Early Spring Foraging: Violets


| 4/11/2014 9:43:00 AM


violets

Violets are just about to bloom where I live. I love to see their pretty edible flowers along the shadier paths of local parks and gardens. I also love to see their purple blooms and heart-shaped leaves on my salad plate.

Despite the English idiom shrinking violet, there is nothing shy about this plant. As any gardener who has ever had to weed it out knows, violets self seed prolifically and have knobby roots that are a hassle to weed out. In other words, there really isn’t a sustainability issue with harvesting this pretty but tough little plant.

The violet that you’re most likely to encounter growing wild in much of North America is the Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia, V. papilionacea). It grows in partially shaded areas throughout our parks and in many backyards. All Viola species have edible leaves and flowers.

Although some Native American tribes used violet roots externally to relieve joint pain, taken internally they are a strong emetic (they’ll make you throw up). Not something you want to include in dinner! Stick to the leaves and flowers.



Violet Flowers

Wild violets produce two kinds of flowers. The showy ones that are so pretty on salads are usually purple with some white near the center, but sometimes they are mostly white. They are about 3/4-inch in diameter, grow on leafless stalks, and have 5 petals. The side petals have white hairs near their bases. Later in the summer the plants produce inconspicuous, self-pollinating, petal-less flowers that eventually become three parted capsules that eject the seeds.



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