Celebrate Spring with this delightful color-changing violet syrup and lemonade made with foraged wild violets.
Edible Flower Love
If you know me at all you know I LOVE flowers, especially edible flowers. My garden is filled with them from late spring to early fall. The first to bloom in these parts are violets and these cheerful purple blooms have held always held a special space in my heart. I think it stems from picking them as a little girl around my birthday and always having them on my birthday cake. Little patches of wild violets would grow around the base of a giant hemlock tree in our backyard. I remember laying down among them in the spring sunshine and picking little violet bouquets for my mom. We would make sugared violets together for my birthday cake and looking back now it was one of those magical childhood memories that stayed with me.
Violets Can Change Color
I didn't know this then but common violets have a magic power. Yup. It's true! They can change color. If you add an acid such as lemon juice to a violet infusion it lowers their natural alkaline ph and they turn pink. So after you make the violet syrup below you can make color-changing pink violet lemonade. Add the lemon juice last to watch the magic happen. Kids love this trick! And for an adult beverage try making violet mojitos with lime juice.
I think May is officially becoming my favorite month on the island because the winters are loooooong and the explosion of flowers just gets me so excited. More edible flower recipes are coming your way this month and throughout the summer so stay tuned. Our season is a little behind most of the country but I hope you can still find violets where you are! And if not then you can also use this method for any edible flower or blossom. I can't promise other flowers will change color the same way but it's still a great way to preserve the floral notes of edible flowers to use throughout the year.
Tips for Foraging Wild Violets
- There are many varieties of wild violets all in the Viola genus with Viola sororia (common blue violet) being the most common variety found in New England.
- Wild violets are easily identifiable by their 5 petalled flowers and dark green heart-shaped leaves. They are low-growing plants that prefer fertile soil and are commonly found in meadows, pastures, lawns, and at the edges of wooded areas.
- Always use caution when foraging for wild edible plants. Make sure to identify the plant correctly by referencing guidebooks and asking an experienced forager to confirm a plant's identity.
How to Make Wild Violet Syrup and Color-Changing Violet Lemonade
Step 1: Infuse
Start by making a violet infusion by steeping violet flowers in boiling water overnight.
Step 2: Simmer the Violet Syrup
Strain the violet infusion into a saucepan then add the sugar and bring to a simmer. Let the violet syrup reduce to runny syrup consistency, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. It should start to lightly coat the back of a wooden spoon or sides of the pan when swirled. The syrup will continue to thicken as it cools.
Step 3: Store the Syrup
Pour the hot syrup into a sterilized bottle and seal. Store syrup in a cool dark cabinet or refrigerate it for up to 6 months.
Step 4: Make Lemonade
Mix the syrup with water or sparkling water first then add the lemon juice last to see the color-changing effects take place. Serve over violet ice cubes.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Are all violets edible?
All varieties of the Viola genus are edible with Viola sororia (common blue violet) being the most common variety found in New England. There are also white and yellow-hued violets that are edible but won't change color like their blue and purple counterparts. African violets (Saintpaulias spp) are common house plants that are not edible at all and should not be confused with wild violets.
Can I use unrefined sweeteners?
White granulated sugar will yield the best results to preserve the color of the violets, but honey may also be used. Dark sugars and sweeteners will give the syrup a brown hue but can be used if you are not concerned about the color as much.
For more delicious ways to use edible flowers check out these recipes:
- Wild Violet Sugar
- Violet Lemon Poppy Seed Cake
- Lilac Syrup
- Elderflower Cordial
- Rose Simple Syrup
- Wild Elderflower Honey Lemon Drizzle Cake
- Lemon Coconut Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
- Ricotta Pie (Torta di Ricotta) with Lemon and Honey
- Vegan Squash Blossom Tacos
Love this recipe?
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A version of my recipe was first printed in issue 19: WANDER of Taproot Magazine in 2016. You can order back issues here.
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