Sunday, April 14, 2013

Harbingers of Spring and Violet Syrup

La Violette de Mars, otherwise known as the Common Violet.
SPRING! Spring spring spring! Have I mentioned how excited I am about SPRING? Yes? Well then, I'll only mention it once more... SPRING!!!

The world is only just turning green here, a full month later than last year. One of the plants I am watching for are the sweet little violets that blanket my backyard every spring. Last year they were even more robust than usual. As is my tendency when I find a resource in abundance, I soon began wondering how I could take advantage of nature's bounty. The first thing to pop up, and the only thing I had an opportunity to try, was violet syrup. Not only is this unique floral syrup a treat for your tea or pancakes, but it can also be helpful for coughs and other medicinal needs. As a matter of fact, the leaves are also medicinally useful, but that's a post for another day. For now, check out this post on Common Sense Homesteading for a good rundown. One of my latest passions is herbal medicine, so you will certainly be seeing more about it in the coming months.

The violet syrup was easy enough to make. I followed the recipe on Life's a Lasagna, with some minor alterations. First, I had to gather about 4 cups of blossoms. Yes, this takes forever, but on a beautiful spring day I'll jump at the chance to sit in the sunshine for an hour. I packed all the blossoms in a quart canning jar, poured 2 cups of boiling water over top, then let it sit to steep overnight. What happens next is... downright magical. The color from the petals quickly seeps out, and the water will turn the most unbelievably gorgeous blue that I have ever seen. I wish I had gotten a picture, but I was feeling sick that day and forgot.

In fact, I ended up coming down with a 104*F fever that lasted a full five days. Instead of steeping overnight, my blossoms steeped for a week. Thankfully, I'd had the forethought to stick the jar in the fridge after the first day. After such a long steep, the brilliant blue had changed to a deep, DEEP amethyst. So beautiful!

Now, this next step is where I differed from Ms. Lasagna's recipe. You see, the brilliant color of the violets is very sensitive to heat and changes in ph. Both the heating of the liquid and the lemon juice called for in many recipes turns the brilliant blue (or purple, in my case) to a vibrant fuchisa pink. While beautiful in it's own right, I much preferred the color I started with. So, this is what I decided to do. First, I ditched the lemon juice. It's only there to add a touch of flavor and acidify it for canning (which I didn't do, I froze it), and it's the acidity more than anything that changes the color.

Look at that color!
Next, I decided to heat my syrup double-boiler style. I set my 4 cup glass measuring cup in a pan of water, poured the strained violet water into the measuring cup, and added 2 cups of white sugar (any other sugar would probably overpower the delicate violet flavor, but any sugar will work). I initially used the double boiler so it would be easier to pour the syrup into bottles, but a fortunate side effect was that I was able to gently heat the syrup just until all the sugar dissolved. Much to my delight, this process preserved every bit of the amethyst color!

It actually looks more like the above picture, but I love the color in this shot!

 I then decanted my springtime treasure into bottles and stuck most in the freezer. Sadly, I think I still have two down there. I really didn't use the syrup much, but then I really didn't know HOW to use it.That's not the case anymore, as I have expanded my knowledge of edible and medicinal plants. I'm contemplating trying to make violet candy this year, or possibly violet jelly. Either way, the coming onslaught of nature's jewels will only increase my excitement for spring!


  1. What a glorious color! I just came by to return the blog visit and am happy to find such a great post. We have violets galore. Actually I've been thinking about trying to make some horehound cough syrup this year. Maybe I could color it with violets, LOL>

    1. Thank you for the visit! My backyard is more purple than green right now, I need to get to pickin'! I bet violet would be a great addition to cough syrup! Sadly, the amazing color is extremely delicate. Depending on your syrup-making process it may fade. You might be able to pull a bright pink out of it by adding something acidic. Definitely worth experimenting! Let me know if you try it!