Sweet Violets of Spring
I’m sitting here, looking out the office window over the snow-covered hills and sniffing a wee bottle of violet leaf absolute that arrived a couple months ago in an extravagant birthday basket. It is hard to describe, but Marge Clark of Nature’s Gift has this to say about it:
“Intensely green initially, this absolute has a soft subtly floral dry down” (Clark, n.d.).
I have seen this absolute recommend in various mature skin care blends. Victoria Edwards says that it acts as a sedative, a liver decongestant, and a circulatory stimulant, that it addresses aging and problem skin, blackheads, and enlarged pores. (I’m wondering how it would work blended with rock rose essential oil(Cistus ladaniferus)with its astringency and lymphatic stimulation…and the aromas would, I think, speak to each other.)
Emotionally, violet leaf is said to support the emotions and the heart… to soothe both nostalgia and obsession….Worwood describes it as ‘silent, seductive, and persuasive… helps you to realize your potential.’ She recommends it for timidity of the spirit, shyness, to overcome fears and shyness. Energetically and ritualistically, it is an oil of springtime, and of new beginnings and new growth.
For perfumery, violet leaf offers a wonderful springtime green leafy note that should blend beautifully with rose, tuberose, lemon, clary, grapefruit, mandarin, basil, jasmine, sandalwood, clove, bay, cinnamon, geranium or lavender.
Gathering the Violets of Spring
Have you ever had the pleasure of sitting in a field of violets and spending a couple of hours picking the flowers? There is nothing quite like it. Some people can smell them as they grow in the field, but that’s never been the case for me—perhaps because our field of violets bloomed in conjunction with the apple trees that were planted throughout the field. There is another reason, though. Within the scent of the violet flower is a component that paralyzes the area it hits! You get one quick whiff, and poof —you’re done, meaning after the briefest whiff, you are unable to smell it again. That fascinates me, so whenever my daughter Molly and I would pick large quantities for violet syrups and jellies, we would wait until a large container was full before plunging our faces deep within to inhale our one fleeting gulp of sweet, floral violet!
When Molly was little, picking violets was her favorite job. Most of the time, we struggle to get the kids to keep some stem on flowers, but for this particular task the stem is not desired at all. She would be happily occupied for long periods of time helping to fill gallon containers with the blossoms. We still love this early springtime pursuit, and our favorite gathering spot has one more season before it will see a bull-dozer. We aim to take advantage.
Foods With Violet
My friend Maggie Howe has a beautiful tutorial on making violet jelly on her website, so rather than re-invent the wheel, I’ll just direct you there.
We also make syrup here every year. It is so simple and makes a beautiful addition to crepes, ice cream, sweetener for tea, or drizzled over summer fruit and then sprinkled with the blossoms of anise hyssop or bee balm.
To make the syrup, fill a jar (I usually use a quart jar) with freshly picked violets, and cover with boiled water. You will see the color going into the water almost immediately. Let them steep for an hour or so, and you’ll see that the flowers give all of their color up to the water. Another way is to just fill with warm water and leave out (covered) under the moon all night for a paler, more mystical treat.
Once you have strained the infused violet water, use it to make a simple syrup with sugar—2 parts sugar to 1 part infusion. Add the juice of ½ a lemon. The lemon juice will bring out the purple color. Pour into sterilized bottles and seal.
Crystallized Violet Flowers
Another fun thing to do with violets, Johnny jump ups and pansies is to crystallize them. To do this, you need an egg white, a paint brush, and some extra fine sugar. When the blossoms are fresh and completely dry, gently paint them with egg white, and then sprinkle with the sugar. Set them on waxed paper for several hours to dry. They can then be layered in a jar (flowers, waxed paper, flowers, waxed paper) and stored until you need them to decorate a cake.
Violets also press beautifully, and can be glued to note cards and stationery.
Whatever you choose to do with them, be sure to pick some violets this year even if it is to put a small bouquet on the nightstand. This fleeting floral harbinger of spring should always be cherished.
This post was written by Tina Sams of The Essential Herbal Magazine and is shared with permission. (Don’t forget that if you’re an Herbal Academy student, you get 10% off all Essential Herbal Magazine subscriptions!
Clark, M. (n.d.). Violet Leaf Absolute. https://www.naturesgift.com/product/violet-leaf-absolute-2ml/