10 Ways to Use Wild Violets for Food and Medicine

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Though pretty, many people look at wild violets as a scourge that kills the lawn. They are further frustrated by the fact that they are tough to control and have been referred to as the wild violet weed.

But I have good news. Instead of looking at violets as a problematic weed, wild violets should be viewed as useful plants that you can enjoy instead of hate. These blossoms have a purpose even though some gardeners want to get rid of wild violets!

Identifying Wild Violets

First of all, do not confuse wild violets with African violets. You are looking for the violets with the botanical name of Viola sororia or Viola sororia albiflora.  They are not even close to being the same thing. African violets make gorgeous houseplants, but definitely should not be on your list of fun things to throw into your salad. They will make you very sick.

Typically, wild violets have purple flowers and heart-shaped leaves. However, they may appear in various shades of purple as well as white. They grow in clumps, only getting about 4 to 6 inches high, though sometimes they get a bit taller.

They are found in zones 3 through 9 and grow in areas of partial shade. If you see a nice clump, you can transplant them into your garden if you like, be aware that they will spread.

If you have ever tried to control violets, you know they pretty much do whatever they want. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing, though, if you know how to use them. Get ready to manage the wild violets in your yard with this free, printable gardening self-assessment and learn how to make this most of this coming gardening season.

The edible wild violet

Unlike African violets, wild violets can be on your list of cool things to add to your salad. The flowers add unexpected color and a sweet flavor to your favorite greens and sandwiches. You can use them to decorate desserts as well. Wild violets are also rich in vitamins A and C (more vitamin C by weight than oranges!) as well as other vitamins and minerals.

Violet flowers can be used to make violet vinegar, violet jelly, violet tea, violet syrup and even candied violets (because you know the kids will love that!). Try freezing a few into ice cubes for a festive touch to drinks during a party. Your guests will be impressed for sure.

But it isn’t only the flowers that are edible. The leaves can also be used in your salad mix. You can cook them as well, though they are a bit bland. The leaves are just as full of nutrients as the flowers, so don’t neglect to include them on your list of foods to forage in the spring.

Wild violets as medicine

It’s fun to find wild foods to add to the menu, especially if you have kids who can help harvest them, but it’s even better when those foods have health benefits. Wild violets have several notable advantages that make them worth collecting.

Spring is often thought of as a time to purify the body after a long winter and gain renewed energy for spring. Violets are perfect for this because they help your body to eliminate waste by stimulating the lymphatic glands to get rid of toxins in the body.

Violets are also known to strengthen the immune system and reduce inflammation. Spring is a typical time for sore throats, colds, sinus infections, and other respiratory conditions. Violets, eaten or taken as a tea can help soothe these issues.

A poultice from violets has also been used to treat headaches by Native Americans. This may be due to the salicylic acid contained in the flower, which is also found in aspirin.

Because violets also have antiseptic properties, they can also be used in salves or ointments to treat minor scrapes and bruises. Violet tea can also be useful in treating insomnia. But even with so many benefits, try not to get too carried away until your body gets used to violets, because they also act as a mild laxative!

Harvesting wild violet

Now is a good time to start looking for wild violets. They are most commonly found in May and June in most areas. Gather them up and use the petals fresh, but also dry some violet flowers for use throughout the year. Pay close attention to where you harvest your violets so you don’t gather any that may have been sprayed by pesticides. Mornings are a good time to harvest when blossoms are fresh and perky.

Two teaspoons of dried leaves and one teaspoon of dried flowers can be steeped in a cup of boiling water for about five minutes to make a restorative tea. Or, you can use two or three teaspoons of fresh flowers. This will give you a milder tasting tea. Be sure to strain out the flowers and leaves before drinking. For added health benefits, add a bit of honey if desired.

Have you used wild violets? What are your favorite uses for them? The wild violet weed doesn’t seem to be so much of a weed, does it?

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50 thoughts on “10 Ways to Use Wild Violets for Food and Medicine”

  1. Here in southern Tn our violets have already bloomed. I searched for articles to find out how to use them. Now , here is a wonderfully complete, well written article that I’ll be sure to save! Thx

    1. I’m so sorry my timing was off, but I am glad the article will be useful to you next year. After the seemingly endless winter we had here in SE Wisconsin, I forget that other parts of the country are having warmer weather. 🙂

  2. Mickey Louth

    Nice article. I am wanting to find out what I can forage for locally and I know we have these here in northern Maine. Our snow is melting but not totally gone yet, so we must be very close in where spring is at 😛

  3. This picture looks like what I have always referred to as “perenniel periwinkle’ or ‘vinca’….are they the same?

  4. Being able to forage is a great way to supplement your food without having to spend any money. I have a huge garden but I still love to explore the woods behind our house to see what I can use. I hope you enjoy the violets!

  5. I have other wild flowers I am would like to identify. I have looked through some of my books and cant seem to be able to identify them. Do you know of any places on the internet that might be able to help me identify these flowers. I had some other flowers I was trying to identify and I think they might be violets. Thanks for the article and I thank you in advance for your help..

  6. I wonder if you could make wine from these. You’d have to collect a LOT of flowers, but I don’t know if it would even work.

  7. Violet and Vinca and not the same. The Vinca genus is considered toxic and not listed as an edible plant (though it has been used medicinally). I think the confusion comes from some of the common (not botanical) names for Vinca such as sorcerer’s violet, but it is NOT a violet.

    Violets fall under the genus Viola. It is not even related to Vincas. The Viola specified in this article is Viola odorata, or sweet violet. It has also been called English violet, wood violet, common violet, garden violet and floistist’s violet according the the USDA database.

    I hope this clears things up.

  8. Yes! Thank you for explaining the difference between the vinca and the violet!!! Suddenly this spring, I have vinca coming up everywhere….and I only knew it by a friend having it. I guess it is equally wild…too bad it is toxic….as I have LOTS. Thanks for this clear up…glad I asked!!!

  9. Gretchen,

    Contact your local County Extension office and have pictures of flower and leaf to share with them. They know what grows where you are. They are a great resource for more than just your garden.

    I just discovered my new property is covered in wild violets and wild strawberries.

  10. Greetings.
    We frequently add violet leaves to our salads, all summer long. Our country yard is full of them. I did not know about the tea. when you say refreshing, is it just tasty, or are there other benefits from the tea?
    I have a couple of questions for clarification. When you are talking about using violets, are you including both the flower AND the leaves? Do they have the same properties? Where would you prefer one over the other? (Other than candied flowers.)
    You mention that the flower has the salicylic acid, does the leaf also?
    You use both dried leaves and flowers for tea. Is there any other use for dried leaves/flowers?
    Thank you.

  11. Pingback: Open to Delight - Haile Fine Photography

  12. I use them for a low boarder around the foundation of my home. mulch with pine straw and have the pretty plant for eye candy, didn’t know I could eat them that will be next got plenty to start thankyou.

  13. Since violets contain salicylic acid, people should be careful not to ingest too much prior to surgery. It may increase bleeding.

  14. I make these great fish burgers, because they are canned, but they are valuable because they’re Wild Caught, which is much healthier. So I mash the fish, and put in ground oat flower, chopped garlic, some Dijon mustard, chopped garlic, and then I chop up wild violet leaves, and fry them in dark olive oil.
    the wild violet leaves are free, and nutritious and tasty in the burgers. 😉

  15. Pingback: 5 Unexpected Uses for Wild Violets - Gardens to Love | Gardens to Love

  16. Thank you! All the searches I was finding labeled wild violet as a weed and how to get rid of it. This is just the info I was looking for! It’s growing nicely around SE Indiana right now.

  17. Hi i have purple flowers in my yard always love them how do you tell what they are i dont plan on eating them which im sure some things are good for you, but to confusing to be sure what they are but i will dig they up and decor with them thank you.

  18. I saw in a magazine where you could dry violets and adhere them to a clay bowl etc. Lost the magazine. Trying to help a 4-Her with her art project. Have the bowl made and not sure how to proceed. I’m thinking just drying the flower will leave it too brittle to adhere, so does anyone have an idea. Thanks.

  19. I have always loved violets….not to eat, but to look at. Now I will eat some, too. Years ago, I had this wonderful little neighbor who had some violets in her yard. I would go over there to admire her violets because I had none in my yard. When I told her, one day, that we were moving away, she sadly said to me, “but what shall I tell my violets?”. Now I have tons of violets in my yard and think of my little friend, who has since passed away. I see violets and smile.

  20. Pingback: 10 Ways To Use Wild Violets | The Homestead Survival

  21. A couple different wild violet varieties grow in the yard and edge of the thicket. Today, they are really bursting forth. Bunnies are munching! I’m remembering birthday cakes decorated with real violets, violets in a depression-ware glass in the windowsill many moons ago at my grandmother’s, her pencil sketches and oil paintings of violets. With violets bloom the memories of my youth.

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  24. I purchased this wonderful plant here in Hawaii. It’s done well and is now forming seed pods.I have read it needs cold to germinate which I won’t have. Should I take off the forming seed heads now.If so will it survive and rebloom next Spring? Thanks for all the information on this nostalgic plant it was my mama’s favorite.

  25. Pingback: Field Tea-Foraging for Beverage Fun - L.S.livewell Field tea- Foraging for beverage

  26. Hi!
    I just saw that you referred to my post, “Field tea- foraging for beverage fun”. Thanks so much! By the way the book that I refer to in that post is way better than Petersons. Peterson’s sometimes gives wrong info for foraging on what is edible and what not. It is fine for “looking” but I would not rely on it for “tasting”. Thanks again
    and keep up the good work! Lisa

  27. This spring, my daughter and I have been enjoying the beauty of simple harvesting right from the yard—yes, violets! Also, dandelion and wild mustard. The blandness you mention about the violets is perfect to balance the bitterness of dandelion and spiciness of wild mustard when making saag. (We discovered that and shared it here: https://poeticearthmonth.com/violet-wild-edible-cooking-afternoons-with-my-girl-in-sun-and-rain/ )

    Thanks for the tip about the mild laxative properties. With the saag, we did not find that to be a dynamic. (More so when sautéing them with garlic until seared.) Perhaps because the saag is simmered for at least 20 minutes?

    Really fascinating about the salicylic acid. Makes me think that if we ate wild more often, we might have a better sense of well-being. 🙂

  28. Around here they’ll get up to almost two feet. Mainly the ones that grow in the woods or the swamps though. I use the long stem fibers for quick cordage sometimes.

  29. Pingback: Violet Tea - Optimized Nutrition - Total Guide To Violet Tea For Healthiness

  30. Hi, I am a pollinator gardener and I look for any pollinator nectar or host plant. Violets happen to be everywhere in the house I moved in to six years ago and before I saw them as a weed. I researched to see what benefits they could hold for my wildlife. I found out they’re the greatest host plant for fritillary butterfly caterpillars. Every year for 5 years I’ve been able to have the caterpillars munch away on all my violets and worry I’ll run out, but I never do. The fritillaries flock to my yard time and time again to lay their eggs on our violets. It’s so exciting when I see the eggs hatch and caterpillars grow so rapidly, chrysalis and then emerge a beautiful orange butterfly on their next journey in life! Violets can survive cold temps too and that means my caterpillars can survive off them until the sun warms them enough to head south! The best part is they’re free and came with my yard! The caterpillars are beautiful as well. A deep orange/red with black spikes and white spots.

  31. As a child, I thought the wile violets were so pretty I decided to transplant them into my parents flower beds…Let’s just say they have been trying to get rid of them ever since (I am now 44)! Hahaha. Fast forward to my adult life where I worked 25 + years in the restaurant business doing everything from bartending, waiting table, cooking, pastry chef, and even managed restaurants. I worked in this one place that was owned by a Danish Chocolatier and he created a whole line of handmade chocolates that were filled with different flavored ganaches (like rosewater, lavender, violet, etc.)….the violet one and rosewater were my two favorites out of all of them! And I ate so many of them in my 7 years working for him starting out as a waiter and moving right up the ladder with cooking, pastry chef, assistant manager (and then I left to start building a book of clients as a hairdresser)…Guess who called me begging me to come back and be his General Manager? Offering me a sizable pay increase and also contracted to provide me with a parking pass…Being very unhappy in that hair salon with all the back stabbing and cut throat, gossipy behavior of the my fellow stylists and the owner was just the biggest a**hole so I decided to jump ship and go back to the place I actually enjoyed working (which later turned out to be another dumb move…not only did I get screwed over with him only paying for my parking pass for 2 months and then I got a ticket. Because it was in my contract I did a pay out on the register and paid for the ticket and the rest of the parking pass for the year….but one day when after a year as GM I see my job posted on craigslist and he expected me to train the new GM. So I was good enough to train the new person who had little to know experience in the restaurants. Of course the person the hired had no experience and they were only offering her half of what I was getting paid a year. That left a bad taste in my mouth so one night after closing I left a note and my keys and told him he could train the new GM because that was not in my job description and I printed out all my time sheets and took him to the the dept. of labor because of the way they worded my contract (which was supposed to be salary) but with the incorrect verbiage it actually made me look like an hourly employee….Guess who owed me a few thousand dollars in overtime pay? Long story short that is where I learned about using different flavorings like violets. I make a tiramisu…but not your ordinary run of the mill, oh so delicious dessert…but I changed it up a bit. Mine is a white chocolate, lemon curd and wild violet tiramisu!!! I pick just the flower heads from my back yard and there is always a HUGE supply of them. I turn that into a wild violet simple syrup (which you can literally use in or onto of so many thing. I add some to different cocktails that I make, drizzle it over vanilla ice cream and that is also what I drizzle over the soft sponge of a lady fingers…It’s a wonderful layering, pairing and balance of light floral taste with the tartness of the lemon curd and the mascarpone and white chocolate!!!!

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  34. Your comment about salicylic acid being in aspirin isn’t exactly correct. Aspirin is made up of acetylsalicylic acid which is a derivative of salicylic acid. Each compound has quite different properties. Salicylic acid can be used as an antiseptic and other things, but pain killing is not one of them.

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