The voluptuous violet of spring is such a welcome sight not just in the forest but it is popping up everywhere! For example in mythology, one of the earliest tales of the Greeks told how Ajax slew himself over a cowardly act and where he died leaving drops of blood, violets are said to have grown. Napoleon Bonaparte was said to have used the violet as a symbol of his love for his wife Josephine. When he was in exile on the island of Elba he told his supporters that he would return with the violets of spring. This became a secret code for those loyal to “Corporal Violet.” If you supported Napoleon you loved violets. Of course, the Bard himself, Shakespeare, used flower allusions in many of his plays. One of the most memorable was his character Ophelia in his play “Hamlet.” To the fair Ophelia, violets were a sign constancy or devotion. They are probably most symbolic of the awakening year, the earth’s renewal, hope and simple joys and sorrows of love. Violets have provided great song inspirations and many famous people have been named Violet. As if that is not enough to love about violets, they are a fabulous medicine and a wonderful food.
The late herbalist Rose Barlow, was a fabulous wild foods cook. Her spring salad is one of my favorite recipes. They are a wonderfully cooling salad green and are easy to add to just about any spring salad. The flowers can be candied and used as decorations for your favorite desserts or sprinkle the fresh petals just before serving. They are so beautiful! The green leaves make a fresh and delicious tea. Another favorite preparation is violet flower vinegar. This is great for little ones. Simply have them pick the beautiful blooms and place in a jar almost to the top. Cover with white vinegar and watch as they magically turn the white vinegar to fusia! It makes a wonderful gift as well as a nutritious addition to vinegar and oil dressing.
Don’t be mistaken by the beauty of violets. They can be strong medicine. They are alternative, demulcent, anti-inflammatory and wonderful for the lymphatic system. They also make a great heart tonic as it strengthens the vascular system. With leaf shape similar to the heart, its doctrine of signatures hints at this strong heart ally. Violet can also be used a lymphatic to keep things moving. It works equally well for dry coughs that need some soothing. Herbalist, Rosalee de la Foret offers a wonderful summary of the many uses of violet.
The best quality of violet is its gentle nature. The color itself is so calming and soothing. It combines well with rose or lavender to make a hydrosol face mist. It cools the hottest of fires in the liver and takes the edge off even the most stubborn souls. With the chaos of spring, this little bloom is the antidote we all can use, the voluptuous violet.