Wild violets abound in many places this time of year. Some see them as persistent weeds, while others see them as medicine, and still others simply enjoy their cheerful spring purples and greens after gray and brown winter.
This is the “common violet,” Viola sororia. It is native to the mid and eastern parts of North America
I didn’t come to know (or notice) violets until I was an adult, just a few years ago actually. But it’s never too late to make a new plant friend! Needless to say, I’ve been enamored with this hardy purple beauty ever since.
“Confederate violet” – an escaped cultivar of the common violet found in the southeastern United States
In keeping with our current slowed down getting quarantine crafty lives, for May I’ll be offering 2 activities again. I hope you enjoy this bonus creative nature connection fun in this bizarre time!
“White Violet,” Viola blanda – this variety has a similar range to the common violet. It likes the cooler forest areas.
We’re making violet syrup this week, but you can also try out some litmus inspired science with the syrup and/or simply use the purple water for art – so be sure to check out the Extensions at the end of the activity!
“Downy Yellow violet,” Viola pubescens. The jury debates on whether this one should be eaten or not, so it’s best to not eat the yellow violets. Why bother when the purples are so plentiful and 100% confirmed edible?
Wonder Wednesday 94:
- As many purple wild violet flowers (Viola sororia in North America, Viola odorata in Europe) as you can positively identify and ethically and safely collect. Only harvest from areas with an abundance of blooms and that you are sure haven’t been sprayed with chemicals. (See Seeds to Sprout below for info on harvesting and ID)
Disclaimer: I know you know this, but NEVER eat wild food or touch unfamiliar plants unless you can 100% properly identify it yourself or are with an expert guide.
- A couple glass or ceramic bowls or mason jars – quart size or more
- A strainer or colander
- Wooden or heat safe plastic spoon
- A pyrex or enamel saucepan, if possible. Stainless steel is okay if it’s all that is available. (That’s all I had myself and it worked fine.)
- A 1 cup measuring cup
- Filtered water – if you have known “hard” water, use distilled water to prevent a color change, or add
- Fair trade organic Sugar – I don’t like to use it, and normally never do I had to borrow it for this recipe, but white sugar works best here because it doesn’t alter the color – and this is all about the color.
You could try dehydrated cane juice, but it is still a little yellow and thinking about color theory and yellow and purple being opposites on the color wheel, we get browns when they mix. In a white sugar refusal I originally tried the recipe with coconut sugar, which is dark tan in color and it turned the syrup molasses brown.
Pick as many violets as possible from a clean (of chemicals, etc) area. Pick when dry if possible.
Watch for critter stowaways when picking the petals off.
Remove all the green calyxes and stems. Do this by pulling out the petals. Collect the petals in a bowl and compost (or discard) the green parts.
Place the petals into a measuring cup. Pack them down, but don’t smash or crush them.
When you get 1 cup, pour the petals into the glass mason jar or bowl. Glass or ceramic jars and bowls are best because depending on what type of metal you use it can have a litmus test type reaction with the violets and change the pretty purple color. (Check the Extensions for more on this.)
Repeat until there are no petals left, keeping track of how many cups of packed petals you have.
The ratio for petals to water is 1/3. So, if you have 1 cup of petals, use 1/3 cup of filtered water; for 3 cups of petals use 1 cup of filtered water; or 6 cups of petals, use 2 cups of water; and so on.
Bring the water to a boil.
Pour over the petals. Push all the petals down into the water.
Soak the petals in the water for 24 hours. Feel free to give them a little swirl or stir (with a plastic or wooden spoon) to see how the color is releasing along the way.
After 24 hours, pour the petal water through the strainer into the other jar.
Press all the purple water out of the petals.
Compost or discard the petals.
Hold the jar of purple liquid up to a bright light and be amazed at the color!
Stop here and just use the water (skip to the Extensions section for ideas), or keep going to make syrup.
To make the syrup, pour the violet water into the cooking pot.
Remember we’re trying to avoid reactions with metals here so enamel or pyrex is great, but if you don’t have access to those stainless steel works – it’s what I used as you can see, but other metals may turn the purple water green, so if you aren’t sure, put a a few drips of the violet water into the pan and see if it turns green to test.
Notice this picture is when I used the coconut sugar, not white sugar. See how the violet color is turning brown already? White sugar definitely works best.
Next, add the sugar and stir to dissolve.
Bring the sugar and water to a boil over med. high heat. ** Stir constantly to prevent burning. **
Notice I also used a metal spoon here. My second attempt I was at my mom’s house and used the preferred enamel pot and heat safe plastic spoon. So I’ve tried both and white sugar, enamel pot, and plastic spoon definitely retained the color 1000x better.
We are basically making a violet simple syrup.
When the sugar and violet water solution is reducing to the point where it starts to bubble quite a bit, but *don’t let it come to a full boil*, remove the pot from the heat. Let the syrup cool a bit.
If your clean (sterilized if possible) glass jars are heat safe, pour the violet simple syrup into the jar. If not, wait until it cools and then pour the syrup in.
The syrup is ready to use and can be stored in the fridge for 6 months.
That’s a color beauty that only Mother Nature offers!
My violet syrup was a special treat on a fancy Mother’s Day dessert I prepared for my grandmother, mom, and sister.
Uses for Violet Syrup:
Put the syrup over vanilla ice cream, pudding, or yogurt as a sweet purple treat.
Decorate vanilla iced baked goods like cakes and cupcakes with a violet syrup drizzle – be sure to add some flowers for garnish
Add to a vanillla ice cream recipe in your ice cream machine, or just pour chilled syrup in for purple sorbet. Don’t have an ice cream machine, use the syrup in a basic granita recipe.
Use the syrup in cocktails and mocktails
Drizzle over fruit salads or anywhere you want an added touch of sweet.
Violet extractions (the color) is pH sensitive, and in days past was used for its litmus properties. Play around in
Pour some purple violet syrup, or water, from the batch into a separate glass jar. Add some fresh lemon juice (acid) – watch it turn magenta!
Pour some purple violet syrup, or water, into mineral water (or alkaline water, any thing basic) and watch it turn green!
Use the violet water as a light watercolor paint for washes.
Add violet water to your regular drinking water to turn regular drinking water into a fun lavender colored treat.
What would you like to make, or have you made, with violet syrup?
Share in the comments below!
Share pictures of your violet syrup embellished treats & pH play on Instagram #wingswormsandwonder
Seeds to Sprout:
Have you check out the Wings, Worms, and Wonder IGTV featuring songs and stories yet? Story Time for the Young and Young at Heart is a growing library of me reading you and yours a sweet nature inspired story, offering a nature journal prompt based on the story’s theme and a simple little creative connection activity! Click to listen to a story and follow @wingswormsandwonder on Instagram
Disclaimer one more time: I know you know this, but NEVER eat wild food or touch unfamiliar plants unless you can 100% properly identify it yourself or are with an expert guide.