One of my favorite childhood memories is laying in the grass with friends on a warm spring day and picking those beautiful, heart-shaped, low-lying pops of purple – the wild violet. Their stems were the perfect density to tie together and make flower crowns. Little did we know that women in ancient Greece would do just that to comfort the heart, promote refreshing sleep, and prevent headaches. In fact, the flower does contain salicylic acid, the raw material for aspirin. The wild violet, which so many try to eradicate from their lawn, is edible from root to bloom and contains several health benefits.
The flavonoids in violets act as diuretics to help treat individuals who suffer from elevated blood pressure. The alkaloids have vasolidating effects, causing blood vessels to relax, allowing the blood to flow easier; thus, it helps decrease blood pressure. The mucilage and saponins are soothing expectorants that help relieve coughs and other bronchial ailments. The salicylic acid in violets acts as painkillers and as an anti-inflammatory compound similar to the active ingredient in aspirin which helps people reduce arthritis discomforts or other discomfort felt in the joints. Violets contain rich anti-oxidant compounds in the form of beta carotene and ascorbic acid, in fact 140 ml serving of violet leaves provides as much vitamin C as 4 oranges.
So how do you reap the benefits of spring’s first bloom? Many chefs sprinkle them on top of salads, but you can also make a violet syrup or shrub, infuse them in sugar and salt, and dry them for tea. Their beautiful color creates some of the prettiest dishes and drinks you can imagine.
If you know of a nearby field or farm that hasn’t been treated with chemicals, foraging for wild violets makes for a fun spring day activity. Gather your baskets and family or friends and enjoy the benefits of nature. Stay tuned for violet recipes.