May is Violet time! These hardy little beauties pop up everywhere in urban yards and parks as well as in the woods and countryside.
Violets have a long history of use in food, perfumery and herbal medicine. All parts of the Violet have and continue to be used. I make both tincture and infused oil from the leaves and I also make Violet Syrup.
There are eighteen species of Violet listed on the Minnesota Wildflowers website. The ones I see most commonly around the Twin Cities and in southeast Minnesota are Canadian White Violet, Downy Yellow Violet, Common Blue Violet. Common Blue Violet is the species I use to make Violet Syrup. It’s also the species that you probably see all over your yard and in any wild, semi-wild or un-sprayed green space. It is very opportunistic and good at finding little spaces in which to grow. That’s good news for us foragers.
Violet Syrup is easy to make, but it does require some free time where you don’t feel hurried or rushed. A basic batch of Violet Syrup requires about a cup of fresh Violet blossoms and this can take a long time to gather. It’s best to choose a day when you have lots of time on your hands and the weather is nice, and maybe a helper or companion to talk to while while pick your Violets.
When you think you have about a cup of Violets you are ready to make a Violet infusion. No need to pack the cup super tightly. Violets wilt quickly and that will impact your measurement. Don’t worry about it. It isn’t crucial that you make the infusion before the Violets wilt, you just want to have about a cupful before they wilt.
Pick through your Violets before you make your infusion. Remove any long green stems attached to the Violets, or any leaves you inadvertently picked or other debris. No need to wash or rinse the Violets. Some websites suggest removing the green sepals attached to the blossom. Some folks suggest that leaving the sepals on will result in a syrup that is insufficiently purple/pink and that the” green” flavor of the sepals will overpower the delicate blossom flavor. Well, that’s too much work for me and in my experience syrup made without removing the sepals is very nicely colored and tastes perfectly floral.
Place your Violets in a clean glass jar, pyrex cup or ceramic or glass bowl.
Next bring about 2 cups of filtered water to a boil. Pour the water over the Violets and put the lid on or cover with a plate. You do not want to bowl the Violets; that will destroy the delicate flavor.
Leave the infusion for 24 hours. The infusion pictured below is a light purple/pink. Sometimes it’s darker or sometimes it’s more blue. Next strain your infusion. I like to use a fine mesh strainer lined with an unbleached paper coffee filter to collect any tiny bits or gritty bits.
Gently, very gently heat the Violet infusion in a saucepan with 1 cup of sugar. My ratio is 1 cup violets: 2 cups water: 1 cup sugar. I have seen recipes that call for 1 cup Violets: 2 cups water: 2 cups sugar and even 1 cup Violets: 1 cup water: 2 cup sugar. That much sugar is not necessary! Sugar makes things thicker and helps to preserve your syrup for a limited amount of time, but too much can create a super viscous syrup. Syrups made with white sugar tend over time to either crystallize a bit or become super, super thick. I prefer a more fluid and less sugary syrup, but you should feel free to experiment. There’s no right or wrong, only what suits your preference. I do recommend white sugar. The Violet flavor is light and delicate and honey will overpower it. I like honey in Elderberry Syrup, Iron Tonic Sage Syrup and other syrups but when the flavor is floral or light like Linden Blossoms or Rosehips or Violets, I prefer white sugar.
You want to heat the Violet infusion and the sugar, stirring constantly until all the sugar crystals are dissolved. When the crystals are dissolved, immediately remove the infusion from the heat and pour it into a glass jar or pyrex cup. DO NOT boil the Violet infusion. Don’t worry if your syrup isn’t as pretty of a color as the infusion was. That’s pretty normal. Fun with color is yet to come.
Here comes the fun part! You’ll need an organic lemon and a lemon juicer. Squeeze the juice from the lemon and drop just a tiny bit into the Violet Syrup. It will change colors. Do this with your kids. They will think it’s really cool. As you keep adding lemon juice it will continue to change color from blue to more and more purple, magenta or pink. Go slowly to make sure you get the color you like. You can always add more but you can’t take any away.
And that’s it! It’s ready to store and use. You can keep it in a glass jar with a lid or a bottle or you can fill small decorative bottles like the ones below.
1 cup fresh blue/purple Violet blossoms
2 cups filtered water
1 cup white sugar
organic, fresh-squeezed lemon juice, as desired
- pick Violets, and sort through them, placing them in a glass or ceramic container
- Boil water and pour over Violets, cover.
- Steep 24 hours
- Strain with fine mesh strainer lined with unbleaded paper coffee filter into saucepan
- Simmer with sugar, stirring constantly until all sugar crystals are dissolved. DO NOT BOIL
- Pour syrup back into glass container and slowly add lemon juice until your desired color is achieved
- Bottle and store in the refrigerator
Violet Syrup can be stored in the fridge for months, but it’s so delicious and lovely you will probably use it up quickly.
Violet Syrup can be added to craft cocktail with vodka or gin or a mocktail. It is also nice drizzled over a light dessert like spongecake, vanilla ice cream or angel food cake. The flavors won’t stand up to things like chocolate.
Violet is also a wonderful medicinal plant. It’s safe and gentle. Violet is very cooling, soothing and anti-inflammatory. The leaves, blossoms and root have been used to cool fever. It has an affinity to the throat and has long been used as a tea or syrup for sore throats that are inflamed, dry, hot, scratchy, swollen lymph glands and tonsils. It is also used for dry coughs.
What a great way to spend this weekend, sitting in a patch of Violets and making your own beautiful syrup! If you don’t have time to make your own syrup you can get some from my etsy shop. I harvested these Violets in southeast Minnesota under a blue sky, with the perfume of the wild plums in the air. It was magic and I would love to send some your way!