Edible violets are what some people might refer to as a weed. However, they can be one of the most valuable plants in your garden.
Central and eastern North America is where you'll find the common blue violet (Viola sororia, Violaceae). Not only are they edible, but they also have medicinal properties. The Viola genus contains around 550 species, mostly found in the temperate climates of the world.
Identify the common species of violet in your area and then research their edibility and/or traditional uses for medicine. But there’s a good chance that you have common blue violets or the sweet violet growing in your area—both of which are good wild edibles and great for medicinal purpose.
Identifying Edible Violets
It’s difficult to give specific characteristics for the entire Viola genus, but there are general traits to look for. Most violet species are herbaceous perennials with a basal rosette of heart-shaped or irregularly lobed leaves. The leaves typically have rounded teeth and are smooth.
Violets actually have many similar qualities to other species, these might be inedible or poisonous. Only harvest them when you are one hundred percent sure that you have a violet. Reference a reliable plant ID guide when gathering anything.
Uses For Edible Violets
As a bartender, I firstly enjoy edible violets frozen in ice cubes, cocktails, or mocktails as a garnish or muddled, salad, sauces like pesto or taboulie, and in sandwiches, wraps, or even pizza. Soup is another way to enjoy them, as they can be sauteed or steamed. A great way to add some color to sweet treats is candied violet.
Note that the roots of most violet species can cause nausea and vomiting, and should not be eaten. Harvest multiple times throughout the spring until the leaves become fibrous. They will be back in the fall.
Parts Used: Leaves and flowers; aboveground parts in flower
Medicinal Preparations: Infusion, syrup, honey, vinegar, poultice, compress, salve, and infused oil
- Vulnerary (promotes wound healing)
- Mild laxative
Use Violets as an internal blood cleanser, respiratory remedy, and lymphatic stimulant. Take it as a tea or syrup, and can also be eaten for its medicine. The exact dosage is not especially important since it can safely be consumed in large quantities. As a gentle food herb, violet is generally safe for elders, youngsters, and people who are taking pharmaceuticals.
For centuries in Europe, edible violets are a pulmonary remedy for dry hacking cough. Use violet as a tonic for chronically swollen lymph nodes. As with many other herbs with an action on the lymphatic system, it has a long tradition of use in the treatment of cancer.
Violet leaves contain a good bit of mucilage, or soluble fiber, and are great in lowering cholesterol levels. Violet leaves are high in Vitamins A and C, and rutin.
Use violet topically as a poultice, compress, infused oil, and salve for dry or chafed skin, abrasions, insect bites, eczema, varicose veins, and hemorrhoids.
Safety & Contraindications
Avoid internal use with individuals who have the rare inherited disorder G6PD (glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase) deficiency, because it can aggravate hemolytic anemia.