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Because of the longer, cooler temperatures this spring, the violets have stuck around and have proliferated in lawns all over town.  For awhile now, I have been interested in foraging and eating things from the wild.  Last season, I was most proud of my plum jelly, made with wild plums I found while hiking on Merry Christmas Mine Hill. (Yes, that is really what the hiking area is called.)  My yearning to learn increased even more right after experiencing “New Gatherer” cuisine at Iliana Regan’s Elizabeth restaurant in Chicago. (Keith will post about it soon.)  I had never considered eating violets before.  All I knew was that they made a sound as satisfying as freshly cooked pasta being stirred in a pan when I went over them with our push mower!

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There are about 500 violet species.  The most common one here is the viola odorata which can be purple or white.  Ancient Greeks (about 500 B.C.) cultivated violets for wine, various remedies, garlands to decorate hair, and more.  Violet-mania in France is attributed to Joséphine de Beauharnais, who married Napoleon I.  It was Napoleon’s favorite flower.  Joséphine wore violets on her wedding day and also had a bouquet.  Napoleon appointed a gardener to focus entirely on cultivating these flowers so that he could give his wife violets every day of the year.

candiedviolets

RECIPE

Sugared Violets

Ingredients

  • 1 egg white
  • 1/2 c. castor sugar (or granulated sugar ground in a mortar and pestel until almost powdery fine)

Pick the flowers, leaving a bit of the stem in.  Wash the flowers.  Let it dry.  Whisk the egg white in a bowl until frothy.  With a paint brush or with one hand, dip one flower in the egg froth.  Open up the petals  then place it face down in a plate of the fine sugar.  With the dry hand, use a small spoon to coat the back side of the flower.  Place flower on a rack to dry.  You can snip off the stem later. Repeat until you can’t stand it anymore. 🙂  I left it sitting on our breakfast table to dry for 3 days.  After 3 days, the flowers should feel sturdy and crisp.  It can be used right away to decorate cakes or cocktails.  Store in a glass jar and freeze to use later.  It should be good for at least 2 months.

I also dried some leaves and flowers to use for tea.  While they are still around, I might freeze them in ice cube trays for cocktails later.  Maybe I’ll make a fresh spring roll with violets or even some jelly.  When we were in France last year, I did pick up a bottle of violet essence.  I might use it to make marshmallows to celebrate violet season.  Happy Spring!

Dried Violets for Tea

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