In Praise of the Violet

Today has been blustery, with March winds and chilly temperatures, and, in typical style for me, I decided to hike into town to post a few things and forage for some of the delightful violets that are in full bloom everywhere at the moment.   I suspect anyone walking past while I was gathering violets would have been faintly bemused at one point, as I was half under a hedge with hawthorn twigs and thorns in my hair!  Still, much ambling about yielded about a half pint of loosely packed violet flowers, found under hedgerows and in the edges of woodlands.   Just up the road from my home is a small woodland that is literally carpeted with sweet violets, and though subtle, the scent is sublime!

Wild Violets (Viola odorata)

If you want to gather violets, expect to spend a lot of time rummaging around in the grass.  Slow down and amble.  Check woodlands and hedgerows, and take time to just wander along and enjoy the day.  I sometimes think that the lovely violet needs to be sidled up to instead of approached directly!

A delightful bowl of violet flowers - that colour is profoundly heart healing and the scent was a sheer delight!

I opted to make a simple syrup from the first batch of violet flowers, which, strangely enough, did not preserve the fragrance of the violets at all – instead, on slow warming, the scent of overcooked cabbage emerged.  You can imagine the look on my face at the smell of it as I am not a great fan of cabbage!

Violets and water in a pan just before heating. I had expected that, like, for example, the red poppy, the petals would yield up their colour to the water and leave a gorgeous purple liquid, but alas, such was not to be. Instead I got...
...this, which while still a gorgeous colour is also somewhat reminiscent of the sort of thing that would be scraped up from the bottom of the cauldron!

Violets have quite a bit of mucilage in them, and this is actually quite apparent even in a simple infusion of herbs and water.   The surface of the liquid had a slightly oily look to it, and squeezing the water out of the spent herbs at the end of the infusion was a decidedly gooey experience!  I used basic proportions – 1/2 pint of violet flowers to 1/2 pint of filtered water, with 300g of sugar, slowly warmed until the sugar has dissolved, then boil for a good five minutes, stirring regularly.  I’d probably take maybe a teaspoon of this for strained nerves, fraught temper, headaches,  and also to relieve catarrh in coughs and colds.   Its quite interesting to note that even a small drop of the syrup has a noticeable effect on catarrh!

White Violet - such a pretty lady!

I plan to gather a load more violets before spring gets thoroughly underway – I want to make a violet tincture, and also a violet honey, if I can find enough flowers, but that, dear reader, is a blog for another day! 😀

9 thoughts on “In Praise of the Violet

  1. I could do with some of that. I get all stuffed up with colds and sometimes when I don’t have colds too 😦

    I love that purple colour of the violets too 🙂 One of my favourite colours.

    1. Hmm try the violet syrup but also try cutting out dairy – you might find that will help with the stuffed up feeling! Like you, I just adore the purple colour of violets – such a gorgeous colour! 😀

  2. Violet Cough Syrup is so tasty! It never lasts until Winter Time for me. I’ve had issues with it spoiling which is so heatbreaking after spending hours and hours picking those Lovely Little Ladies. Have you had that issue?

    1. I haven’t had a problem with spoilage so far but then, the latest batch was the first one I have had the chance to make – there’s never been enough violets around before this year! The current lot has a high sugar to water ratio and is kept in the fridge, though – if it spoils quickly, I’ll let you know! It might be that violet is simply one of those herbs that really needs a higher amount of sugar because of the amount of mucilage in the herb itself… I’ll have to have a go at making a violet tincture next time and see if that has a better flavour and keeping time! 😀

      1. Good point about needing a higher amount of sugar. I think my problem may have been that I added some brandy to my first batch and didn’t refridgerate (big forehead slap). I’ve made violet tinctures several times, it’s just not as yummy as the syrup (although it lasts a long time….so that’s a plus. I’m thinking about makng some violet cough drops next Spring. Can’t wait to spend more time exploring your blog!

      2. Have you tried making a sweetened tincture? Pretty much like making an alcoholic liqueur – just add sugar or honey to the vodka and flowers when you put them in to steep! I love making these – I make a whole array of them in the autumn with the various fruit I gather, as well as making some in the summer with edible flowers! 😀

  3. maybe it’s possible to add glyserine to the syrup to help preserve it.
    Also, I’ve been looking for some Sweet violets and can’t find any. I live near Arboretum Park in Lincoln but have car access to surrounding villages…do you mind saying where you got yours from?

    1. You can actually use glycerine to make a glycerite, which is like a more preserved syrup that is often almost as strong and well preserved as a tincture, but is suitable for children and those who can’t tolerate any alcohol. This year I got my violets from out near where I live, which is just outside Horncastle, but for those of you near Lincoln wanting a pointer, try up near the old coach road – its just near the turn off to Burton village, and there is space for a few cars to park. It’s a very pleasant walk, and violets grow all around the woodlands there as well as on the waysides. I got my violets from there last year! Its easy to get to – simply follow Burton road out of Lincoln, over the bridge, and the old coach road is on the right! 🙂 Good luck and happy foraging!

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