Updated: Feb 25
If you gaze out over your yard or a meadow in the early spring, you'll probably first notice bursts of dandelions, some daffodils, and the abundance of green grass and plants popping up in the sunshine.
But if you look closer, maybe even get down a bit lower to the ground, you'll start to see delicate purple flower faces poking up above the forest floor.
These shy yet powerful little wild plants are violets, and their medicinal offerings are almost as plentiful as their beauty.
Violets are gorgeous but often overlooked "weeds" that emerge in the early spring. When I see the violets awaken after a long winter, I can't help but grab my foraging basket and head to the meadow. With a basket full of violet flowers and leaves, I am giddy with joy and full of ideas of how to use her as food and medicine.
How to identify and where to find violets
There are many species of violets, but the variety that you will most likely find while foraging in your yard or in the forest is the common blue violet. You'll see the leaves begin to pop up in early March, and the flowers bloom in early April. Both the leaves and flowers are edible and medicinal.
Their deep green leaves are heart-shaped and somewhat serrated on the edges, with long stemmed drooping blooms with 5 petals. The flower's color varies from deep purple, blue, white, yellow, or some magical combination of these. Violets can be found growing from shady areas to full sun and everywhere in between. I find the most gorgeous patches on my property in the sunny meadow near our pond, on the cool shaded banks of our stream, and my favorite spots are nestled in amongst the mossy forest floor.
(Have you gathered what inspired the name moss & violet yet?)
Violets as Wild Medicine
Violets provide us with a bounty of medicine, both physically and emotionally, for their cooling and moistening properties.
Her medicine is widely used for many hot and dry ailments, like relieving skin inflammation and dryness, moistening a dry cough, and even soothing the nervous system when we are feeling stressed or strung out.
Like many early spring herbs, violets support and awaken our lymphatic system and get our body's flowing again after a long winter. It can help clear out toxins, increase immunity, improve skin health, and even break down hardened cysts.
For many, even the act of harvesting violets is wonderfully healing. When I find a spot of violets, I like to kneel or even lay down so that I can really be on their level and fully immerse myself in their world. Their shy yet cheery faces instantly fill me with joy, and I sink into a deep feeling of calm mixed with child-like excitement for finding such beauty in the world.
Some ways to capture violet's medicine are by crafting a tincture, herbal vinegar or oxymel (herbs infused in vinegar and honey), infused as an herbal oil to use for body oiling or to make herbal salves, or by simply infusing her in water as a nourishing and spirit-soothing herbal tea.
Violets as Wild Edibles
Violet leaves are highly nutritious and are great additions to salads, sandwiches, soups, or in a spring herbal pesto alongside other herbs like chickweed. The flowers also make beautiful garnishes for garden-fresh meals and on cupcakes or muffins.
I'm currently fermenting a dandelion and violet wine which I cannot wait to tell you about once it's finished, but until I taste that wine I'll have to say that my favorite way to enjoy violets (in a non-medicinal way) to date is violet flower syrup.
Violet Flower Syrup
This is such a quick and delicious recipe to make with your violet harvest, and there's a magical trick at the end that folks of all ages will love to watch!
Violet syrup can be enjoyed in so many different ways; added to sparkling water or lemonade, drizzled on pancakes, or my favorite, mixed into a glass of vodka or champagne.
3 or so cups of freshly picked violets, stems removed, loosely packed
1 cup of water
1 cup of white sugar
Squeeze of lemon juice
Put your violets in a large mason jar, then bring the 1 cup of water to a simmer. Remove from heat, allow the water to cool a bit, then pour into the mason jar with your violets. Cover and let steep on your counter overnight.
Strain your violet infusion. Pour the strained infusion and sugar into a pot and gently warm on the stove just enough to dissolve the sugar. Do not simmer or boil.
Your syrup should be a light blue color at this point. If you like this color, you can let your syrup cool and it's ready for use.
OR, for a bit of plant magic, add a few drops of lemon juice into the syrup and watch the color change to a magical violet purple.
Store your violet syrup in a bottle or jar in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.
(Pictured is a mixed drink I made with vodka, lemonade, and a spoonful or so of violet syrup. You can also emit the vodka for a kiddo-friendly mocktail!
Violets are by far one of the most magical little weeds that you can stumble upon in your yard. Between their gorgeous variety of colorful blooms, to their secret tricks like color changing syrups and hidden underground secondary flowers, and of course all of the medicinal offerings she provides, this is one wild remedy that you will want to get to know.
Note: Before harvesting violets, or any other wild plant, make sure you are not harvesting from public lawns, busy roads, or other places that may be polluted or exposed to chemicals. And, it is imperative that you properly identify a plant before harvesting and using for food or medicine.