Sugaring Wild Violets

Wild violet flowers - copyright B. Rubrecht

With warm, beautiful summer upon us, all kinds of seasonal confections--from strawberry shortcake to ice pops--are shared at garden parties and picnics. A simple but elegant adornment for honey cakes and vanilla ice cream, sugared violets make summer indulgences even more delightful. Sugaring violets is an easy project, and especially enjoyable with friends or little ones.

North American wild violets bloom in late spring through early summer. While European sweet violets have the loveliest scent, most of us will easily find common wild violets in meadows and woodlands. Remember, as with any wild plant or flower, you need to make sure that you don't confuse wild violets with other blue/purple flowers that are poisonous like delphinium belladonna or monkshood--and be sure the flowers you gather haven't been sprayed by any poisonous substances or affected by run-off, like pesticides. In foraging, be mindful to harvest only what you need (a rule of thumb is no more than one-third of the plant) and leave enough for it to continue thriving. Violets are best gathered first thing in the morning after the dew has dried.

How to Sugar a Violet

Violets can also be 'candied' but sugaring violets makes them look frosted, which is beautiful and will preserve them for a least a few months.

1) Gather up a handful of violets -- you only need the flowers and can pick them with the stems, placing them in a small vase to keep them fresh until you are completely ready to use them.
2) Separate out one or two egg whites into a small bowl and superfine sugar in another bowl. You'll need a small, fine paintbrush as well.
Egg Wash and Violets with Sugar - photo credit B. Rubrecht
3) Break off the head of the violet flower only, and lay out all of the violet flowers on a tray or flat, clean surface.Painting eggwash on violets - photo credit B. Rubrecht
4) Take one flower at a time and paint it thoroughly with egg white -- it will be a little 'gluey' but should brush on without too much trouble. The petals will droop, but this is fine. The sugar will not adhere to any of the flower not painted with egg white.
Sugared violet drying - photo credit B. Rubrecht
5) Dust the flower with sugar, or place it in the sugar and coat. Once it is completely covered, place the flower on a tray to dry. You'll want to place it in a cool, dry place. Generally, you can store the sugared violets for a couple of weeks. You can also dry violet flowers in jars of sugar, which is very pretty and lends a very light scent of violet to the sugar itself.
Wild white violet - photo credit B. Rubrecht

Violets: More than Just an Edible Flower

Wild violets, not to be confused with African violets (the lovely and finicky indoor houseplant that is not actually a violet at all), are medicinal and loaded with vitamins A and lots of vitamin C. Their leaves are also edible, and better when young and tender, but can be a mild laxative, so don't indulge in too many. All varieties of true violets are edible, although take some caution with yellow violets, which may have stronger laxative and gastro-intestinal properties. Violets can be used to make a refreshing tea when steeped, and are said to have expectorant and anti-inflammatory properties.

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Bonnie Rubrecht is a writer and illustrator living on the Central Coast of California, and has sugared many violets from the woods and meadows of Massachusetts.  She is also Content Editor for Tea Leaves blog.
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