The Druid's Garden

Spiritual Journeys in Tending the Land, Permaculture, Wildcrafting, and Regenerative Living

Wild Food Recipes: Maple Candied Violets and Honeyed Violets May 11, 2015

Once again, the beautiful, purple-blue sweet violets are dotting the landscape.  Where I live, they are in full bloom and will remain that way for the next few weeks. Last year I shared a traditional candied violet recipe with egg white as well as instructions for harvesting….this year, I wanted to share two recipes for violets both using sustainable, local ingredients: honey and maple syrup.  As a reminder, with any wild food foraging, please abide by ethical and safety guidelines (see my two-part series of posts on wild food foraging here and here).

Violets!

Violets!

Honeyed Violets

Honeyed violets are so simple to make and so wonderful. They also make a great gift! All that you do is gather up a bunch of violets, wash them, and then dry them and stick them in a jar full of local honey (maybe even from your own beehives!) To make the violets, stuff them in the jar and add honey. The violets will all float to the surface and stay that way (which is fine as long as they are fully coated in honey). They will also slowly fade their color over time, but that’s just more violety goodness going into the honey. I have found that violets preserved this way last six months or more!

 

The alternative recipe is to dry out the violets first then add them to the honey–I have a jar of dried honeyed violets that is over a year old and still good. I enjoy having honeyed violets with my tea–I add a teaspoon of honeyed violets to a cup of warm tea!

Honeyed violets from last year!

Honeyed violets from last year!

 

Candied Violets with Maple Syrup

I decided to take the traditional “candied violets” recipe that uses sugar water or egg white and sugar and give it a locally-produced spin.  Enter: maple-sugar coated violets!  For this recipe, you can start with either maple syrup or maple sugar (again, you can produce this yourself in the early spring!)

For either version, start by picking some lovely fresh violets.

Bowl of violets

Bowl of violets

Wash your violets….

Washing your violets (gently!)

Washing your violets (gently!)

….and then let them dry.

Violets drying out on a paper towel

Violets drying out on a paper towel

Now, get a small saucepan. Either add maple syrup to the saucepan OR dissolve a few tablespoons of maple sugar in the saucepan with hot water (I did the second, but either works as effectively).  For maple sugar, I added 3 tbsp of maple sugar and 2 tbsp of water and dissolved it.

Maple sugar!

Maple sugar!

Syrup or sugar syrup!

Syrup or sugar syrup ready for violets.

Then, add your violets.

Violets in syrup

Violets in syrup

After they are coated, you can pull them out one by one, laying them on some waxed paper or parchment paper to dry.

Using a fork to get violets out one by one

Using a fork to get violets out one by one

The less maple they have on them, the longer they take to dry.  I also chose to sprinkle my violets with a little extra maple sugar.

Violets on parchment

Violets on parchment – some of these had too much sugar (see the pools of it?)  That much sugar takes longer to dry.

Place your violets somewhere where they can spend the next two to three days drying.  Once they are dry, they will shrivel up a bit, but otherwise retain their color wonderfully.

Dried violets

Dried violets

I like to sit these on the table during meals as a little additional treat.

Violets in bowl!

Violets in bowl!

You can also grind them up and use them as sustainable sprinkles on cookies, cakes, and ice cream.

 

I love how sustainable these two violet recipes are–I made both with honey and maple sugar produced right here on my homestead.

 

Wild Food Profile: Purple / Sweet Violets (viola odorata) April 24, 2014

Beautiful spring violets!

Beautiful spring violets!

Early in the spring season (as in, right now), the small, wild purple violets begin popping up everywhere.  Where I live, this is usually late April to Mid may.  I actually found the first violets here in South East Michigan just last week, so its time to blog about violets! I am always delighted to see the violets, because they are sure sign that spring is here, the warmth has returned, and the landscape is painted in a variety of amazing colors once more.

 

Violet Harvest

Springtime is the best time to harvest violets–you can harvest them typically for several weeks.  I like to hit the same patch every 3 days, and each time harvest up to 30% of the violets there.  If they are particularly abundant (as in the photo below) I might harvest some more.

Here are some photos from a very prolific violet harvest last year (2013, the year of prolific EVERYTHING!)

Yes, this whole area is full of violets!

Yes, this whole area is full of violets!

Bucket of Harvested Violets

Bucket of Harvested Violets

 

Violets as Food

Violet flowers make really wonderful additions to a springtime salad–the freshly opened flowers can go right on top of your greens.  They have a slightly sweet flavor.  They are also a wonderful trailside nibble. I have also used them in fritters (similar to black locust flower fritters or zucchini flower fritters) and also in shortbread cookies.  Fresh violets can also be candied (this is done by coating them with eggwhite and sugar).

Dried violet flowers can be added to cakes, cookies, and teas.  My favorite way to enjoy them is with a red rooibos tea–I add two teaspoons of red rooibos (or red rooibos with vanilla bean) and then 1 teaspoon of tea per cup.  Its a delicious, refreshing beverage that can be enjoyed hot or cold.

Violet Greens can be enjoyed fresh or cooked.  I don’t find them to have much flavor, but if you are hungry and are in a pinch, they’ll work :).

 

Candied Violet Recipe (eggwhite version):

Take 1-2 cups of fresh violets (with stems still on) and wash them gently under cold water.  Let them dry for a few hours on a towel.

While they are drying, pull out an egg and let it sit out to room temperature.

Once the violets are dry, separate your egg and mix up the egg white well.  Dip each violet in the egg white (or paint it on with a brush) and set on waxed paper or parchment paper to dry.  Sprinkle with sugar (powdered or regular, I prefer raw cane sugar).  Make sure they get a good coating.

Allow them to dry out completely (I’ve done air drying as well as dehydrator on the “herb” setting–I prefer the dehydrator), then seal them in a jar and enjoy!  You should use them up within a few months.  They are great for the top of cakes, floating in teas, etc.

 

Violets as Medicine

Matthew Wood covers the violet in his Earthwise Herbal.  I’ll summarize what he suggests and also provide my own experience.  He suggests using only the leaves and flowers as the root contains a substance that makes one vomit–so take note!   Violets can be used as:

  • A cooling cough remedy, especially if you need to expectorate (that is, get gunk out of your lungs)
  • Used for stagnant/atrophied states
  • Can be used for headache, inflammation of the eyes, and mouth infections
  • Syrup can be used for sore throat, hoarseness, dryness in the respiratory tract, asthma, bronchitis (I’ve used violet syrup for treating my asthma quite effectively)

I’ve prepared two kinds of violet medicine so far.  Last year, I made a violet tincture (but since its mucilaginous, I didn’t find this so great). I found that the Everclear I used was too overpowering, and I’m not sure what was extracted from the violets.  I wouldn’t go this route.

I also made the syrup recipe Matthew Wood suggests. This is a cold water infusion of flowers and leaves for 8 hours after which you can warm slowly and add sugar (or in my case, honey) to the mix. This is AWESOME.  My molded after a few months (I don’t think I added enough honey) but it was great for coughs and sore throat.

I haven’t tried making a hydrosol out of these yet, but its on my to-do list!