After receiving a notification that a package had been delivered, I decided that since it was a sunny day I would walk the quarter-mile to the end of our driveway in order to retrieve it. I was very happy I’d done so, as to my great surprise I found wild violets already blooming! The unusually sunny weather we’ve been experiencing for the last few days where I’m at has caused a “false spring” of sorts. Knowing that the forecast advises we might even get snow next week, I decided to retrieve my herb snips and then harvest some of the flowers and leaves while I have the chance. My first thought is always an excited “Candied violets!!!” but the leaves have many medicinal qualities as well.
The wild violets that we have here in Southwest Washington are Hookedspur Violets (viola adunca). Yet all violet species are edible and most have similar health benefits. The flowers and leaves can be eaten or made into tisanes or tinctures. Please note that you might want to avoid the rhizomes, fruits, and seeds as they are reported to be poisonous and can cause severe stomach and intestinal issues, and possibly nervousness and respiratory and circulatory depression. (source)
The most notable benefit of violet leaves is that they are an absolute powerhouse of vitamins A and C. Some report that they are beneficial for detoxing and the immune system, with some research even being done into their effectiveness as a cancer treatment. For the Hookedspur Violet in particular, it seems that the Blackfoot and Bella Coola tribes used them for a number of treatments, including stomach troubles and asthma in children and to help with pain during childbirth. Poultices were used on sore joints, eyes, or the chest. (source 1, source 2)
I made a tisane of the fresh leaves and found the flavor to be earthy and very pleasant though not at all sweet. I’m also drying some flowers and leaves to use in later tisanes.
Oh, and I am still making candied violets. I simply can’t resist the delicate little treats, and knowing that there are health benefits is definitely a bonus!
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