Though pretty, many people view 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. Even though some gardeners want to get rid of these blossoms have a purpose!
Let’s see how wild violets can be a friend rather than a foe.
Table of contents
- Are wild violets safe to eat?
- Identifying Edible Wild Violets
- Edible Uses of Wild Violets
- Wild Violet Medicinal Uses
- How to Harvest Wild Violets
Are wild violets safe to eat?
Short answer? Yes.
Long answer? Be sure you know how to identify wild violets from look-alikes and other plants with ‘violet’ in their name because those are most definitely NOT safe to eat.
Identifying Edible Wild Violets
The wild violets, or sweet violets, described in this article belong to the Viola genus. You can transplant them into your garden if you see a nice clump. Or plan an edible landscape. Just be aware that they will spread.
If you’ve ever tried to control violets, you know they do whatever they want. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing, though, if you know how to use them.
What do wild violets look like?
Wild violets typically have purple flowers and five heart-shaped leaves. However, they may appear in various shades of purple and white. Preferring shady, wooded locations, they grow in clumps, only about 4 to 6 inches high, though sometimes they get a bit taller.
When do they appear?
Typically, they’ll come up in early spring or late winter.
Where do they appear?
Found in zones 3 through 9, they grow in areas of partial shade. But pretty much anywhere; they’re quite resilient. They primarily reproduce by way of an inedible root system, underground rhizomes. This is also why so many people consider them invaders and use chemicals to attempt eradication.
Wild Violet Look-alikes
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. Do not eat them.
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. Do not eat them.
Edible Uses of Wild Violets
Unlike African violets or Vinca, wild violets can be on your list of cool things to add to your salad.
What parts of violets are edible?
The flowers add unexpected color and a sweet flavor to your favorite greens, raw or steamed, and sandwiches. And they add a creative flair to dessert decorations. But it isn’t only the flowers that are edible.
Chop the leaves to add to soup, or leave them whole to add to your salad mix, perhaps with some foraged dandelion. 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 spring foraging list.
Are they nutritious?
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.
What foods can be made with them?
In addition to including them in greens, salads, and sandwiches, use violet flowers to make:
- violet-infused vinegar,
- violet jelly,
- violet tea,
- sweet violet sugar,
- violet syrup,
- violet-infused lemonade (such a pretty color!),
- sweet violet vinaigrette,
- and candied violets (because you know the kids will love that!).
Also, try freezing a few into ice cubes for a festive touch to drinks during a party or baking them into desserts or candy. Your guests will be impressed for sure.
A word of caution
Some people have reported sensitivities when eating the stems raw. If this is you, you might be able to eat them cooked or avoid them altogether.
Wild Violet Medicinal Uses
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 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, coughs, 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 helpful 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, especially yellow violets!
How to Make Wild Violet Tea
With its anti-inflammatory and immune system-boosting properties, it makes sense to keep on hand the supplies needed to make this medicinal concoction!
Wild Violet Tea
- hot water
- 2 tsp dried violet leaves
- 1 tsp dried violet flowers
- Add boiling water to dried leaves and dried flowers.
- Steep for five minutes.
- Strain out the flowers and leaves.
Now that you’ve seen how useful they are let’s look at how to acquire this useful “weed.”
How to Harvest Wild Violets
Wild violets 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 an excellent time to harvest when blossoms are fresh and perky. To learn more about foraging, you can check out our how-to forage guide.
With all its edible and medicinal uses, the wild violet weed doesn’t seem to be so much of a weed, does it? Its many uses make it a good candidate to consider adding to your medicinal skills and knowledge! Learn more about herbalism for health here.
What are your favorite uses for wild violets?
“This is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any disease. Consult your personal medical professional.”
Originally published on April 19, 2019; updated and revised by Team Survival Mom.