Recipe: Violet Foraging Makes Violet Syrup and Lemonade

Picking the violets is a sweet job!
Springtime means violets and lilacs. I love having an edible landscape. Violets are one flower that brings color to my recipes and with the right violet, they even bring a sweet, sweet scent.

In the Adirondack Park where I live, the purple native violets do not give off any scent. Also called blue violets (Viola sororia) these violet flowers and new spring leaves are edible and full of Vitamin C.

The flower of the common blue violet (Viola sororia) has five rounded petals and is unscented while the leaves are heart-shaped. These native plants can be tossed in a spring salad adding bright floral interest.

The more fragrant English wood violets (Viola ordorata) are what is most commonly used for perfumes and essential oils have naturalized in some places.

The purple violets in the Adirondacks are unscented
The small white violets have a sweet scent!

Though there is one native sweet violet (Viola blanda) in the Adirondacks that does produce that familiar violet scent. Since the Viola blanda has such a small flower, for the purpose of making native violet syrup we need 4x the quantity of the smaller petals.

In Rhode Island, the native plants are not so diligently tracked as in the Adirondacks, and each spring I would collect the English wood violets (Viola ordorata) from our yard to make Violet Lemonade. Seafaring captains would bring back many different plant specimens as gifts to their wives waiting back on shore. Since that time wood violets, originally from Europe and Asia, have naturalized in zones 4a-7a.
Cover the violets in water and bring to a boil
Violet Syrup

Flower heads from sweet violets  (clean off stems)
Strain the mixture and measure the amount of liquid
Add the same amount of sugar as liquid

Materials: pan, measuring cup, strainer, 

Measure the amount of violets picked
Empty violets into a saucepan and cover with water (I've found the ratio to be about 1 part violet to 4 parts water)
Bring the mixture to a low boil and cover
Turn off burner and let steep for about 20 minutes
Strain the mixture into a glass measuring cup
Discard (compost) the flower heads
Place the mixture back into the pan and bring to a boil
Add the same amount of sugar as the flower water already in the pan
Boil until the sugar is dissolved
Let mixture cool, place in a glass jar and refrigerate. 

*Violet syrup can be refrigerated for up to one month! 

Violet syrup before adding lemon
Violet syrup after adding lemon
Cool Science:
When you add an acid like lemon juice or rhubarb concentrate to the violet syrup, the color will change from a pale green to a light pink (white violets) or a a deep aqua to magenta (purple violets).

Why? The color pigments called anthocyanins, react to the lowered pH from the acid in the juice/concentrate, causing the color change.

*Commercial violet syrups may not have the same cool color change because of dyes and synthetic materials.  

Violet Lemonade! 

Violet Lemonade
Ingredients: Yield 2 servings
juice from one lemon
violet syrup

Equally distribute the lemon juice into two glasses
Add water and violet syrup to taste
Add ice
garnish with violets

© Diane Chase is the author of the Adirondack Family Activities™ guidebook series, Adirondack Family Time™guidebooks have easy Adirondack family hikes, Adirondack swimming holes, Lake Placid Olympic activities, Adirondack trivia, Adirondack horseback rides, Adirondack snowshoe family trails and more. Look for the Adirondack family guidebook online or bookstores/museums/sporting good stores. Diane is currently working on the next Adirondack Family Activities™ guide.


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