With introductions out of the way from the first post in our foraging series, covering chickweed, let’s just dive right in. Today’s plant is the very common and very easy-to-identify violet. It’s mild-tasting and swiftly discoverable in many backyards, lots, and disturbed areas.
Violet leaves (allegedly) look similar to inedible or poisonous plants, so it’s safest to only harvest when you see the distinctive flowers. Violets grow close to the ground and have a five-petaled, irregular flower. The flowers on the most common and highly edible type of are purple, but some varieties are whitish-blue, yellow, or other colors. Some claim that yellow violets cause them gastrointestinal trouble, while others have no issue with them.
Thankfully, you’re most likely to find the purple-flowered ones. Different varieties have slightly different flavors.
When & What to Harvest
Harvest the leaves and flowers during spring and summer. I eat the leaves whenever I see them, but to be safest, wait until you see the irregular little flowers to ensure a positive identification. Young, new leaves are always best, but I routinely enjoy older leaves as well.
Where to Find Violets
Trailsides, yards, disturbed lots, grassy slopes, sidewalk cracks…like many edible wild plants, these determined little things spring up all over the place. In fact, our images and video show it growing amongst chickweed and many other choice edible plants.
Violet leaves are said to look similar to a number of other plants, some of them poisonous. It’s my opninion that in foraging plants, basically all poisonous “lookalikes” are extremely easily avoided if you know your intended plant intimately enough.
I put violet leaves on sandwiches most frequently, but they’re also great for soups, salads, stews, and more. I toss the flowers into yogurt. The flowers can also be candied or turned into jam, jelly, or wine.
Violets are said to have medicinal qualities. I’m yet to use them for medicinal purposes myself.