One of the first foragable edibles of the spring are violets. Violets pop up here in the midwest late March to early April. They last until it starts to get too warm, usually sometime in late May. There are hundreds of types of violets in the genus, but the “common blue violet” is the one you’re likely to find in your front yard or while strolling along any grassy area. They’re incredibly prolific, so you shouldn’t have any trouble at all finding them if you live in zones 3-9. Incidentally, the lovely African violets that are popular as houseplants are NOT the same, and definitely not edible. Please don’t eat them. You will get sick.
I’ve always been interested in foraging. I really hated Girl Scouts as a kid, but I remember the one Girl Scout experience I actually enjoyed was a foraging lesson. We picked dandelion leaves and wild onions and other common edibles and made a salad. I thought it was just the coolest thing, like the coolest. I still remember it like it was yesterday. The lockdown has brought out the naturalist in me yet again because I’ve been spending a lot of time outside riding my bike and going for jogs in the woods. I’ve probably picked violets four or five times this year already. I’m planning to make some violet jelly and violet simple syrup next (you can replace hibiscus with violets in my recipe for simple syrup.)
One of the easiest (and tastiest) things you can do with violets is candy them. In the Victorian era, they were considered quite a delicacy. They have also been very popular in France, and frequently featured in French pastry. There are so many great things you can do with them: a little jar of candied violets makes an extremely impressive, fancy gift for a friend or host. They make beautiful garnishes for cocktails and baked goods. It’s also a fun activity for kids, and likely something they can do to keep themselves entertained during lockdown right in your own backyard. You can send them out to do the picking. And the candying is so easy any kid old enough to hold a paint brush can help.
What you will need:
-A baking sheet
-Superfine baker’s sugar (caster sugar)
-Egg whites (you can used pasteurized powdered egg white if you don’t want to use raw)
-A pastry brush or paint brush (I prefer silicon pastry brushes!)
The first time I made these, I didn’t have superfine sugar, so I tried to use a mixture of powdered and granulated sugar. You can certainly do it this way, but they won’t come out looking as pretty. I had a bit of a hard time finding superfine sugar in stores. If your local grocery doesn’t have it (or if it’s not worth an extra trip), you can order it here from Amazon.
As you can see, my first batch didn’t look quite so pretty. The second time, I not only used superfine sugar, which gives a nice “glazed” look, I also used a little bit of vodka. The vodka dries the flowers faster, and I think helped preserve the shape of the flowers and kept them from wilting. I highly recommend using it. (You could probably use another type of alcohol but vodka won’t affect the flavor.)
Pick your violets! You want to find violets that are in good shape without browning edges or torn petals. I trust you’ll know a high quality violet when you see it. Preferably, find your violets in spaces where you know they aren’t sprayed or treated with pesticides.
Make sure you pick them with the stem still attached. The stem will help you during the candying process.
Beat 1 egg white until frothy. Mix in a few drops of vodka. Use a paint brush or pastry brush to coat the petals with the egg white on both sides.
You will want to work fast. Your violets will start to wilt quickly. You can slow it down in the refrigerator, but I recommend you do the candying within an hour of picking.
Sprinkle the flower with sugar evenly on both sides. Set it on the baking pan lined with parchment paper.
Let your flowers dry for 48 hours somewhere cool and dry. (I sat mine on top of my kitchen cabinets, but a pantry would be fine if you have one.)
Gently cut the stems off each violet. I suggest you use kitchen scissors, because the violets will be very delicate and trying to pull the stems off will likely damage your flowers.
Enjoy! Your violets will keep for a couple of months in an airtight container.
A lot of the recipes online claim the prep time is 10-15 minutes. LOL. They are liars! I’ll be real with you, the process is a little tedious and time consuming, especially if you’re doing a lot of flowers. I opted to do it while watching a movie, which made it much less boring than doing it while standing in the kitchen.
Being the lover of champagne cocktails I am, I also couldn’t resist using mine in a violet “mimosa.” I love this violet liqueur so much I might just have to try making my own.
Are you going to make some?? Let me know!!
Recommended for Your Violet Exploration
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