~ Sweet Violet ~
(Viola Odorata / Viola Sororia) aka 'Common' or 'English' violet
Sweet little Violets bloom from the depths of winter into early spring, providing gorgeous purple tones to decorate your meals, and bountiful leaves full of medicinal properties.
Sweet Violets make it onto the list of my first memories of childhood foraging. I clearly remember when I was about 7 years old I would spend hours picking the little purple flowers at the bottom of our garden. I was attracted to the deep purple color and the lovely scent, & would stir these into "magical fairy potions". The flowers would tint the potions bright purple (which is really cool to play around with when making infused drinks or cocktails).
The leaves are very mucilegenic and work well at thickening soups and stews. I also finely slice the very young and tender leaves into salads or add to pestos & smoothies, in small amounts. Bigger & older leaves can be a bit papery and tough on the tongue, however they offer an incredibly rich green color to cooked meals.
The flowers make a colorful & very sweet addition to salads, drinks, syrups & ice cubes, infused honey, pestos and great baking decorations. Crystallised flowers make great decorations. When infused into syrups & drinks the liquid will turn bright purple, making interesting looking cocktails.
Flowers are very high in Vitamin C whilst the leaves are high in Vitamin C, beta carotene, and are muciligenic, making them a great thickening agent.
Herbalists throughout history have used violet to treat respiratory conditions such as bronchitis & asthma. It's often added to cough syrups for sore throats, where it's muciligenic content can be very soothing. The leaves have antiseptic & expectorant properties & in China the leaves were burned under abscesses to cure them.
In Germany during the Middle Ages the discovery of the first spring violets was celebrated with dancing. Imagine if we had a dance for each flower that sprang up in Spring!