Sunday, May 31, 2009

Eating Violets

I wanted to call this post eating violetly... but was concerned that it may be misread, and as it turns out, there is nothing violent about the eating of violets... unless you have to wrest them from your little-old-lady neighbour (we have an almost shared front yard and 'differing opinions' on flowers as food). 'Nuff said. 
*Disclaimer: no LOL's were harmed during this taste test.  

Moving around the world of food and learning to be open to the reality of the nourishment around me brings new and unusual additions everyday. It's a great adventure that leads to some astonishing discoveries- and plenty of questions. And the one I constantly find myself asking is 'what the hell happened to our food?'- why, in a time so fraught with ecological questions and food sustainability issues, do we insist on shrinking the variety of the things we call 'edible'? 
Researching and taste-testing violets brought me up against a whole range of resistance to eating the leaves. From the 'garden flowers aren't food' argument, to the 'it didn't come from the supermarket' kind, I was surprised at the confused responses to this perfectly edible plant.
After all, everyone knows you can eat sugared violet flowers... but the leaves... really? The answer: Yes. Really.
Historically they have been used for everything from treating cancer to aiding weight-loss, but somewhere along the way we forgot that they were also a nutritious addition to the diet.
 Violets are high in iron, calcium and (as with any wild plant) anti-oxidants. Both the leaves and flowers of white, purple and blue violets are edible (yellow violets are not edible) and they make a tasty and pretty addition to salads, but are equally delicious on their own. Another great chance for some variety in your greens. 
The flowers have a strong violet-y flavour when their perfume hits your palate and it's a surprisingly appealing taste sensation. The leaves are a little peppery and cause a slight tingle on your tongue. 
For dinner, they make a great side salad of fresh baby leaves, any flowers on the bush and a bit of light dressing (olive oil, lemon and salt work well). But they are even better tossed through seasonal greens for a bit of an unusual lift.
So just as long as I can keep sneaking past the LOL next door, I'll get my fix of salad violets and keep my salads pretty.

*Note: as with any plant you intend to eat from your garden, it is essential that you positively identify it as the species and variety that you are after before you attempt to eat it and always wash it thoroughly. 


Anonymous said...

Roses are red, violets are blue and both have sumptuous flavours too!
The close relationship our sense of smell has with our palate seems to point toward fragrant additions to our foods to liven them up.
Flowers in food are wonderful, just think orange blossom parfait, and rose water pannacotta with a few extra petals.
Persian supermarkets also have a wonderous array of scented waters from borage to basil from pennywort to pepperbush, so if you don't have access to the real flowers and herbs you can add them in this way. I recommend a look.

Intrepid in the Kitchen- JdG: said...

Thanks Anon- and I certainly agree, a fragrant addition to any dish is always welcome. I keep orange blossom water in the pantry for just such an emergency! And rose water is a wonderful treat too! If you have any particular recipes, please do pass them on!

L.L. Barkat said...

Chuckling about your potential post title. I love violets. Best eaten when the leaves are still small and tender.