Don’t Kill your Violets!
What tiny plant with lovely, scented flowers and heart-shaped leaves is packed with vitamins and antioxidants? Violets! These tiny colorful plants are an excellent ground cover for shady places, provide a bright green leaf backdrop for daffodils, tulips, and other Spring flowers, and fresh eating too.
Violet flowers are edible, and often used to decorate cakes and fancy desserts. The bright green leaves are edible raw, or cooked. The tender young leaves are best to use raw.
Candied violet flowers are easy to make, and keep for several days or up to a year, depending on the way that you preserve them and the container that they are kept in. Children, Elderly, or the disabled, can help to preserve them. Remove the stems. Take a small paint brush and brush the petals with egg white and then dip them or sprinkle them with fine sugar. Do not become over-enthusiastic at “painting” the egg white on, a light coating is enough. Alternatively, you can make a simple syrup of water and sugar and then dip the flower in the syrup and swirl the stem of the violet flower to coat the flower. Set aside on a plate or waxed paper to dry.
Fresh violet flowers can be sprinkled in a salad or a fruit salad, or tuck a few flowers and leaves next to cottage cheese or fruit. The heart-shaped leaves make a perfect sized “server” for appetizers at a bridal or baby shower, or a Spring time Tea Party. The flowers can be frozen in ice cubes to use in party drinks or punch.
ALWAYS make sure that the flowers and leaves that you use have not been sprayed with herbicide or insecticide! If you are not sure whether the flowers have been sprayed, Do NOT use them. Never pick flowers from a roadside to eat. We grow everything on our farm organically, so our violets are food-safe.
Many species of butterfly larvae also use violets as a food source. These tiny plants are a good way to bring butterflies to your garden.
Many people in the United States are fond of a “perfect” lawn. Wild violets will self-seed in shady areas where thick, lush lawns may be hard to maintain, especially in the SouthEastern states with the popular Fescue grass lawns. Usual herbicides are not as effective at killing off “Volunteer” violets. But try not to poison your violets, and your lawn. Enjoy these pretty little flowers and their heart shaped leaves. If you keep your lawn mowed, you will hardly notice the plants the rest of the year. In the Spring, let the grass grow just a bit to enjoy these lovely little Spring flowers and greens.
There are many species of violets, including violets, violas, Johnny-Jump-Ups, and pansies. Some discussion of common or “dog” violets versus a “sweet” violet occur…but all have edible flowers and leaves. Some will be more tasty and flavorful than others.
Georgia Denman gardens at her family farm in Delano, TN, and lets all the violets grow in the lawn, and purposely plants them in her flower beds.