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Don’t Shrink from Violets

July 11, 2012

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Wild violets (genus Viola, many species; probably escaped from cultivation) pop up everywhere and anywhere in my lawn and vegetable gardens.

I encourage them.

In the lawn they stay green when the grass goes dormant in August; in the garden, they add a perky ornamental touch.

Plus, they’re also really good to eat. Good for you, too, both as food and medicine.

In terms of eating, I’m talking primarily about the young, tender, heart-shaped leaves, although the delicate flowers are also edible, scattered across the top of a delicate salad or used for candied violets and decorating cakes.

Raw or cooked, violet greens have a delicate, bland flavor. Add them to mixed-greens salads; toss a handful into a soup, a stir-fry, or a side dish of mixed steamed greens.

The late wild-edibles enthusiast Euell Gibbons called wild violets “nature’s vitamin pill,” noting that a half-cup serving of tender green leaves provides the vitamin C of four oranges and a day’s supply of Vitamin A.

The leaves and roots also contain the host of phytocompounds that herbalists have long used to treat skin and respiratory ailments, wounds, headaches, anxiety, and fibrocystic breasts and other breast swellings.

Notes

  • Don’t ever eat a wild plant you can’t identify with certainty.
  • Eat only the purple-flowered varieties.
  • Don’t eat violets (or any flower) that came from a florist or plant nursery, as the plants may contain pesticides and other toxins. 
  • African violets, Saintpaulia ionantha, aren’t true violets. Don’t eat them or use them in medicinal preparations.

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Margaret Boyles lives in a wood-heated house in central New Hampshire. She grows vegetables, eats weeds, keeps chickens, swims in a backyard pond in summer, snowshoes in the surrounding woods in winter, and commutes by bike whenever possible.

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Comments

Thank you for the info on

By Michelle C.

Thank you for the info on edible wild violets. I have been growing them for years. They are so beautiful and the leaves get very large when encourage to grow. Plus they are the perennials that you well never have to plant again and they grow in just about all environments. Now I plenty of salad fixings. Thanks again.

Most of mine are lighter

By Julie Hundt

Most of mine are lighter purple almost white. Can I not eat the greens from these?

Yes! And the flowers, too.

By Margaret Boyles

Yes! And the flowers, too.

Where can I find safe

By Tina Gallagher

Where can I find safe varieties to plant?

I'd echo Reba. Try to find

By Margaret Boyles

I'd echo Reba. Try to find nearby lawns and lawn edges where people have allowed violets to creep in. Ask to dig a few to transplant into your own gardens or lawns. Violets seed prolifically, so taking a few shouldn't threaten your neighbor's supplies.

ask your neighbors, safest

By Reba Holt

ask your neighbors, safest way I know

Thank you for a wonderful

By rmp968

Thank you for a wonderful article. I have these growing everywhere in my yard. I didn't know that were so benficial for you. I can't wait to try them in a salad.

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