Violet Unicorn Jelly

The best way to pick wild violets is sitting in the grass with a granddaughter on a sunny Sunday morning.

The best reason to pick wild violets is to make violet jelly.

And the best thing to do with violet jelly is to have a fairy tea party with lady finger sandwiches.

So far, I have pulled off the first two. But if I wait too long to post this, you will run out of time to pick your own wild violets.

On a recent Sunday morning, a friend posted pictures of her violet jelly, and I said to my granddaughter Emily, who had spent the night, “Let’s do this!” While her cousins frolicked around like woodland nymphs, Emily and I sat in the sunny yard picking violets.

And we talked. About this and that and nothing whatsoever.

Picking violets was easy. Violets were all around us, so we didn’t even have to move around much.

But we needed two cups of flowers. No stems. And violet flowers are pretty tiny. It takes a lot of flowers to fill a little two cup container. And then they start to pack down, so it seems like the container is never going to fill up. Eventually Emily got tired of picking, but fortunately did not get tired of sitting with me on the grass. After a while, we had two cups of violet blossoms.

The next step toward making jelly was to make a tea with the violets. I packed the flowers into a quart mason jar and filled the jar with boiling water. As the flowers steeped, the water turned a lovely blue.

Emily went home and the violets continued to steep in the fridge. It was Wednesday before I had time to continue with the jelly. By then the tea was a stunning purple.

I strained the tea.

Into a pot on the stove, I put the tea, the juice of one lemon, and a packet of powdered Sure-Jell. I let it boil a couple of minutes and then added four cups of sugar. After it all boiled again for a couple of minutes , I skimmed and stirred the jelly for about five more minutes. Then I poured the jelly into jars and water processed them for a good jar seal.

Easy peasy.

So I had this very beautiful pinky-purply-colored jelly, perfectly jelled, and no idea if it even tasted good!

Ah, but it does.

It tastes a little like flowers. It is a little lemony. It is hard to say exactly. Some say it tastes like spring. Personally, I think it tastes like a unicorn’s lollipop. It definitely wants to be served on a light spongy lady finger to a granddaughter.

I bought some lady fingers, but they were not spongy. They were crispy, the kind you want for making a trifle or tiramisu. I need the spongy kind, so I am now on a hunt for soft spongy lady fingers.

Once I have lady fingers, we will have a fairy tea party with unicorn jelly sandwiches and fairy tea in pretty cups on the porch. The cousins can all join in.

Or frolick outside like woodland nymphs.

Wild Violets

Wild violets

We don’t have a lawn.  We have non-wooded areas that get mowed.  Occasionally those areas are supplemented with grass seed, and the grass learns to live in cooperation with all the other ground covers already occupying the yard.  Right now the yard is sprinkled with delicate little violets, as are my flower beds and the vegetable garden, where some substantial clumps of violets have established themselves.  There are so many violets, that last year I was digging them up and tossing them.  Some people consider them a weed.  I can see why.  However, after my success with violets in the kitchen, I am inclined to consider my violets a crop!

Wild violets are a culinary herb.  We can eat them.  You can’t eat the African violets, just the wild ones in your yard.  And don’t even think of eating the wild ones if you use chemicals on your lawn!  I knew the flowers could be crystalized and used on cakes, but did not realize that the leaves were good too.  They are mild in flavor and a good source of iron. 

This week, because my spring break coincides with violet season in the yard, I went searching for uses for the wild violet.  And then I recruited my resident five year old sort-of labor source to assist me in harvesting flowers and leaves.  He’s pretty good with scissors and did a nice job–while he lasted–of snipping the tiny flowers.  

A helpful harvester of wild violet blossoms

Our task was to harvest flowers and leaves for three recipes:

Wild violet ice cubes

Violet mint spring salad

Creamy violet dressing

We had success with both the harvest and the food prep.

When the weather gets hot, I plan to plop my lovely wild violet ice cubes into homemade lemonade.  If I serve this to the right person, they will say, “You are so clever.  I hate you.”  I will smile and say, “Thank you” because that kind of hatred is a compliment.

The Wild violet ice cubes are pretty easy.  Fill ice cube trays halfway with water.  Place a violet flower in each cube.  Freeze.  Then top off the ice cube trays with more water.  You want to do this as a two-step process because the flowers want to float on top, but you want them in the middle!

Violet-mint spring salad

This salad was inspired by a salad I found at  I did not have exactly the ingredients listed and I made several changes, so this is now my salad. 

2 cups of violet leaves, cut into thin ribbons

1 cup of mint, chopped

2 cups of baby spinach leaves

1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted

1 cup of strawberries, sliced

violet flowers (as many as you care to snip!)

Toss together all but the flowers.  Sprinkle the flowers on top.  Serve with the dressing…

Creamy violet dressing

This, too, I found at prodigalgardens, and again I made some changes to fit what was on hand.

2 cups of violet greens

1 tablespoon champagne vinegar

1 tablespoon honey (Maywood honey, of course!)

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup plain yogurt

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

dash of salt and pepper

Blend all ingredients except the yogurt in a food processor until greens are thoroughly chopped.  Then gently process in the yogurt.

This is really a tasty dressing!   I plan to serve it on Easter, if I can dodge the raindrops to find enough leaves.