How to Enjoy Wild Violets for Food and Medicine: A Simple Guide to an Edible Weed

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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.

image: wild violet growing in yard

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!

image: violet tea in glass cup on glass plate surrounded by violet flowers and leaves

Wild Violet Tea

Enjoy the restorative effects of this refreshing tea made from a beautiful and edible weed!
Prep Time 0 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Course Drinks
Servings 1


  • hot water
  • mug
  • strainer


  • 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.


For added health benefits, a bit of honey can be added.
Alternatively, 2 teaspoons of fresh flowers can be used in place of the dried leaves and flowers.
Keyword tea, wild violets

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.

56 thoughts on “How to Enjoy Wild Violets for Food and Medicine: A Simple Guide to an Edible Weed”

  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. Kathleen Marshall

      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. 🙂

      1. I have a great stand of these cute little flowers in my yard and love the texture and color they lend to my landscape. I also have yellow violets and collect the flowers for miniature table arrangement. I just love them!

  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. Kathleen Marshall

    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.

      1. The Survival Mom

        The original article and links were from 2014, so you may have to do a search for that particular type of recipe.

  7. Practical Parsimony

    Are vincas and violets the same thing? I have vinca, but I thought I had wild violets, too.

  8. Kathleen Marshall

    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.

  9. 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!!!

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. Pingback: Open to Delight - Haile Fine Photography

  13. 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.

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

  15. 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. 😉

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

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

    1. I have fibromyalgia, Arthritis bad, bursitis in both hips my hand draw and hurt so bad I have just found out about the wild violets can you eat the stem the leaves and the flowers and how much should you eat at a time and how long should you wait to eat more for the pain I have lots of pain??? Please help are they some other kind of wild flower that is a pain reliever?

      1. The Survival Mom

        Hi Sheila. Thank you for leaving your comment and question. I wasn’t 100% sure of the best advice, so I passed your question on to a friend, Agatha Noveille, who is an experienced herbalist. Here is what she said:

        It sounds like your reader is struggling with a lot of inflammation. Unfortunately, violets aren’t really a pain-relieving herb (although it’s a common misconception). They are lymphatic herbs that help the body remove metabolic waste, which is why they are used in folk herbalism for rheumatism. Also, adding violets to her diet most likely won’t make much of a difference- they are quite mild (you can use them like spinach or a salad green). A tea made from dried violets or a violet leaf extract would be stronger and might be more beneficial for her case, and will also guarantee that she is using the correct species.

        Although she would do best to partner with an herbalist who can guide her through all of the things that could make a difference for her conditions (things like diet, potential food sensitivities, environmental triggers, sleep patterns, whether she is staying hydrated), she could also try herbal teas like Everyday Detox by Traditional Medicinals and Turmeric with Meadowsweet (also by Traditional Medicinals). Alternating those two teas throughout the day would cover the cooling/cleansing traditional approach that violets would (but stronger). The Turmeric and Meadowsweet is more traditional for pain relief and could help her feel more comfortable.

        Most grocery stores carry Traditional Medicinals teas now so she should be able to find them easily. She would want to follow the directions on the box for the maximum amount to use each day. One tea bag, once a day is unlikely to help much.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

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

  22. 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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  25. 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.

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

  27. 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

  28. 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: )

    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. 🙂

  29. 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.

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

  31. 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.

  32. 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. Pingback: Wild Violets: Benefits and Uses -

  35. 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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