You don’t have to make much of a choice when foraging for sweet violets and their look-alikes, at least in our neck of the woods. They’re all pretty easy to identify and better yet, most of them are edible.
Today, I’m making a salad with spring greens, something I love to do. I made this salad from picking plants in my backyard, mostly violet greens and flowers. I plan to mix in some red lettuce and top it with oil, vinegar, blueberries, and some goat cheese.
Violets are pretty easy to identify with their heart-shaped leaves and shades of purple flowers. When you find them, they tend to be plentiful. As always be sure of your identification before eating and of course, ensure they haven’t been sprayed with any weed killer or other chemicals.
An Herbalist’s Guide to Growing and Using Violets by Kathleen Brown cautions that the roots are high in medicinal compounds that induce diarrhea and vomiting. That might be useful for certain ailments, but I’m just trying to make a salad. So, I think I’ll stick with eating the young leaves and flowers.
Aside from multiple medicinal uses, violets are high in beta carotene and vitamin C and have rutin which strengthens capillaries.
Another edible in my backyard that has a leaf similar to the violet is the garlic mustard.
If you harvest and eat the garlic mustard your local conservation district will thank you. It’s considered an invasive species and can be so prolific that it chokes out the native wildflowers and native plants.
Garlic mustard is a biennial, meaning it flowers its second year. In the first year garlic mustard has leaves similar to violet, but in the second year during its flowering stage, it looks nothing like a violet. Like many plants, the more you familiarize yourself with the garlic mustard, it becomes really easy to identify.
In another post I’ll talk more about garlic mustard, and give a few recipes. For now I need to finish preparing my violet salad. We would love to hear what you think about violets.