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Foraging Violets, An Edible and Common Spring Wildflower

Although considered an invasive species, violets are certainly one of nature’s most beautiful wild perennials. They’re nature’s harbinger to remind us that spring is well on its way. But something that you may not know, is that you can actually eat them! What may be even more surprising is that they’re good for you too.

But before you consider foraging for wild violets, there is one other plant in particular that you need to be on the lookout for. Keep reading to find out more about foraging for wild violets and how they can bring you several health benefits.

A close up image of a common blue violet.

Plant Name (common and scientific)

The common blue violet, or Viola sororia, is a part of the Violaceae family. It’s also known by several different names, including Confederate violet, purple violet, wood violet, wooly blue-violet, meadow violet, Florida violet, and Missouri violet.

A close up image of the lighter white and violet color variation known as Confederate violets.
This color combination of white with the u- shaped violet centers are known as Confederate Violets.

Parts Used

Both the leaves and the flowers of a wild violet are edible. The flowers are sweet while the leaves contain high levels of vitamins A and C.

A hand full of violet blooms.

When and Where it Grows

Wild violets are mostly found in the central parts of Canada and the United States. While they have been known to survive in full-sun conditions, they certainly prefer growing in partly shady and moisture-retentive areas like woods, streambanks, and thickets. Depending on where you live, the blooms typically last for only a brief time, from early spring to the mid months of summer, but the stem and leaves remain long after.

Violets growing in a lawn with a barn behind them.

How to Identify

Wild violets can grow anywhere from 15 to 25 cm tall and can be between 13mm or 50 mm in width. They have five-petaled flowers with deep blue or purple hues, but they sometimes can also be found in white with yellow colors. Their leaves have a sort of oblong kidney or heart shape to them with serrated edges, with stems that hook at the end.

Keep in mind that there is one violet look-alike that you need to be leary of because it is considered toxic. Although the “lesser celandine” has yellow flowers instead of purple, the clove-like leaves are very similar to the wild violet.

Lesser Celandine has a similar leaf shape to the common violet, but the yellow flowers look completely different than a violet blossom.
Lesser Celandine has a similar leaf shape to the common violet, but the yellow flowers look completely different.

Culinary Uses

There are several different culinary ways that you can enjoy violets. The leaves of wild violets can be used in salads and can also be cooked as greens or added to a soup. Some people even enjoy eating them raw. The flowers as I mentioned earlier, are slightly sweet and can be candied, made into jelly, or tossed in a salad.

A jar of violet jelly with a plate of English muffins to one side.

Some people enjoy infusing it with their honey or syrup. It’s also common to make a healthy herbal tea with dried violet leaves or sprinkle a smidge over your baked goods before you put them in the oven.

Foraged Violet Recipes and DIY’s to try:

Health Benefits

While everyone knows that oranges are one of the best sources of vitamin C, what you may not have known is that wild violets contain far more of the vitamin when compared by weight. Wild violets contain several other vitamins and minerals, all of which provide a number of different health benefits that you should be aware of.

  • Native Americans once used them to help treat headaches
  • Violets are known to improve the immune system and reduce inflammation (this includes fighting off colds, sore throats, sinus infections, and other respiratory ailments when drank as a tea or eaten)
  • They can be used to help with minor scrapes and bruises
  • Can even be used as a mild laxative
  • Helps your body get rid of harmful toxins quicker
  • There is evidence out there that violets can help treat insomnia

How to Harvest

Be sure to harvest your violets during the spring and early summer before they start to wilt. You will do this by pinching off the leaves and flowers carefully and leaving enough of the stems behind. By doing so, the violets will continue to flourish and you’ll be able to harvest from them again and again.

How to Store

Before storing, make sure that you allow your violet harvest to dry out, there are many ways to dehydrate violets without a dehydrator. One dry, place them in an airtight container or mason jar, and store them in a dark pantry cupboard. Storing dried violets properly can last you for about a year.

Violet blossoms can also be frozen for up to 3 months. Simply place the washed and dried blossoms in a freezer bag and freeze. Or you may choose to freeze them inside ice cubes!

One thing to keep in mind is that violets are free self-seeders and are known to spread quickly. They are capable of taking over a yard fairly quickly, so you’ll want to be careful if you plan on growing them. What surprised you the most about foraging for wild violets along with their health benefits?

Learn how to identify and forage wild violets, a common Spring wildflower along with the many uses and benefits of this tasty edible flower.