Wild violets taste like green and purple; clean and fresh, they are like clover, budding leaves, and sunlight. The sun came out for a brief, warm flash and brought spring with it, suddenly, everything blooming like an unexpected orgasm. I found an expansive patch of viola adunca a short walk from my home and buried my face in the sweet purple fragrance. I picked every flower I could reach finding bright red lady bugs hugging the leaves and watching honey bees make love to pollen-covered stamens.
“All flowers growing in untrodden dells and shady nooks, uncontaminated by the tread of man, more especially belonged” to Venus and Diana. — Thiselton-Dyer
It is no surprise that violets belong to Venus and the water element. They are so sweet and delicately feminine, their shy purple heads hiding in shady, moist places under trees and near water. Peaceful, healing, and soothing, when carried or eaten violets will protect from wicked spirits and help to heal wounds physical or spiritual. Mixed with lavender they create a powerful potion of love and lust. Make a wish on the first violet you see and it will be granted. Eat violets to change your luck for the better. To dream of violets means your fortunes are about to change for the good. To see violets bloom in autumn means disaster and misfortune.
I took home my treasure of delicate purple beauty and researched how to make a violet syrup. I was disappointed in what I found. Most syrup recipes aren’t meant for something as delicate and fresh as a flower and the boiling process in the recipes would destroy the colour and the flavour… so I made up my own recipe and I’m happy to say it was a success! For the best results, pick your flowers in the morning just after they’ve opened but before the sun burns away the fragrance and work with them right away.
WILD VIOLET SYRUP
- Pack a 1 litre canning jar with fresh violet flowers
- Add 4 cups of distilled water and 2 tbsp of spirits (40% or more)
- Seal jar and infuse for 24-48 hours – shaking a few times each day
- Strain, squeeze remaining liquid from petals and discard petal pulp
- Measure resulting infusion
- Heat until just boiling and add 1 part sugar per 1 part violet infusion
- Remove from heat as soon as sugar melts completely
- Cool and add 1 tbsp of spirits per 1 cup of liquid
- Strain through cheese cloth
- Store in the fridge
Pick as many violet flowers as you can and really pack them in – the more you have to work with the stronger in taste your syrup will be. By only heating the infusion long enough to melt the sugar, you preserve the strong violet colour, taste, and smell.
Now that you have violet syrup, what to do with it? You can pour it as is over top of vanilla or coconut ice cream or have it for breakfast with pancakes, waffles, or crepes. Brush the layers of a white cake with it, letting it soak in well, and ice with a white butter cream and garnish with candied violets for a gorgeous and simple violet cake. Pour it over wild flower pound cake crumbled in a bowl and add booze, custard, and whipped cream to make a violet trifle.
WILDFLOWER POUND CAKE
- 1 cup butter
- 1 1/2 cup pastry flour
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 5 eggs, separated
- 1 1/2 cup icing sugar
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 cup edible flowers (violets, roses, pansies)
Cream butter. Sift flour and baking soda and gradually add to butter. Beat egg yolks until thick and lemon coloured and add sugar to them gradually. Combine the two mixtures. Beat egg whites until stiff and gently fold into the mixture, not stirring. Fold in the fresh flowers – the more colourful the better. Pour batter into a greased loaf or cake pan and bake for 1 hour at 350°F. Cool for one hour before eating. Serve plain with butter or eat with ice cream.
Add 1 tbsp of violet syrup per 1 cup of soda water to make home made violet soda. Diluted it is a pale lavender colour and tastes divine. Use it to mix drinks as the violet syrup would pair well with a plain mead, vodka, white rum, gin, or brandy to make your own creme de violette. Mix a Blue Moon cocktail by combining gin, lemon juice, and violet syrup or a Moonlight cocktail with gin, lime juice, cointreau, and violet syrup.
Give it away as gifts or hoard it for yourself. Violets and dandelions are the earliest spring flowers here alongside Japanese cherry blossoms and oemleria, but soon there will be more to come. Try making other flower syrups to celebrate the blooming of spring: magnolia, hawthorn flower, elderflower, Oregon grape flower… With summer will come the wild roses, fireweed, clovers, honeysuckle, and yarrow.
I think next year a small batch of violet mead may be in order…