Wild And Crazy Violets

So the legend goes that violets were created after Zeus, who is perhaps the most philandering husband ever to grace the tabloidic pages of history and myth, made love to a beautiful maiden and then changed her into a heifer who ate only violets in order to protect her from his angry wife. Apparently, they did not have multi-million dollar payoffs for mistresses back then.

*side note: Ok, just for the edification of all you men out there with supernatural powers and sex addictions… seriously, changing a woman into a heifer for any reason is not helpful to your future romantic prospects.   *

The legend goes on to say that because of this story, violets have been long associated with love and affection. Seems to me that they should be associated with back handed insults and grounds for increased alimony payments, but that is apparently just me.

Wild violets, aka sweet violets, are a love them or hate them with a passion plant.   For every person out there looking for information on how to kill violets, there is another wanting to know how to grow violets in their own yard or garden.

I have personally found violets very easy to grow. In fact, so easy that I did not have to purchase or plant them. I have 2 varieties growing in my yard, the common “blue” (which is actually purple) kind and the “freckles” variety (which is the ones pictured above). Both came courtesy of my neighbor. Not that she gave them to me, but she planted them in her yard and violets have a emigration rate that rivals Ireland’s during the Potato Famine, so I now have violets too (as do the houses 3 doors down each way). Not that I mind. I rather like them.

Wild violets are edible. In fact, a whole cottage industry has sprung up around sugaring violets for putting on wedding cakes and other food stuffs. By the way, candied violets are easy to make. Simply paint chemical free violet flowers with egg wash and sprinkle with super fine sugar. Voila (or is that viola?) you have sugared violets.

The usefulness of violets does not end there. For centuries, violets have been used in perfumes and medicines. Long ago, you didn’t take cough syrup for a persistent throat tickle, but violet syrup instead.  Of course, like many remedies of the time, its supposed curative powers did not end there. It (and snake oil) was thought to cure… well… everything.  And violet water (perfume) was a proper lady’s best friend in a world before deodorant was invented.

In France, violets were very popular in perfumes, decorations and in the garden, but for subversive reasons. After Napoleon was banished from France, the violet became a rallying image for his supporters. The rebel code name for Napoleon was “Caporal Violet” because he was the little flower that would return in the spring. Apparently, they had no problem pointing out he was short too. Regardless, the French government was so fearful of the Napoleon supporter flower power movement they actually banned images of violets.

When you consider that for centuries, these so called innocent flowers have been associated with home wreckers, quackery and acts of sedition, calling these little flowers “shy” violets seems downright wrong. Perhaps they are not invasive after all. Maybe it is all part of their plot to take over the world.

11 thoughts on “Wild And Crazy Violets
  1. Wow, those “freckled” violets are cool – I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that before.

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  2. Hanna,

    Wow, what a timely post! I just bought a few varieties online, including your freckled one, today! I LOVE violets. My house’s garden came with one plant of the “regular” purple kind; I moved it into my shade garden — if I recall it was veering out into the yard. Then, least year, my aunt gave me another kind. My mom said it was yellow, but I don’t know… mine came up a lavender color (you can see it in my blog). I will happily acquire as many as I can. They’re just lovely.

    Amy

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  3. those “freckle” violets are BEAUTIFUL! i love violets and do not mind them in my yard…but i have also been known to move “weeds” into the main garden because i didn’t want to mow them over…have fun with the take-over.

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  4. Violets are a favorite around here (at least until its time to weed vegetable beds). They get my husband out of mowing for at least a month every Spring. 😉

    Right now I’m enjoying how they set off the lily-of-the-valley.

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  5. Simple, Inexpensive and very pleasing to they eye – I love violets. What a wonderful post. Thank you for this read and pictures :)

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  6. Amanda on

    If you want to sugar them, but are squeamish about the raw egg factor, you can use unflavored gelatin. I did this for my wedding last year. They kept for a long time in the fridge. So pretty!

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  7. Hahah, funny post! That’s a very interesting history to violets that I didn’t know about. I love them too – I had the blue wild variety growing in my backyard when I bought the house, and when I turned the weedy backyard into a garden I kept as many of the violets as I could. Now they’re happily blooming in the shade by the fence. They smell so good!

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  8. Denise from ARk on

    Not only are the flowers edible, but the leaves can be used exactly like spinach (and taste a lot the same.)

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  9. @Denise from ARk – Wow! I didn’t know that leaves of violets can be used as vegetable! Any recipe? I’ll love to know how to cook the leaves. While growing vegetables, I keep a small corner for them in my garden. They simply refresh me!

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    Denise from ARk Reply:

    @ Sarina: Cook them exactly like you’d cook spinach or other greens. They don’t have to be drained and recooked like poke salet. You can boil them (not my favorite) or best of all would be to cook some bacon, take out the strips and crumble them, then cook some chopped onion in the bacon grease. Add some garlic at the end- don’t let it get too brown. Throw in the leaves and crumbled bacon and toss to coat. If it isn’t wilted enough, turn off the fire and put the lid on for a couple of minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. YUM! Be sure that they are good and clean and have no dirt, fertilizer, or other residue on the leaves before adding them to the grease.

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