Unlike many wildflowers,
the violet is not harmed by picking its
blossoms, for these showy flowers seldom
or never produce seed anyway. Apparently
they are produced out of sheer exuberance,
so take all of them you want, for the more
you pick the more the plant will give.
– Euell Gibbons
Every spring we get a flush of violets blanketing the landscape with their beautiful ‘false’ flowers (they are false because they do not produce seeds.) We like to harvest them to make jelly, a favorite in our house.
It may surprise you that Violet has a rich history in medicinal use. Violet is also very nutritious. She has lots of ascorbic acid (vitamin C,) vitamin A, rutin and iron. Both the leaves and flowers are edible and can be added to salads. They are best eaten in the spring while fresh as in the summer when the leaves are older they become tough.
The flowers, roots and leaves are used for treating coughs. A tea or cough syrup can be made from both and is great for treating any type of upper respiratory catarrh, especially bronchitis. An infusion can be used as a gargle for mouth and throat infections, drank as tea for urinary infections and rheumatism. A tincture can be externally applied to eczema and taken internally for all other ailments listed above. Violet is also known as the anti-cancer herb and has even been tested in a laboratory, doing damage to tumors in mice. Because she contains rutin, which strengthens the capillaries, she is good for treating varicose veins.
Violets are often mentioned in poetry in literature as being sweet-smelling. Although the blossoms found in North America do not have much of a scent, the European species are much more fragrant. The smell is so delightful that it is used in perfume.
Blue violets are a symbol of faithfulness. A bouquet of violets with a single rose given to someone represents never-ending love.
4 cups freshly picked violet flowers (remove the stems)
4 cups boiling water
1/2 cup lemon juice (approx 2 lemons)
1 package liquid pectin
8 cups sugar (normally I’d say raw is good but if you want the pretty color, you have to use white sugar on this recipe)
Place the violets in a 1/2 gallon jar. Cover with boiling water and let steep for 12 hours (up to 24 hours) in the fridge. Check out the color of the water! It’s a bluey-green color, so pretty. It is going to change though!!
When the violets are done steeping, make sure you have sterilized jelly jars ready to go. This recipe will make about 8 or 9 jelly jars worth of jelly. Place the lids in a pot of hot water and cover.
Strain off the violets and place the liquid in a stock pot. Add the lemon juice. The color changes instantly to violet.
Add the pectin and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the sugar and boil vigorously for three minutes, skimming as needed.
Pour into jelly jars (also known as half pint jars.) Wipe off the rims and place hot lids on top. Inverting them (turning them upside down) can help them to seal more quickly. Leave them inverted for at least seven minutes.
Also, I am not a licensed physician and cannot diagnose or treat any condition. All information is for educational purposes only.
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2011 edition of Rhythm of the Home.