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Wild Violet Simple Syrup- fresh from your lawn

Updated: Jan 6

This one is for the whole family... an activity to keep the kids busy, resulting in beautiful beverages for all!


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When life gives you violets, make violet-infused lemonade, right?


This idea came to me the first spring we spent in our new house, when the lawn emerged from dormancy that April with thousands of purple, white, and speckled violets. I looked at the lawn and looked at my rambunctious kids and decided to try an experiment that lazy Saturday.


What are wild violets?



lawn with purple and white violets
Lawn full of violets

Wild violet (Viola sororia) is also known as common blue violet or wooly blue violet. It is a North American native wildflower, growing only 6-9 inches tall and producing purple, white, or white with purple speckled flowers in early spring. While spring is its primary bloom time, wild violets may continue to bloom through summer and into early fall. They spread by both underground rhizomes and seeds.


The flowers and leaves of the violet are both edible and can be eaten raw. Not only are they edible, but they also have a pleasant flavor. Violet flowers are described "sweet and floral", while the greens are similar to lettuce or sweet pea.[1]


This wildflower is adaptable to a wide range of conditions including full sun to shade and tolerant of clay soils, deer pressure, and juglone (a chemical produced by black walnuts). [2] However, don't let the term "wildflower" fool you- this tiny beauty is also a thug, most often competing with the beloved American lawn.


Although most people consider wild violet a weed, it is actually a beneficial plant. Wild violet provides an early source of nectar to pollinators in spring and it is a host plant to the larval stage of a variety of fritillary butterflies, including Edward's fritillary, silver-bordered fritillary, great spangled fritillary, coronis fritillary, Mormon fritillary, and variegated fritillary. [3]


Friend or Foe?


While wild violet is most commonly considered a pest to the lawn enthusiast, I really feel in this case that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. True, it is incredibly difficult to remove, even with pesticides. And true, its broad leaf interrupts the monotony of vertical blades of grass in a lawn setting. And still true, its colorful blooms contrast the solid green of a high-input lawn. But maybe those "issues" just don't bother you.


Personally, I think violets in the lawn are incredibly beautiful. In a well-maintained landscape, color in the lawn doesn't bother me one bit and I actually think it's a desirable addition, breaking up the monotony of green with cheerful accents. Plus knowing that these tiny thugs support a whole host of pollinators, makes them even more attractive in my eyes.


Cheerful speckled violets accent the lawn in April
Cheerful speckled violets accent the lawn in April

I know I'm discussing the issues of violets in the lawn, but what about issues with violets in the garden? There, I don't even a bat an eye. I love the purple, white, and speckled flowers and I think both the flower and foliage play well with the plants I commonly use in my designs. As with any mature garden, I do edit specific plants if they interfere with the overall appearance.


Now back to our activity...


First things first, please make sure your yard is free of pesticides before harvesting violets. If you know you've treated your lawn with pesticides, understand that some broadleaf herbicides only persist in the soil for 30 days and others persist in the soil for as long as 4 years. [4]


white violet with purple specks
Speckled Violet

If you are unsure, typically the condition of the lawn will indicate whether the lawn has been treated recently or not. If you're in the process of going organic, maybe just bookmark this activity for another time.


However, if you know your lawn is au naturel, then it's time to set the kids free to pick all of the violet flowers they can! Whether the violet is purple, white, or speckled, the flavor of the violet will still infuse the simple syrup, so no need to discriminate. The more purple flowers you have though, will give your syrup a deeper color.


Making the Simple Syrup


Harvest

To make about 8 ounces of Wild Violet Simple Syrup, you'll need about two cups of violet flowers. This will take 1-2 kids about an hour, maybe longer if they're easily distracted.

collection of violets in a bowl
This collection took about two hours with the little ones' "help"

Clean

Remove the green parts from your violets. A simple pinch to the back of the flower will remove most of the green in one step. Then set your petals aside. You don't need to go crazy with removing the green since all of the plant is edible, but the sweet, floral flavor we want comes from the petals, so the more "pure" your batch is, the better it will taste.

de-stemmed violets
Remove stems from violets

Steep

Bring 1 cup of filtered water to a boil. Remove from heat. Pour the still-hot but not boiling water over your flower petals. Let them steep for 24 hours.

violet petal broth
Steep the petals for 24 hours

After 24 hours, strain and gently press the violet petals to squeeze out extra water and flavor. Reserve the violet water and discard the flower petals.


Add Sugar

You should have about 1 cup of violet water. If you're a little shy of a cup, add a small amount of water to bring it back up to 1 cup.

Over medium heat, reheat the violet water without bringing to a boil. Add 1 cup of white, granulated sugar and slowly dissolve into the violet water, stirring regularly.

Let cool and pour into a clean glass bottle. I got these great bottles back when I was making kombucha regularly and we now use them for regular and violet simple syrups as well as homemade iced teas.


Add Acid (or not)

Your simple syrup will now be a deep blue color. To convert it to the bright purple color you were probably expecting, add a few drops of lemon juice and watch it change before your eyes! (Make sure your kids are here for this part!)

color change in bottle of wild violet syrup once lemon is added

The only reason to add the acid is to create the dramatic color we expect from Wild Violet Simple Syrup. However, if you plan on using it for citrus infused drinks, you can keep your simple syrup dark blue and it will change to purple when you mix your drinks.


Store your Wild Violet Simple Syrup in the refrigerator. Whether you add the acid or not, this simple syrup keeps for about 3 weeks. If you notice anything funky happening before then, discard.


Recipe: Wild Violet Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup of filtered water, plus more if needed

  • 1 cup of de-stemmed violet petals

  • 1 cup of white granulated sugar

  • .5 ounce lemon juice (optional)

Bowl of purple flower petals
Cleaned violet petals

Bring water to a boil. Remove from heat. In a heat-safe bowl, pour hot water over flower petals. Cover and let sit for 24 hours.


Strain liquid into a measuring cup and gently press petals to remove excess water. Discard petals. Add enough extra water to measure 1 cup total of violet water. Pour violet water into a small saucepan and put over medium heat.


Add white sugar to violet water and stir to dissolve. Do not bring mixture to a boil. Once dissolved, remove from heat and let cool. Pour cooled Wild Violet Simple Syrup into a glass bottle or jar with a lid. Optional: add a few drops of lemon juice to change the syrup from dark blue to purple.


Store in refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.


Enjoy a purple beverage!


Recipe: Sparkling Purple Lemonade

  • 2 ounces homemade violet-infused simple syrup

  • 2 ounces fresh squeezed lemon juice

  • 8 ounces club soda

Shake simple syrup and lemon juice with ice. Strain over ice into a fancy glass. Top with 8 ounces of club soda. Garnish with a lemon wheel. Enjoy!

Girl with purple lemonade
Enjoying a Purple Lemonade on a cool April day

Recipe: Violet-infused Tom Collins

  • 2 ounces Gin (Bluecoat preferred)

  • 1 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice

  • 1/2 ounce homemade violet-infused simple syrup

  • club soda to top

Shake gin, lemon juice, and violet simple syrup with ice. Strain into a Collins glass. Top with club soda. Garnish with a lemon wheel. Enjoy!


violets under a tree

And there you have it... turning what is normally considered a weed into a fun activity and delightful beverage. Cheers!



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