Violets (Viola spp.)
Some common names include wild pansy, viola, and heartsease. There are over 600 species of violets throughout the world and many modern cultivars!
Parts Used: flowers, leaves
Energetics: cooling, moistening
Taste: sweet, salty
Plant Properties: alterative, demulcent, inflammatory modulator, lymphagogue, mild sedative
Plant Uses: congested lymph, food, dry inflamed tissues, sore throats, insomnia
Plant Preparations: food, infused oil, poultice, salve, syrup, tea, tincture, vinegar, jelly
Contradictions: Some species of violets are high in saponins and may cause nausea or diarrhea if one consumes large quantities. The root can be emetic (makes you vomit)
Violets are fairly easy to identify. They tend to grow in damp, shaded areas along streams and woodlands. The flowers can range in color from purple and blue to yellow and even white. Some are also multicolored! Violets have irregular flowers with five separate petals arranged in bilateral symmetry. The leaves are either alternate or basal and often heart shaped. There are some violet look-a-likes that can be toxic, so be sure to have identified your plant correctly.
Violets are wonderful spring edibles! They can grow abundantly, especially in areas where they are not native. They contain many medicinal and nutritional properties and the ways to enjoy this gift are endless. The flowers and leaves contain high amounts of vitamin C and the leaves are high in beta-carotenes. With much of the nutrients depleted in store bought vegetables, it’s great to have violets so readily available. Unfortunately, these beauties only thrive in the cooler months of spring and will retreat during the hot summer days. Finding ways to preserve their nourishing properties can be quite simple though!
You may choose to dry the leaves and flowers for a warm winter tea or create a simple syrup for summer beverages. The greens can be added to pesto, pureed and frozen for smoothies, or eaten raw in salads. The flowers can be crystallized for fancy desserts, blended into sugar, pressed for cakes and Shortbread Herbal Cookies – Violets, made into jelly, or infused in vinegar for salad dressing. Happy gathering friends!