Wild violets are beautiful and sweet smelling, but to many people, they’re seen as a challenging weed that’s hard to control, killing their beautifully lush lawns that they’ve worked so hard to achieve. Native to the eastern regions of North America, they colonize easily in slightly shaded moist soil and often cohabitate with other colonizing yard weeds. For someone who is seeking that perfect, manicured lawn free of violets, they do have a major challenge to face because the plant’s root network is rather tenacious.
Instead of exerting such a huge effort to eradicate them, why not admire their beauty and put their nutritive and aesthetic value to use? Wild violets are actually incredibly useful – in fact, they’re even edible. Just keep in mind that wild violets aren’t like ornamental African violet plants – those cannot be eaten or they’ll make you very ill. We’re talking about the wild violets with tiny little flowers that are only about an inch in length. While purple is the most common, there are white and pink-hued violet varieties too.
Violets have been utilized for their health properties for thousands of years as both the leaves and flowers are considered to be antiseptic, antifungal and anti-inflammatory. According to The Herbal Academy, there have even been accounts of Native Americans utilizing violets to treat cancer, and they’ve also been known to use them effectively for eliminating headaches as well. These plants can aid the body in detoxification by stimulating the lymphatic glands to get rid of toxins in the body, boost the immune system, reduce inflammation, relieve a sore throat, battle cold symptoms and even sinus infections. A few of their other beneficial uses have included treating acne, fibrocystic breast disease, eczema, psoriasis, ulcers, varicose veins, urinary tract infections, scurvy, mumps and whooping cough.
Both the leaves and flowers are jam-packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, especially vitamin A and C. In fact, as far back as 1885, a study compared the vitamin C content in violet leaves to that of oranges, and the leaves’ vitamin A content to spinach. This research found that when collected in the spring, violets contained double the amount of vitamin C as compared to the same weight of an orange, or more than twice the amount of vitamin A, gram for gram when compared to spinach.
If you don’t have any in your yard or garden and find a nice clump growing in an area you can harvest from, you may even want to transplant some onto your property, but just be aware is that they spread quickly and easily, and can be hard to control, as mentioned previously. With so many different uses, however, this can certainly be a good thing too.
1. Make a salad
Violet leaves and flowers are tasty – in fact, the flowers are wonderfully sweet and tangy, making a beautiful garnish on a salad while adding an excellent boost of vitamin A and C. You can just toss them in with some of your favorite greens.
This Wild Violet Salad recipe by Edible Landscape Design utilizes violets along with Romaine, baby mesclun greens, green onion, cucumber and peppers for a delightful and nutritious spring or summer salad.
2. Treat skin conditions
Violets can be used to treat a number of skin conditions, including eczema and dry skin, as well as for healing wounds. While violet essential oil is considered very rare, it is often adulterated and can be difficult to find the real thing. The good news is that you can make your own so that you can utilize its benefits to treat skin issues and more, simply by gathering fresh violet leaves. The oil can then be used as is, or you can use it as part of a recipe for a violet balm.
The Nerdy Farm Wife offers detailed instructions on how to do that here.
3. Make a tea
Violets make a wonderful tea with a pleasant aroma that’s sure to delight – and it offers many medicinal benefits too. You can make it using fresh or dried flowers and leaves – it’s up to you. The flavor tends to be stronger in the dried version. When steeped in teas, violets infuse their bluish/purplish tint into the brew, which will change colors based on the acid-base pH of the tea infusion. That means it will not only smell and taste wonderful, but it will look pretty too!
WikiHow offers detailed directions for teas using either fresh or dried flowers here.
4. Use violets as part of a healthy side dish
You can even cook violet leaves like spinach. Use a little water, grass-fed butter, and then sprinkle with sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. By serving the cooked violet greens with the residual liquid, you’ll help preserve the vitamins so that you can get the maximum amount of nutrition.
5. Relieve a headache
Like the Native Americans, you can also use wild violets to relieve a headache. Just make the tea as described above and then apply a cloth that’s been soaked in it to the back of your neck. Sit back, relax and enjoy for 10 or 15 minutes, and before you know it, your headache is likely to have disappeared.
6. Make a cough syrup
Violets are very useful for soothing coughs and other respiratory issues and are excellent when used as part of a cough syrup recipe. The Nerdy Farm Wife comes through again with an excellent recipe for a Violet Leaf & Honey Cough Syrup. All you need is fresh or dried violet leaves, water and some raw (preferably local) honey. Detailed instructions can be found here.
7. Wild violet-infused vinegar
Wild violets can be used to make a lovely, delicious vinegar that can be used on salads, as a marinade or deglazing sauce. It’s easy to infuse vinegar (a clear and mild-tasting vinegar is best) with the plant’s subtle sweetness and gorgeous flush of color. While there are many different recipes that can be found online, The American Violet Society offers an excellent one on its site here.