When the violets are out and blooming, make sure to gather some for your kitchen. These edible flowers can be used in many ways. You can sprinkle them in salads to add a splash of color, you can freeze them in ice cubes to put in fancy drinks, you can crystallize them (although I have never done that), and you can make violet syrup.
I looked at various recipes for violet syrup and they were all various combinations of violets, water and sugar. I decided to wing it a bit and the results came out well.
First, gather as many violets as you can. It seems as though the flowers will be their sweetest before they are in full sun. So early day or early evening works best. You can use your hand like a rake to catch the flowers between your fingers. This makes it quicker. Recruiting small children works well. My daughter loved picking flowers with me.
Rinse off the flowers and pluck off the stems. I wasn’t clear whether I needed to remove the green bit on the end of the flower as well. The first batch (photo below) I went crazy OCD and removed them. My second batch, I didn’t. I couldn’t tell any difference, so save yourself a lot of work and leave the green ends on.
My recipe based on how many flowers I gathered..
- 1/2 quart of violet flowers in a heat-proof jar with lid
- Add 1 1/2 cups boiling water. Let this sit 24 hours.
- Strain the violets out of the water and press as much liquid as you can from them.
- Combine 3 cups of sugar to the liquid and heat in a pan until the sugar dissolves.
- Stand back and look at the gorgeous liquid and start planning how you are going to use it.
We tried it in cocktails, but I thought the subtle violet flavor was lost and only tasted the sugar. We have made soda by adding some seltzer. It is like the European fruit syrups used to flavor fizzy water. And we have poured it over waffles. It’s really lovely.
Interestingly enough, violets were used as a kind of litmus paper. If you add an acid like lemon juice, the liquid will change to a magenta color. I believe it turns green with a base, although I’ve not tried that.