Making Wild Violet Syrup
Violets are beautiful to observe and bring a spicy floral taste to the foods and beverages they are added to. Making violet-infused syrup is one of the best ways to preserve its unique flavor profile year-round. Violet syrup is fast and easy to make and is an activity the whole family will enjoy helping with.
Violets are native and thriving in most parts of the United States. They are entirely edible and filled with reasonable amounts of vitamins A and C. Wild violets are also called, Viola papilionacea, common meadow violet, purple violet, woolly blue violet, wood violet, and hooded violet. Each refers to the same plant with swirling heart-shaped leaves and dainty five-petaled flowers. Violets come in a wide variety of colors ranging from white to deep purple. They spread quickly and often account for large sections of lawns, roadsides, and meadows. Historically, violets have been used by herbalists internally to benefit lung and blood health. Topically violets are known to have cooling and healing effects.
Violets are commonly eaten raw on salads or sauteed in other dishes. The flowers can also be dipped in stiff egg whites, rolled in sugar, and dried to make a memorable, garnishing confection.
Today, we will explore how to harvest violets that can be turned into a flavorful syrup with many applications.
When harvesting any wild plant there are a few important things to consider.
The first is the growing environment. The location in which violets (or any wild edible) are growing is essential to deciding harvest. Plants should only be harvested from land that is your own or where permission has been granted. It is no fun going head-to-head with an angry neighbor or environmental police officer over a handful of flowers. Second, consider the soil and air conditions where the plant grows. Eating plants that have been sprayed with pesticides or weed killers is not a smart idea. Similarly, plants too close to roadsides may be contaminated by road salt, litter, or vehicle liquids.
Third, ensure the plants in which you are harvesting are not endangered or protected in your region. When it comes to violets, most U.S. states are safe to harvest zones but to be sure refer to information from your state’s environmental agencies. No matter where you live, it’s a smart idea to only harvest 1/3 of the plants you find in a certain location. This ensures that the resource stays healthy and thriving after you leave.
Fourth, ensure you are harvesting the intended plant. Just like people, a lot of plants look the same. Harvesting and eating the wrong plant can lead to catastrophic effects, so it’s important to check a few things before harvesting violets.
- Violets have 5 flower petals and are found in whites, purples, blues, and sometimes yellows
- Violets have heart-shaped pointed leaves with rounded teeth along their edges
- Violets grow low to the ground
- Each flower tops its own leafless stock
I suggest taking a field guide with you when wild foraging for easy access to the identification information.
Personally, I love my Peterson’s Edible Wild Plants Field Guide. It’s the perfect size to carry, and is just totally jam packed with information.
Making Violet Syrup
A beautiful and delicious violet syrup can be made with only three (maybe four) ingredients. Violets, water, and sugar (and optional lemon juice) combine to create a stunning syrup that can be added to beverages such as teas, lemonade, sparkling water, or cocktails.
- 1 cup fresh wild violets
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1-2 drops lemon juice (optional)
- Heat the water and dissolve the sugar into it fully, do not boil
- Remove liquid from the heat and let it cool for 5-10 minutes
- Add the violets to the liquid and steep for 1 hour
- Add 1 or more drops of lemon juice to change the syrup's color from blue to purple. Be careful not to add too much as to effect the flavor
- Strain the violets out with a sieve and then a tightly woven cloth or double layered cheese cloth to catch any remaining plant matter
- Store in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to six months
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