Though pretty, many people look at wild violets as a scourge that kills the lawn. They’re further frustrated by the fact that they’re tough to control. They’re even referred to as the wild violet weed.
But I have good news.
Instead of looking at violets as problematic weeds, view wild violets as useful plants you can enjoy instead of hate. These blossoms have a purpose even though some gardeners want to get rid of them!
Let’s see how wild violets can be a friend rather than a foe.
Identifying Wild Violets
Wild violets typically 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.
Found in zones 3 through 9, they grow in areas of partial shade. If you see a nice clump, you can transplant them into your garden. Or, plan an edible landscape. Just be aware that they will spread.
If you’ve 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.
Wild Violets vs. Vinca
Vinca is often confused with wild violets, but they are unrelated. The Vinca genus is toxic and not edible. The confusion may come from one of its common, not botanical, names, sorcerer’s violet.
The wild violets, or sweet violets, described in this article belong to the Viola genus.
Wild Violets vs. African Violets
Also, don’t confuse wild violets with African violets. You’re looking for the violets with the botanical name of Viola sororia or Viola sororia albiflora. They’re 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’ll make you very sick.
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. And they add a creative flair to dessert decorations.
But it isn’t only the flowers that are edible. The leaves can also be used in your salad mix. You can cook them, too, though they’re 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 make a surprisingly healthy food source. Rich in vitamins A and C (more vitamin C by weight than oranges, in fact), they also contain other vitamins and minerals.
Violet flowers can be also 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.
The Medicinal Wild Violet
It’s fun to find wild foods to add to the menu, especially if you have kids to help harvest them. It’s even better, though, when those foods have health benefits. Wild violets offer 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 brewed and taken as tea can help soothe these issues.
- Violet tea can also be useful in treating insomnia.
- Native Americans made a poultice from violets to treat headaches. 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’re useful in salves or ointments to treat minor scrapes and bruises.
- 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!
Brewing Wild Violet Tea
Steep two teaspoons of dried leaves and one teaspoon of dried flowers in one cup of boiling water for about five minutes to make a restorative tea. Or, use two or three teaspoons of fresh flowers. This results in 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.
Now that you’ve seen how useful they are, let’s look at how to acquire this useful “weed.”
Harvesting wild violets
In most areas, wild violets are most commonly found in May and June.
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.
The wild violet weed doesn’t seem to be so much of a weed, does it?
What are your favorite uses for wild violets?
This post was updated on 10/9/2021.
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