During the 19th Century violets were so popular they were kept in cold frames so the ladies of the house would not be without them during the winter. Sweet violets were used in perfumes, worn for decoration and acres of violets were grown as cut flowers. Long before this, for over 2000 years, it was used for food and medicinally for many ailments. It's hard to believe that this charming herb is now the scourge of some homeowners who search for a way to eradicate them from their lawns.

Viola odorata is known as sweet violet and all parts are edible, though the seed and root can be toxic in large quantities. It can be grown in pots or in your garden and is perennial. Yes, in very fertile, ideal soils it can become invasive. Though I've never had this happen and actually transplanted some plants from a family member's garden to have more of them. V. tricolor is known as the wild pansy, heartsease or Johnny-jump-up and is a perennial that is often grown as an annual that reseeds generously. Both varieties will grow under trees and some shrubs because they like partial shade and cool weather. They will grow in full sun if the soil is not dry, but rather on the moist side. If you do wish to divide your plants to give as gifts or place in other locations you can dig up and break off a small section that has roots. Place it in a pot with good soil and either give away or transplant after a few weeks when it's recovered. This is best done in the spring. Violet seed does need a period of cold to germinate. You can grow it in a cold frame in the autumn and transplant in the spring. A note before we go on to the culinary uses. African violets are a different species of plant and are not considered edible, so only use the sweet violet mentioned here, and ALWAYS be sure they have not been exposed to any chemicals or animal excrement. Rinse gently and dry in a salad spinner or drain on towels before using the blooms or leaves. The blooms of Viola tricolor, Johnny-jump-up can be used much the same as sweet violet.

The leaves of sweet violet can be used as greens in salads year round but are more tender early on. They are rich in Vitamins A and C. The older, larger leaves can be used in soups, stews or cooked as other greens are.

Tea can be made from the blooms or leaves. Pour boiling water over and steep for 5 minutes. Use about 2 tsp. or so of fresh chopped leaves and strain after steeping. Add honey to sweeten.

Violet blooms can be stirred into vanilla yogurt at night and in the morning you will have a pleasant treat for breakfast. If you do this with plain yogurt you can use it as a facial! Place chopped violets in a simple 2 egg omelet made with cream, eggs and salt and pepper to season, or garnish scrambled eggs with whole violets. Make a lovely violet vinegar by filling a quart jar with violet blooms (or a pint) and add your choice of vinegar to the top, place on the cover and allow it to sit for 2-3 weeks, occasionally shaking gently. Remove the violets by straining and rebottle. Use the vinegar in salad dressings.

An interesting and fun, but not necessarily healthy, treat is to dip violets in a thin pancake banner and fry quickly. Drain and eat! Float in glasses of white wine, or in a spring punch for a pretty presentation. Use violet blooms on cakes or as garnishes. Violet ice cream is a special treat. Chop violet blooms and add to homemade vanilla ice cream right before freezing or allow your favorite brand of ice cream to soften, then blend in the violets and replace in the freezer. Garnish with whole violets when serving.

Violet Syrup


  • 4 cups sweet violets; freshly picked, unsprayed
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 6 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 fresh lemon, squeezed for the juice
  • 2 cups water

Place violet blooms in a deep glass or ceramic bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Weigh down with a heavy dish or plate that will fit into the bowl to keep them submerged. Place the bowl at room temperature for 24 hours. Line a colander with layers of clean, rinsed cheesecloth and use to strain the violet water. When the water has strained through the cheesecloth, gather and squeeze any excess moisture out of the violets, then discard the used blooms.

Place the sugar, lemon juice and 2 cups plain water (not the violet water) in a saucepan and boil until the mixture becomes a very thick syrup. Add the violet water and bring to a rolling boil. Boil 10 minutes or until thickened again. Pour into sterile bottles, allow to cool, then seal and refrigerate.

USES: Place several tablespoons in tall iced tea glasses and fill with sparkling water and ice cubes, ganishing with violet blooms. Use drizzled over ice cream pancakes, waffles or cake slices.

Nasturtium and Violet Salad


  • 4 cups nasturtium blossoms
  • 1/2 cup of sweet violet leaves
  • handful of sweet violet blooms
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tablespoons herb vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chervil leaves
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

Trim stems off the blossoms. Wash the flowers and leaves under cool water and drain on paper towels. Rub the inside of a wooden salad bowl with the garlic clove. Place the blossoms in the bowl, add violet leaves, chervil, salt and pepper. Sprinkle with lemon juice and oil. Toss gently and serve. You can also make a nice wild greens salad doing this with a mixture of purslane, dandelion greens and any other greens that you grow. Simply add a little more vinegar and oil.

Wild Violet and Dandelion Bath Tea:


  • 1 1/2 cup wild violet leaves and petals, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup dandelion leaves and petals, chopped

Add the leaves and flowers to a glass bowl. Pour boiling water over all so it's covered, steep for 15-20 minutes, strain and add to your bath water. You can place the herbs in a square piece of cheesecloth or muslin bag and tie tightly. Steep as instructed then add the water and bag to your bath.


Old Fashioned Tips! Down to earth advice and inspiration... from http://oldfashionedliving.com