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The Beauty and Benefits of Violets

Updated on October 14, 2014
Violets, so appealingly delicate
Violets, so appealingly delicate | Source

Sweet Violets, Sweeter than the Roses

Don't go looking for roses and walk, unseeing, past the violets. It's hard to imagine how anyone can resist a posy of sweet violets, viola ordorata, so appealingly delicate with their velvety purple petals and clean, sweet perfume.

Apart from their ethereal beauty, sweet violets are also a popular culinary item as they add wonderful colour and a very light, nectar-like flavour to salads and cake decorations.

From classical times, violets have been cultivated for wine, perfume, medicinal purposes and used as decorative garlands and wreaths. Apart from anything else, violets are just beautiful!

I grow my violets in pots

Violets in Pot
Violets in Pot

A Cup of Violet Tea

Put violet leaves and petals in a pot, pour over boiling water and steep for 5 minutes. Strain and drink.

Instructions

  1. Put violet leaves and petals in a pot, pour over boiling water and steep for 5 minutes.
  2. Strain and drink.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 tsp dried or 1 tsp fresh violet leaves
  • 1/2 tsp dried or 1 tsp violet petals
  • 1 cup boiling water

Candied Flowers

Sugared Violets

Back in Victorian times when they really knew how to serve afternoon tea with style, candied violets were a popular confection. Cooks garnished cakes, pastries, flans and puddings with sugared violets.

It's been a while since I went to the trouble of making these little violet decorations but the way that my Great Aunt Bessie taught me is still firmly embedded in my mind.

1. Pick a large number of violet flowers and let them dry on a paper towel for a couple of hours.

2. Beat an egg white to a froth. You can colour the beaten whites with food colouring if you wish, but I always found this a teeny bit difficult without making the whites 'heavy'.

3. Using a fine brush, carefully coat each flower with the egg white, then pour fine sugar over each. Blend the sugar in your blender to make it a finer consistency if you have to. It must be very fine.

4. Lay each flower on wax paper to dry, then use as a decoration for your sweets, cakes and desserts when the flowers are stiff enough to move.

There are some variations of Candied Violets at WikiHow - with photographs

Strawberries with Violets, Orange Peel and Cream

  • 2 tsp. candied violets
  • 2 tsp. candied orange peel
  • 2 cups unsweetened whipped cream
  • 2 baskets strawberries
  • 4 fresh violet blossoms

Instructions

  1. With a very sharp knife, chop the violets and the orange peel separately.
  2. Place the whipped cream in a bowl. Gently fold in the violets and the peel without deflating the cream.
  3. Divide the berries into four decorative dessert cups.
  4. Top with the flavored whipped cream, and serve, garnished with a fresh violet blossom on each dessert.
Cast your vote for Strawberries with Violet and Orange Whipped Cream

Be careful when you eat violets!

Only eat edible sweet violets that you've grown yourself - then you know they haven't been treated with insecticides

Not tonight, Josephine

Napoleon Bonaparte was partial to violets. He spoke of their 'quiet beauty' and liked to have small pots of them in his rooms.

When he married Josephine Beauharnais, she wore violets on her dress and in her hair, and on every wedding anniversary he sent her a violet bouquet.

In 1814, before leaving for his exile in St. Helena, Napoleon asked to visit Josephine's tomb to pick the violets which were growing there.

Petals from these violets were still in a locket around his neck when he died.

Josephine by Andrea Appiani

Say it with Violets

In the Language of Flowers

In the language of flowers the violet means modesty, affection, humility, faithfulness, and good luck.

If the violets are white then they send the message: "lets take a chance on Happiness".

If the violets are blue: "I'll be true, always".

It is said, that if you dream of violets it foretells success. If you wear a garland of violets around your head, it should prevent you from getting dizzy.

Violets are the birthday flower for February.

The Enchanted Tree

How to Grow and Cook Edible Plants

Flowers have been used for culinary purposes since earliest times.

Rose petals have been used to perfume sweetmeats, jellies and cakes for centuries, and the tiny, richly scented 'Parma' violet was a popular flavouring during the Victorian era.

Today, there is renewed interest in using flowers as ingredients in cooking; their subtle flavours and glorious colours impart an extra dimension to many of our favourite foods.

Violets in Mythology

Created for the Priestess, Io

In Greek, a violet is Io

In mythology Io was a priestess of Hera at Argos who caught the eye of the passionate and promiscuous Olympian Zeus.

However Zeus was concerned that his wife, Hera, would discover their affaire, so he transformed Io into a stunning white heifer and then created the sweet-scented violet for her to eat.

In the 2010 film Clash of the Titans, Io was a major deviation from Greek mythology: instead of being Zeus' lover, she was portrayed as a guide to Perseus. Her transformation into a cow was also not mentioned. Instead, she was "cursed" with agelessness for refusing a god's romantic advances.

John William Goddard With Violets Wreathed

Edible Flowers

Just as the leaves and roots of some flowering plants can be eaten; various flowers, which can be used to decorate a room, can also be used in foods and are considered edible.

In addition to immediate consumption, flowers may also be preserved for future use using techniques such as drying, freezing or steeping them in oil. Edible flowers can be used in drinks, jellies, salads, soups, syrups and main dishes.

Sweet Violets - Nostalgia with Dinah Shore

Folk Medicine

Sweet violets are the only medicinal violets.

They have both expectorant and diuretic properties and can be taken in a tea for coughs, colds, and rheumatism. Make a pot of violet tea to use as a gargle, or add honey to thicken the tea.

In Pakistan, violet tea is drunk to increase sweating and reduce fever. It's also said that violets relieve anxiety, insomnia and reduce high blood pressure. In the 17th century throat lozenges, made with violet conserve, were used to treat bronchitis, as well as to combat sinus congestion.

Violets are reputed to reduce the symptoms of a hangover. Combining wine and violets dates back to the ancient Greeks, who would not only put the petals in the wine, but would scatter them all about the banquet hall. They wore garlands of violets in the belief that this would help to prevent dizziness and headaches from overindulging.

For a stiff neck

Pound violet leaves into a paste, add water and a little oatmeal till thick, then apply to a warm compress and place on the back of the neck.

The essential oil of violets is also used in aromatherapy.

Violets in Jar
Violets in Jar

Violet Sherbet

From Wild Man Steve Brill in Shoots and greens of early spring in Eastern North America

Sherbets usually contain water, sugar, and artificial flavors. This one, using natural thickeners and sweeteners, provides an especially rich setting for these luxuriant flowers.

Purée all ingredients except the violets in a blender. Freeze in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's directions. Stir in the violet flowers. Makes 5-1/2 cups.

Instructions

  1. Puree all ingredients except the violets in a blender.
  2. Freeze in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's directions.
  3. Stir in the violet flowers.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups violet flowers
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/4 cup grape seed or canola oil
  • 1/4 cup vegetable glycerin
  • 1/4 cup raw cashews
  • 1/4 cup lecithin granules - available at health food stores
  • 2 TBLsp flax seeds
  • 2 tsp liquid stevia or other sweetener
  • 2 tsp freshly grated orange rind
  • 1/2 tsp salt

More Enchanting Edible Flowers - For Health and Beauty

The Beauty and Benefits of Dandelions
Do you remember playing with Dandelion Clocks? We used to tell the time by counting how many puffs it took to denude a dandelion - is this something everyon...

The Beauty and Benefits of Sunflowers
You can't mistake a sunflower. It's impossible to mistake a sunflower. Sunflowers are incredibly useful. The valuable edible oil has more Vitamin E than any...

The Beauty and Benefits of Calendula
Do you have a calendula plant in your garden? The bright cheerful calendula, or marigold, is cultivated in the kitchen garden for making teas, broths and med...

How about you?

Do you eat edible flowers?

See results

© 2008 Susanna Duffy

What's your Views on Violets?

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    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 

      4 years ago from Colorado

      Such a fascinating, and versatile, flower... the violet. Those sugared violets look exquisite. Who knew Napoleon was such a romantic? I hope to try these recipes. Lovely web page and topic. Thank you.

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 

      4 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      Beautiful lens! And quite educational besides! I didn't realize you could use them in so many recipes! They are such pretty flowers.

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      4 years ago from Canada

      The photos on this article always bring me such a smile. This page is like a fresh breath of spring. I remember picking violets as a kid but never thought then that I could eat them.

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      5 years ago from Canada

      Aw this is just so very sweet. I remember my sister and I eating my mom's flowers but she was not so thrilled about us chowing down on her flower bed lol. Lovely article on the sweet violet flower.

    • kislanyk profile image

      Marika 

      5 years ago from Cyprus

      Violets are some of my favorite flowers (this color is my favorite overall as well - for example amethyst is also my favorite crystal)

    • profile image

      Helene-Malmsio 

      6 years ago

      It's strange, but the violets have not flowered yet this year... I'm sure I'm usually picking little bunches of them for my bedside table by this time of winter....

      Well, I guess its something to still look forward to in these cold months!

    • profile image

      SandyPaw 

      6 years ago

      I love violets too

    • profile image

      KatherineWakefield 

      6 years ago

      A really interesting lens! I love violets and purple is my favourite colour.

    • profile image

      Science-Fiction-Fan 

      6 years ago

      Violets are one of my favorite flowers

    • Image Girl profile image

      Image Girl 

      6 years ago

      Wonderful! These are my favorite spring flowers! Thanks for sharing this with us. Lovely. :D

    • profile image

      Helene-Malmsio 

      6 years ago

      I adore violets! I have them growing in my garden and it is such a joy to pick a tiny bunch to put in my special tiny violets vase and enjoy the aroma on my bedside table at night. One of the very first perfumes I bought as a teenager was a violet water. I even managed to grow some novelty African violets in window pots twenty years ago, but never see them for sale any more.

      Lovely lens - thanks!

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 

      8 years ago from UK

      Violets are so pretty, especially their colour. Not sure I want to try eating them, although I might surprise myself! This lens was a sight for sore eyes though.

    • LouiseKirkpatrick profile image

      LouiseKirkpatrick 

      8 years ago from Berkshire, United Kingdom

      Violets were my Mum's favourite flower and we had a lot of them in the garden in the house where I grew up - this lovely lens has brought back lots of happy memories of childhood and simpler times - thanks :)

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 

      9 years ago

      What a beautiful lens! Violets are pretty but I never thought to add them to food. The sherbet sounds really good.

      Thanks for sharing

      Lizzy

    • CoolFoto profile image

      CoolFoto 

      9 years ago

      Lots of stuff I did not know about violets. I will appreciate them more from now on!

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      9 years ago

      This is a beautiful lens.

    • Ahmady LM profile image

      Ahmady LM 

      9 years ago

      I have loved violets since I was a child and could gather them in the woods -- but now I never see wild ones. I've made candied violets...there was once a delightful cologne made from violets but I guess it is so old-fashioned with the complex fragrances that it has gone out of fashion. Lavender is another favorite of mine just for beauty, fragrance and also flavoring...

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      9 years ago

      Violets always make me think fondly of my Grandmother. This is a beautiful lens.

    • jmsp206 profile image

      Julia M S Pearce 

      9 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      Beautiful lens and a lovely tribute to your mother Violet, they had some great names back then.Such an old timer the violet.

    • susansavad profile image

      susansavad 

      9 years ago

      I loved your lense, expecially all the recipes. I didn't even know that violets were ediible. I have just lensrolled your lense to Pansies, The Flower with a Face

      Best Regards,

      Susan

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