Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Violet Ideology

“You can't be suspicious of a tree, or accuse a bird or a squirrel of subversion or challenge the ideology of a violet.”
~ Hal Borland

The violets have been blooming the last couple of weeks and I've taken the opportunity to play with this pretty plant. (I'm not quite sure what kind of violet is growing around here. I'm fairly certain it is the common blue violet and not the sweet violet but I'll have to go and look more closely at the plant for distinguishing markers.)

I'm drying leaves to make a tea.

And here are some pictures of my first time making syrup with the flowers. Most of the recipes I found called for white sugar and lemon juice. Since I have neither, I used honey as this recipe calls for (using the flowers, but not the leaves for this syrup).

Freshly picked violet flowers.

Steeped overnight.

Simmer down!

Violet syrup! (Notice the colour change.)

After reading this forum I topped the syrup off with a little alcohol to prevent it from fermenting.

I also made violet vinegar using this recipe, and adjusted for the amounts I had on hand.

I just love how gorgeous this colour is! The taste is so delicate and very pleasant.

If you have violets blooming, why not try one of these recipes out, throw some flowers in your next salad or use the leaves for tea. Here are some more violet recipes. Enjoy!


Anonymous said...

More on the ins and out of "wild" harvest:

"Locavores, beware

Conscientious foodies have put a premium on foraged goodies such as fiddleheads and wild leeks - but popularity can come at a cost, Sarah Elton reports"



Amber said...

Thanks for the link to this article EJ.

I was talking to a fellow wild edibles enthusiast a couple of weeks ago and he explained how he has seen some wild leek foragers at work. Basically people back their pick up trucks right into the forest and dig huge holes out of the ground to get the leeks. He said it looks like a moonscape after they are done.

I was horrified to hear that. I bought some wild leeks at the farmer's market once, but after hearing that story, I certainly won't be doing it again.

The season is over in my area, but you can bet that next year I will discourage people from buying wild leeks. Same for fiddleheads...

Our teacher Martha only harvests the stem and leaves of the wild leeks that grow on her property and leaves the bulb intact in the ground.

I think the article you refer to makes a good point about realising that wild spaces can provide good food giving them ecological importance and by extension an awareness that they need to be protected, however without some kind of intimate connection and/or direct hands on experience, wild food becomes just another trendy, gourmet product lining the grocery store shelves, disconnected from it's fragile environment.

In some ways I think encouraging knowledgeable, responsible and ethical foraging can help keep wild harvests sustainable.

It wasn't until I took the wild edibles course and went to the forest, that I saw the environment and understood how fragile and interconnected an ecosystem it is. It wasn't until I had the actual experience of foraging that I learned about where, how and how much of a harvest to take. I learned which plants are rare and which are abundant. I learned that it is better to focus on those plants that are considered weeds.

Being out in the forests and even urban green spaces has made me fiercely protective of them in way that I would not have been without some real foraging experience and education.

I can't stress enough how important it is to take the time to learn and understand how to forage and wildcraft ethically.

Thankfully violets are abundant (many people consider them weeds and fight constant battles with them in their garden) and they propagate easily by various methods. Some violets multiply by sending rhizomes underground, or runners above ground. Violets have two kinds of flowers: the beautiful, showy flowers that we see and the cleistogamous flowers. Both flowers produce seeds but the cleistogamous flowers, which are not obvious, are self-pollinating.

"After the larger flowers have withered, you'll see a patch of smaller violet flowers at the base of the plant. Fortunately, the violet knows how to make its seed germinate, grow and bloom. After the normal "showy" violet blossoms are gone, if you look closely you will see the tiny closed flowers that self-pollinate to produce violet seeds, the cleistogamous flowers. These flowers, which never open serve only as an incubator for extremely fertile and abundant seeds and give the violet another rare characteristic, bisexuality."

I have also read that the more 'showy' flowers you pick, the more will bloom, so go ahead and eat your violets!