pretty dry spots though).
These violets are easy to identify. They grow low to the ground and their flowers range from white to purple with five petals. Their leaves are also easily recognized with a distinct heart shape and scalloped edges.
You’ll find them flowering from March-July depending on where you live. The Common Blue Violet’s range includes most of eastern North America as far west as Wisconsin.
Both the leaves and flowers have a mild taste that’s a perfect addition to salads. Plus you want the prettiest salad around? Violet flowers will get you there.
When I wanted to use some of our violets I wanted something a little more non-traditional though. I mean salads are great but greens make up a lot of the spring harvest so I searched for other violet ideas.
I stumbled across two ideas. First violet flowers can be candied. We didn’t try this as I’m just not a big candy eater, unless it’s chocolate of course. Then I found out you can make violet syrup! It’s too gorgeous not to want to make.
It does take a lot of flowers though. You’ll need to fill the same size jar that you wish to be eventually filled with the syrup. I chose to use a quart or about 3 cups.
1 quart (4 cups) of violet flowers
1 quart (4 cups) water
4 cups of organic sugar
drops of organic lemon juice
*Basically you need the same amount of flowers, water, and sugar
After you’ve spent time picking all those beautiful little flowers (it’s really meditative isn’t it?) you’ll need to boil your water.
If you haven’t already place your flowers in a glass jar. Then pour the boiling water over the flowers.
At this point your violets will need to steep for 24 hours. This is where a mason jar comes in handy. I just put the lid on and left it on the counter until I was ready to come back to it.
After 24 hours your water should look blue/purple and it’s time to finish your syrup.
First strain out your flowers. I used a fine wire mesh strainer. Be sure to press all the liquid possible out of your flowers!
Then begin heating your liquid and add the sugar, stirring it frequently as it comes to a boil. Boil it for a few minutes and then turn off the heat.
You may notice that your syrup’s color isn’t as bright as you’d like but just wait! Slowly add lemon juice a drop at a time and watch the color change. You can keep adding until you’ve reached a dark purple if you’re so inclined.
Then it’s ready for use or to be bottled back up and stored. With all that sugar it won’t go bad much like maple syrup.
Now I’m sure you’re wondering what do I do with this beautiful stuff?
I’ve tried it two ways thus far, in tea and in seltzer water like a pretty purple and flowery soda. I’m also thinking it’s gunna make for some amazing cocktails this summer! Or purple pancakes? Imagine the possibilities.
If you’re looking for a wildflower field guide my favorite and the one I use here in West Virginia is the National Audubon Society’s Field Guide to Wildflowers: Eastern Region. It has awesome glossy photos.
Also if you don’t want to pick all those flowers or can’t find any in your area, no worries, we’ll have some bottles of our syrup up on our Etsy shop soon.
Pin it for later.
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10 Responses to "Foraging: Violets Plus a Violet Syrup Recipe"
violets have been used by country herbalist to take down internal swellings and swellings due to infections… Helps with toothaches also.
Candying/sugar violets are not used so much for candy per say..but rather they are stunning decorations for cakes and cookies etc….
Good to know thanks!
We have a lot of violets in our yard and I am very interested in using them for medicinal purposes. Can you recommend any books or web sites for me. Thanks
This post http://www.theyrenotourgoats.com/in-the-kitchen/violet-jam-a-recipe-round-up/ is a violet round up and has some links to some great articles. Not sure about books, sorry. Best of luck!
I live in Muncie, Indiana and there are purple violets all over my year. I remember violets from when my mother had them in Tucson, Arizona and I used to pick and smell.
They had a beautiful smell but the ones in Muncie are a weed and don’t smell.
I’m asking are these violets or weeds?
We live in Virginia and I have my first batch of syrup underway. I can’t wait. I’m hoping it makes a great gin cocktail.
Do you have a recommendation for how many flowers should be picked. I want to make sure there is enough to go to seed. I picked about 1/3 leaving 2/3 to do their thing. That’s probably conservative. Just wondering what harvest would be sustainable.
I have a habit of digging up, not all, but some of the wild violets I see growing around. These I plant in a small bed that’s as close to their natural soil as possible. This is what I use for myself. The kitchen, etc. I’ve had to be careful though, because my grandchildren and great grands will pick them too if they see me scarf one up as I’m wandering my yard.
Are you able to process this (water bath can) to keep longer? Would make excellent gifts in the winter months.
I haven’t personally tried canning it but I believe you could. Look up directions for canning fruit syrups or simple syrups.
I’m loving your post about violets. Its one herb/flower I’ve not yet tried. My family and i escaped the UK craziness, with a voice in my head telling me to start a new life in Europe. &years on we have two home-ed children, farm and old house, goats and food. My garden has self seeded calendula for years and i have respectively used them as edge flowers for my beds. I don’t think i have found violets near me, and I’m always looking. I need to do some research, i suppose you can make syrup from any flower including calendula…. Thanks for your lovely post, here is my blog if your interested in wheat we do over here in Europe.. Blessings https://portugalmountains.blogspot.com