Wild Violets (viola odorata) are pretty little perennials that tend to pop up in late winter/early spring (depending on where you live). Unfortunately, most people consider them to be annoying weeds. They are easily identified by their purple flowers and heart shaped leaves. Please don’t confuse them with African violets that are grown as houseplants. They are NOT the same thing.
This sweet little plant really is versatile and useful! But, before you start, you need to know a few things about wild harvesting. First, make SURE that the area that pick from isn’t sprayed by chemicals, where your dog defecates, close to the road, or any other place that you think is contaminated. Secondly, you want young and healthy growth. Look for vibrant colors. Third-you always want to ask permission from both the land owner and the plant itself. Fourth, never take more than you will use and never more than 5-10% of what is available. And lastly, always give thanks to the plant, earth, Mother Nature, God, or who/whatever you recognize as the giver of what you are taking. You should try to do your harvesting in the morning just after the dew has evaporated. Some of the ways that we will use wild violet call for fresh plant material and some require it to be dried, so make sure you save some to dry.
Nutritional. Violets are packed full of minerals and vitamins-especially A and C. One of my favorite things to make is a wild green salad with violet leaves, blooms, dandelion greens, yellow dock, plantain, purslane, henbit, dead nettles, and cleavers. You can also saute the leaves like you would any other green. Another delicious treat is Wild Violet Lemonade. This is a great way to sneak in some extra nutrients to your kids and replace those toxic ‘fruit’ drinks they love so much. Infused vinegar is my other go-to usage for wild violet. Vinegar is well known for its ability to extract vitamins and minerals from plant sources. Infusing vinegar is super easy. Get a clean mason jar and fill it with either violet blossoms, leaves, or both and cover with either white vinegar or apple cider vinegar. Let it set in a cool dark place for 2-6 weeks. Strain and label. If you use white vinegar, try to make a batch with just blossoms-you will make a BEAUTIFUL purple vinegar! I use vinegars for all kinds of things. I flavor cooked greens with them, you can make a salad dressing with it, you can even use it as a hair rinse and a bath soak. Think of all the goodness of apple cider vinegar that you hear about-and add a power punch of nutrients with plant infusions!
Medicinal. Wild violet has numerous medicinal properties. It is anti-inflammatory, helps the lymphatic system, is a blood purifier, it is a mild laxative and diuretic, a fever reducer, and supports the immune system. Making a syrup from the flowers is probably the easiest way to get your kids to reap the benefits. A syrup or tea is great for young ones who are constipated or have a fever. Simple fill a glass jar with the fresh flowers and pour boiling water over them. Allow to steep for 4 hours. Strain. You can stop here if you would like to have a cup of violet tea ( really, it’s an infusion…) or continue if you would like to turn it into a syrup. Herbal syrups are really just ways of making teas/infusions palatable for children (or those with tastebuds of children!). Pour the infusion into a saucepan. Add equal quantities of sugar or honey and bring to a slow boil. Allow to boil for about 20 minutes or so and pour into glass jar. Store in fridge. A great preparation for violets is in a salve or balm. It has been known to treat eczema and fibrocystic breast issues. Simply infuse dried violet leaf in an organic oil of your choice for several weeks. Strain and heat in a double boiler with a bit of beeswax. Continue to heat until wax is melted. Pour into glass jar. If it is too hard, remelt and add more oil. If it is too soft, remelt and add more wax. Tinctures are probably my favorite herbal preparation. Whenever possible, use fresh plant material. Place in clean glass jar (notice a theme here?) and cover with 100 proof alcohol (I prefer vodka, but use what you would like). LABEL! Give a good shake and place in cool dark area for 6+weeks. Give it a shake every day or so. Strain and bottle in an amber dropper bottle. Tinctures are the most effective form of herbal medicine. It is quick and easily absorbed into your blood stream.
Just for fun! Crystallized violet blossoms and violet ice cubes! Crystallized violets are a fun garnish for baked goods and violet ice cubes would be a hit a kid’s party. Just fill an ice cube tray with the blossoms and fill with water as normal.
If you do not have access to fresh violets for some reason, you can always order them. I prefer to use Mountain Rose Herbs, but there are plenty of other herbal companies available!
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