The Herb of the Month for January 2022 is Violets Species, Viola spp.

Violets have been cultivated for many centuries and were well known in ancient Greece and Rome, and perhaps even earlier.  The ancients used the violet in their food, wines, and medicines. The violet became the symbol of Athens and was used during festivals.

The Viola Species has at least between 500 to 600 members, which includes violets, pansies, Johnny jump-ups, heartsease and more, not to mention all of the hybrids. Because of the ease with which this plant hybridize, it can become difficult to categorize. The hybrids are often referred to as pansies, whose origins include a minimum of three species. Most of the members of this species are found in the temperate Northern Hemisphere with a few found in Hawaii, Australasia, and the Andes.

The flowers come in a variety of colors and sizes, with four unlike petals arranged in pairs, the fifth petal is a lower lobed and has a spur on top of the stem.

Viola odorata is used in the perfume industry and is considered “flirty.” Part of its chemical component is “ionone” which humans cannot consistently detect.

Viola odorata, heartsease, and Viola tricolor have historically been used for respiratory issues, and liver disorders, and bad tempers.

Violets also have many culinary uses.  The flowers of violets, pansies, and Johnny jump-ups can be candied, or added fresh to brighten up a salad.  The flowers make a lovely presentation for desserts and other dishes.  Even the leaves are edible and can be used in soups or salads. Viola flowers are used in and lend flavor to a variety of liquors such as Crème Yvette, Crème de Violette, and quite a few others.  These edible flowers are nutritious having high amounts of vitamin C.

This plant prefers moist soil in a shady spot!

Recipes for  Violet Species, Viola spp.

Some Tips:

  • Select flowers from an area that has not been treated with chemicals.
  • Wash gathered flowers gently in cool water and allow to dry on a towel.
  • Violets can be used in salads, sweets, syrups, and frozen into ice cubes
  • Freshly picked violets make a lovely garnish on cakes, in salads, and other dishes
  • Violets can be candied using egg whites and sugar, and then drying them in an oven or dehydrator on low heat.
  • Fresh tender violet leaves can be added to salads. Violets are high in Vitamins A & C

Violet Vinegar

Pick flowers from an area that has not been chemically treated.  Fill your glass container half full of violet flowers, and then fill the remainder with white balsamic vinegar. Cap with a non-metallic lid to avoid corrosion.  After 1-2 weeks, decant and use.  Avoid storing the bottle in light as that will degrade the beautiful magenta hue.

Simple Violet Syrup

          1 cup violet flowers, without stems & green calyxes

           1 cup filtered water

          1 cup white granulated sugar

          1-2 drops of lemon juice optional

          Bring water to a boil, and pour over flowers in a glass container.  Allow to steep for 24 hours. Strain and add sugar. Heat at medium low until the sugar is dissolved.  If you would like a stronger lavender color, add one or two drops of lemon juice. Pour into a sterilized bottle and refrigerate. This syrup can be used to replace simple syrups for drinks such as lemonade, or used on waffles and pancakes.

Reni Erskine
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