Friday, May 6, 2011

Violets


White with purple veins,
see the "butterfly" shape?
 There are hundreds of species of violets growing in the temperate northern hemisphere, which makes it difficult to identify them specifically. They all belong to the genus Viola, and the colors can range from yellow to white to blue and purple, with some mixing of colors. Violets tend to grow in shade or partial shade, and like a moist environment. They are perennial herbs, and will often overtake lawns. The flowers open in early spring, lasting until June, while the green leaves last until the frosts come.

Purple violet clusters
The leaves are slightly toothed and heart shaped, each up to 5 inches across. The leaves and flower stalks grow directly from the rhizome underground. Flowers have 5 petals, and a spur at the back of the flower. The flower is roughly butterfly-shaped, with the fifth, lowest petal being the longest, with deep veining. The young leaves are edible raw or lightly cooked, but tend to be bland and sometimes gummy in texture. The leaves contain vitamin C and vitamin A. The flowers are very lightly perfumed and delicate, a wonderful trailside nibble. The flowers look really nice in a salad, or on top of a cupcake. They can be dried to use later in the season for tea, or candied with egg white and sugar. We collect them in quantity to make a brightly hued syrup or jelly, the recipe can be found here.

Violet Jelly on buttered bread

2 comments:

Trout Magee said...

That jelly looks like something magical. I know I have violets all over my yard under my apple trees. I'll have to give the recipe a try. Thanks

Mimi Foxmorton said...

It really *does* look magical! :)