Foraging Wild Edible Plants: Violets

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.

Violets

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

foraging-wild-violets

Violet leaves & flowers, with edible Chickweed popping up in between them!

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.

Lookalikes

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.

Preparation Tips

foraging-violets-preparation

A springtime forager’s salad with violet leaves, white clover, wood sorrel, and garlic mustard, all harvested within 150 feet of my back door. Tossed in Thai-style peanut dressing.

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.

Medicinal Uses

Violets are said to have medicinal qualities. I’m yet to use them for medicinal purposes myself.

The requisite addendum and disclaimer, which will be included for each plant and mushroom in the series: I am not a trained expert, merely a passionate self-taught hobbyist. You could have allergies to any food you’ve never eaten before, so use caution and start with small amounts even when you believe you’ve made a positive identification. Never let eagerness for any plant or mushroom to be the right one to cause you to overlook differences. Poisonous lookalikes are a potential hazard with some wild edible plants and many mushrooms. Unless necessary to survive, don’t forage within 100 feet of roads, busy lots, in other people’s yards, or in parks where pesticides or other landscaping chemicals might be used. Some plants also accumulate nitrites and other harmful chemicals from farming and nearby development. The ideal way to learn foraging is to go in-person with a trained expert. Plants’ appearances change in each season, and mushrooms at different growth stages, so observe a full growth cycle to become familiar with the appearance at each stage before harvesting. For resources, I suggest the books and websites of “The Wildman” Steve Brill, the NYC and Westchester County area’s resident foraging guru, the work of naturalist Samuel Thayer.
By visiting this page and/or using the information contained herein, you acknowledge that safe foraging is solely your own responsibility. You agree that neither myself, Aceloewgold.com, or any writer, investor, advertiser, or other associate of this site can or will be held responsible or liable for any problems arising directly or indirectly from your use of the content, ideas, or advice described.

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