The humble violet (Viola odorata) has been used for centuries to make medicine and sweets, often both at the same time. The herb as long been used to treat fever, headache and inflammation. The analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects are due to an aspirin-like substance called methyl salicylate. The leaves and flowers, which are typically used together, also contain mucilage, tannins and various minerals, including calcium and magnesium. Note that the seeds and taproots of the plant contain a compound called emetine that causes vomiting if ingested, so leave those alone.
Violet is classified as an alterative, meaning it detoxifies the blood and supports the lymphatic system. Because the herb has expectorate qualities, it recommended to counter a dry cough. In Europe, violet has been used for centuries to make cough syrups and throat lozenges. Of course, one of the most popular ways to prepare the herb is to make a simple syrup from the flowers (and a few leaves, if you’re so inclined). Aside from sampling the syrup as-is, try adding it to iced tea, cocktails and other beverages. It’s also deliciously fun drizzled over pancakes, crepes, ice cream or fresh peaches and strawberries.
Call the kids in the room when you make this. In itself, making violet syrup offers an opportunity to teach a life skill and instill a sense of self-reliance and appreciation for gifts from the earth. But watch the oohs and aahs when you add the lemon juice! Without an acidic component, violet syrup doesn’t look like much, truthfully. But when introduced, the concoction instantly turns a gorgeous lavender color!
Traditional Violet Syrup
1 quart violet blossoms
3 cups boiling water
Juice of 1 organic lemon
4 cups organic cane sugar
Gather the flowers on a sunny morning; remove stems. Place the flowers in a large heat-proof bowl with a lid (or similar container) and pour the boiling water over them. Cover and let steep for 24 hours (no peeking!). Strain and compost the flowers, reserving the liquid in a saucepan. Add the lemon juice (magic!). Heat the liquid over medium-high heat until just boiling. Reduce heat and stir in the sugar until dissolved. Cool and pour into clean jars. Store in the refrigerator.