Wild violets (Viola odorata) – sometimes known as Sweet Violets – are a pretty little low-growing plant that loves shady damp areas and shyly put out a flush of sweetly fragrant purple flowers in winter & spring.
They’re not everyone’s cup of tea, in the same way that coriander is divisive, but if you love them, you love them. There are many flowers know as violets or violas, so be sure you are sure of your ID on these flowers before looking to harvest them: low-growing clumps of heart-shaped green leaves, with small, purple, 5-petalled flowers blooming under the shelter of the leaves. Strongly scented flowers- sweet and highly perfumed.
The plant has a history of medicinal uses, and whilst there’s not much medical evidence to support the efficacy of violet leaves relieving any symptoms (it’s said to help with respiratory complaints, anxiety and insomnia), both the leaves and flowers are safely edible, and can be used in different ways. Young leaves are nice in salads, and the flowers can be crystallised & used on cakes, added to ice cubes for visual interest, or turned into a pretty purple syrup which is floral and sweet.
Here’s a simple recipe for creating a beautiful purple, perfumed sugar with wild violets that you can use to decorate cakes, biscuits, and even cocktail glasses!
- 1/2 cup wild/sweet violet flowers (1/4 cup of just petals)
- 1 cup white sugar
- Pick flowers in the afternoon of a sunny day, as the scent is strongest then.
- Remove flowers from their stems, and remove all green. You just want the petals.
- Combine sugar and violet petals in a blender.
- Blitz until the sugar is uniformly purple.
- Spread sugar out on a baking tray and cover with a teatowel.
- Allow to dry at room temperature for a day. DO NOT HEAT! This will change the colour and aroma.
- Once dry, crush the sugar lumps lightly with a fork to break up into small granules again.
- Store in an airtight jar in a cool dark spot.
- You can do a similar thing with rock or epsom salts, and you’ll end up with a beautiful jar of bath salts to gift or use in relaxing tub soaks.
Interested in wild foods and foraging? Why not check out some of these informative posts and interesting recipes?