Who doesn’t love picking a small nosegay of violets first thing in the spring? Did you know that these small purple flowers are edible? They actually contain lots of vitamins and minerals, such as that coveted vitamin C we are all after right now. If you see some blooming around your yard (or in an area that has not been treated chemically), grab the kids and go on a foraging adventure! Gather enough violet blooms to make the simple syrup below, or, if you have an abundance, try out the recipe for violet jelly! This simple syrup recipe can be added to any fruit sorbet, or you can just put a tablespoon or two into a glass of club soda or lemonade for a nice spring refreshment that’s sure to brighten anyone’s day. Got leftover flowers? Candy them using this easy process. They make a beautiful, edible decoration for cakes and pastries!
Searching through the Foxfire Book of Appalachian Cookery, Stella Burrell’s recipe for violet jelly always stands out to me. There are violets popping up all over Foxfire, but, as someone who does not can, I rarely have pectin on hand. Instead, I adapted her recipe (with some help from Google) to make this quick and easy simple syrup that only calls for 4 ingredients: violets, water, sugar, and lemon juice. I discovered during this activity that the lemon juice is optional–it’s primary function is to change the pH level of the water which makes the syrup purple!
This activity is definitely kid-friendly, and I would encourage you to engage kids with the science side of this project!
You will need:
2 cups freshly picked violets
1 cup sugar
Lemon juice, from about 1/4-1/2 of a lemon
Water, as needed
Start by rinsing the violets in a strainer and removing the stems, leaves, or any other straggly bits from harvesting. Put violets in a saucepan with 2 cups of water. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes.
After the 10 minutes, take off the heat and let steep for about 20 minutes.
Strain liquid through a fine-mesh sieve, or through a coffee filter. Don’t be put off if your liquid is a green-gray color. This will change!
Measure out 2 cups of the liquid. Pour it back into the sauce pan and stir in the sugar. Bring to a simmer, cover, and let simmer for 10 minutes. Let it cool for 5-10 minutes, then slowly drop or squeeze enough lemon juice to get a nice purple color (too much lemon juice will make it red, so only add a bit at a time.)
Let your syrup cool completely, then mix into tea, lemonade, or club soda. You can also mix it into a sorbet if you have an ice cream machine, or use it to sweeten other treats!
If you do have pectin on hand and want more of a challenge, try out this recipe from The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Cookery (page 71):
You will need:
1 package Sure-Jell
2 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup lemon juice
3 cups sugar
1 cup violet booms, tightly packed
Mix together the Sure-Jell, water, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, add the sugar, and boil for 3 minutes. Stir in the violet blooms and remove from heat. Pour into hot sterilized jars and seal.