Roses are red, violets are blue, do you have a lot of violets and not know what to do? There are a surprising number of things you can do with these pretty purple flowers, so read on!
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5 THINGS TO DO WITH WILD VIOLETS VIDEO
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A MOST PLEASANT SURPRISE
Wild violets were the last thing I was expecting to find in my backyard when winter melted away into spring. It was late September when I purchased my home. All there was to see out back was a dwindling garden patch with the last stragglers of a tomato harvest. It was December when I moved in, and by then there was a thick blanket of snow on the ground. Winter passed by me, and as it started warming up, I was eager to see what I had to work with. Finally, the snow melted and the drab brown lawn turned emerald. One day, I looked outside and was delighted to see hundreds of wild violets coming into bloom.
I couldn’t believe my luck. Not once did I suspect that my yard was hiding the makings of a fairytale garden. Dandelions were popping up everywhere to greet Spring, and the violets were joining them in their song! To the left of my property, my neighbour’s perfectly manicured lawn sat in pristine condition, nary a violet, dandelion or bumblebee in sight. Did you know that some people consider violets to be nothing more than weeds? Those people, I’m sorry to say, have no imagination.
I WAS DETERMINED
For weeks I put off mowing the lawn. Almost every single day I soaked up the beauty of the violets in my backyard. I would set my son down on the ground and take pictures of him playing with violets and eating dandelions. I have the sweetest pictures as a result. On both sides of my property, my neighbours dutifully mowed their lawns while mine continued to grow wilder by the day. Nothing lasts forever, though, and the time finally came. I couldn’t put off lawn maintenance any longer, but I also couldn’t bear seeing my lovely violets go to waste. I was determined to make use of them, so I spent a morning picking wild violets.
FIVE THINGS TO DO WITH WILD VIOLETS
Since harvesting my violets, I’ve been learning that there are a great many things one can do with violets. For example, you can…
Infuse oil or make a balm with the leaves
Make violet jelly and vinegar
Use violet leaf infused oil to make soap
Steep the flowers to make a tea
Freeze violet flowers in ice cubes
Toss them in salads
Violets can also be transmuted into a natural cough syrup. Who knew? If anything, it makes me even more excited for each year’s explosion of violets. In any case, here’s what I did with my violets in that first year.
1) MAKE BOUQUETS WITH WILD VIOLETS
This seems obvious, but I make dozens of these every season. I have a habit of saving brown apothecary bottles because I think they’re pretty. I never know what to do with them, but I collect them hoping that one day the answer will come to me. As it turns out, they are the perfect size to hold my tiny little violet bouquets. I scatter them around my house, taking great delight whenever I catch sight of one.
2) PRESS WILD VIOLETS
A few years ago, I inherited an old German children’s storybook that used to belong to my Oma. When I first cracked it open, I found pressed pansies caught between the pages, perfectly preserved and waiting for me to rediscover them. I was charmed by this discovery and started pressing flowers when I was in Gaspésie a couple of summers ago (a region in Québec) to help me remember some of the unique blooms I encountered on my strolls. It has a vintage Victorian feeling to it, don’t you think? I trapped a couple of dozen violets amid the very same pages my Oma once pressed hers in. This time next year I’ll be framing them, but that’s a story for another day.
3) MAKE SIMPLE SYRUP WITH WILD VIOLETS
I have a post that’s all about making flavoured simple syrups that you can find RIGHT HERE, but this one was completely different. For one thing, it’s a concentrated simple syrup and follows a different ratio than the 1:1 sugar to water I typically follow. Rather, it uses a 2:1 ratio, that is, two parts sugar to one part water. Most of the violets I collected went into this syrup.
After soaking 3.5 cups of violet flowers in a cup and a half of water overnight, I strained them the next day, pressing the petals until they were dry and discoloured, and then slowly heated the infusion with the sugar until it dissolved. At first, it was an inky shade of violet (as shown in the photo below) but a few drops of lemon transformed it into a rich purple syrup.
4) STIR UP VIOLET COCKTAILS
Where there’s simple syrup, there’s potential for delicious drinks! I could see this violet syrup making a gorgeous Italian soda by adding it to your favourite sparkling water. I’m a fan of gin and tonics myself, so I added a shot of syrup and a shot of gin to a highball glass, tossed in a couple of ice cubes and topped it off with tonic water. To tie it all together, I garnished the wild violet cocktails with a couple of flowers. By the way, if this is something you want to replicate at home, I suggest starting with a half shot of violet syrup. I have a sweet tooth, so I don’t mind mine being on the sweet side, but a 1:1 syrup to gin ratio might be a bit much for some folks.
5) TRY MAKING SUGARED VIOLETS
The emphasis is on try. Making sugared violets is not an easy thing to do and I failed miserably at it. It requires patience and a zen flow state. Seriously. I was debating whether or not to share this with you, but in the end, I decided to fess up. Sometimes my experiments don’t work out, and that was the case with my sugared violets.
In talking about sugared violets, I was surprised to learn that not everyone knows what they are. They’re basically candied violets that can be used to decorate desserts. I suppose the only reason I know about them in the first place is because of Harry Potter, book two. Somewhere in the first couple of chapters, J.K. Rowling describes a pudding that Aunt Petunia makes that’s a mountain of cream adorned with sugared violets. In my humble opinion, Aunt Petunia probably bought her sugared violets and if you’d like to do the same, I found these sweet little candied violet petals on Amazon for you.
Traditionally, you’re supposed to brush the violets with egg white and sprinkle them with castor sugar. Another method recommends dipping them in a simple syrup and sprinkling them with either castor sugar or icing sugar. I didn’t have castor sugar on hand (this is a very fine sugar, but it’s not pulverized like icing sugar is) so I used the latter. The violets did not fare well as I dipped them (watch the video if you don’t believe me!). I tried using tweezers and everything, but violets are delicate things. Will I try doing this again in the future? Probably not. Making candied violets is more of a zen practice than I thought! If you want to see what the process of sugaring violets is supposed to look like, you can take a look over here.
ALWAYS LOOKING FORWARD TO NEXT YEAR’S HARVEST
I always sniffle a bit when the lawnmower chews up my violet patch to bits. “I’m so sorry!” I choke out, hoping they’ll forgive me. And they do, because they come back the following year with an even greater vengeance. Every spring I revel once more in their beauty and then I set about to harvesting them for more of my kitchen experiments. What can I say? It’s fun having violet vinegar and violet infused honey in my pantry. I like serving cold drinks with violets in my ice cubes and I want to collect the leaves and use those, too. Foraging is so much fun. It’s the simple things bring me the greatest joy.
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PRINT VIOLET SIMPLE SYRUP RECIPE
Wild Violet Simple Syrup
- 3.5 cups violet flowers
- 1.5 cups water boiling
- 3 cups sugar
- 5 drops fresh lemon juice
- In a pot or large glass container, add the violets to the boiling water and cover with a tea towel for 24-hours.
- The next day, strain the violets, pressing out the juice.
- Transfer the violet juice to a pot or a bain marie, and add the sugar.
- Over a low temperature, gently heat the violet juice until the sugar is dissolved.
- Add the lemon juice to the syrup and let cool before storing in the refrigerator.
PRINT VIOLET GIN AND TONIC RECIPE
Wild Violet Gin & Tonics
- 1 highball glass
- ½ shot violet simple syrup
- 1 shot gin
- tonic water
- 2 ice cubes
- 2 violets for garnish
- Add ice cubes to the high ball glass
- Add the syrup, gin and top up with tonic water
- Garnish with violets
PIN IT FOR LATER
Love and gratitude,