I was passionate about wild violets as a child and would collect them until my hands could hold no more. When we moved 20 years ago, I didn’t find any violets on our new property so I transplanted some from our old home. It wouldn’t have been home without them. Violets have many uses including making a beautiful violet jelly.
Violets all belong to the genus Viola of the Violaceae family.
The lovely violet prefers the shade of woods, thickets and stream banks, but it is quite adaptable and we have many violets growing in our yard in full sun.
It is a perennial which grows low to the ground. The leaves are heart-shaped and the flowers of the common blue violet are purple. Other species may be white or yellow.
In the United States there are more than 100 species of common spring violets. All species of Viola are edible.
Due to their almost universally recognized shape, these wildflowers are easy to identify. Because they hybridize freely, however, violets are often difficult to classify.
The flower has 5 petals which include two pair of lateral petals and one petal which often has veins of another color. This is considered an irregular flower. If you were to cut the violet flower in half from top to bottom, each half would be a mirror image of the other.
Many violets also have what is called a spur where nectar is collected. A pollinator needs a tongue long enough to reach the hidden nectar waiting in this special vessel. The most common pollinators of violets are small, solitary bees. Not all violets have these spurs. If you are familiar with columbine or jewelweed, you’ll notice they they, too, have nectar spurs.
The leaves of violets are usually oval or heart-shaped, and may be lobed. Lobed refers to the structure of the leaf, rather than the leaf margin and means that the leaf has either rounded or pointed protrusions. The margin, or edge of the violet’s leaf is crenate; it’s margins have rounded, outward-pointing teeth.
Harvesting and Using Violets
To harvest simply tear or cut the flowers and leaves from the plant.
Violets can be used in salads, jelly, vinegars, as soup thickeners, tea, and even sugared and eaten as candy.
Violets have been used medicinally for centuries. The leaves contain a good bit of mucilage, or soluble fiber and have been used to lower cholesterol levels, and are safe to consume in large quantities.
This mucilage, and the fact that violet is cooling and moistening makes it a good remedy for dry skin, insect bites, eczema, varicose veins, and hemorrhoids. Use it topically as a poultice, or infuse it into oil and make a salve.
Infused into aloe vera, violets can soothe skin irritations like sunburn, bug bites, razor burn, or dry skin.
A syrup made of violet can also be used to treat coughs.
While I’ve never eaten yellow violets, my studies indicate that they may have a strong laxative effect, so do proceed with caution.
The roots of all violets can cause nausea or vomiting, so don’t include those in your recipes.
Violets also contain salicylic acid, a pain relieving component similar to aspirin. Please do not use if you are allergic to aspirin.
Violet Flower Jelly
Jams and jellies are a wonderful treat and a great way to preserve the harvest, in many cases. The problem with jelly, though, is that it is generally loaded with sugar. I’m no purist, but I like to keep sugar to a minimum.
And while I do use raw honey, I never cook it since I want to preserve the amazing enzymes it contains. That means, for me, it’s not an option in jams and jellies. That’s why I love Pomona’s Pectin – a low-methoxyl pectin which allows you to make jams and jellies using much less sugar than traditional recipes.
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Low Sugar Violet Flower Jelly
- First, prepare the calcium water by combining ½ teaspoon calcium powder included in your box of Pomona’s pectin with ½ cup water in a small jar with a lid. Shake well. The extra calcium water should be stored in the refrigerator for future use.
- Rinse 3 cups of lightly packed violet flowers and drain. Put the rinsed and drained flowers into a sauce pan or heat proof bowl with lid.
- Pour 4 cups of boiling water over the violets. Cover and allow the violets to steep for 20 – 30 minutes.
- Using a strainer, drain and compost the violets, reserving the infused water.
- Measure 4 cups of infused water into a sauce pan, adding extra water if necessary.
- Add calcium water and lemon juice, and mix well.
- Measure sugar into a bowl. Thoroughly mix pectin powder into sugar. Set aside.
- Bring mixture to a full boil. Add pectin and sugar mixture, stirring constantly for 1 to 2 minutes to dissolve the pectin while the jelly comes back up to a boil. Once the jelly returns to a full boil, remove it from the heat.
- Fill hot jars to ¼” of top.
- At this point I allow the jelly to cool, place a lid on the jar, and freeze. If you prefer to can, process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.
- Yields about 4 cups.
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