This week's wild edible is Wild Violet!
You've probably walked past this attractive little plant without even noticing it or thinking to eat it. Most people consider it to be an annoying weed and battle it in lawns and garden areas regularly. Because they self-seed, in the right conditions wild violet can take over a lawn or garden without much effort.
What it looks like.
Wild violet is a low growing perennial that likes to grow in dense clusters. Usually where one cluster is found, there will be more of them not far away as they self propagate. The stems of wild violet can be green to a reddish purple color and are covered in tiny "fine" hairs.
The leaves of the wild violet are somewhat heart-shaped. At the base of the leaf where it meets the stem, the leaf tends to curl in on its self, helping to give it that distinct heart shape. Wild violet leaves are palmate and alternative "toothed" leaves. When this plant gets mature the leaves can really start to bunch up and make more of a bushy appearance.
The wild violet flower can range from yellow, white, blue, or purple, with the purple being by far the most common. The flower consists of 5 rounded petals with two petals on top, one on each side, and one larger petal on the bottom that bees and other insects land on to harvest nectar. On the inside of the petals you will see stripes or veins of a darker color and also many tiny hairs. The flowers usually show up in early spring and start to droop and fall off as the weather warms up.
The roots of wild violet grow as bulbed tubers that are white and pink with other roots shooting out of them. The roots are not edible and shout not be ingested due to a purgative effect. When this plant is in flower there are no poisonous look-a-likes with this distinct flower and leaf shape.
When and where to find it.
Wild violet grows all over the US and much of Canada. They love moist, shaded soils rich in nutrients, but can also survive in well-drained soils in full sun as well. As noted earlier, many people have them growing in their lawns and gardens and are considered a nuisance plant. They also thrive particularly well in moist forest floors, partly shaded hill sides, fields with frequent rains, and other shaded moist areas.
In early spring wild violet begins to pop up and will start flowering shortly after. Once it gets too warm the flowers will die off, but the leaves and the rest of the plant will still continue to grow. In the south you can find wild violet year round.
The leaves and flowers of wild violets are edible and tasty, making great additions to raw salads or a quick treat. The leaves also are good as cooked greens or in "green" smoothies due to their high level of vitamins A and C. Many people make the flowers into jellies, candy them, or toss them raw in salads for color.
Historically this plant is said to have a few medicinal properties. Some of those include: being a mild laxative (especially in children and infants), treating eye inflammation, pleurisy, jaundice, sleeplessness, and quinsys. It is also thought to help with sore throats and headaches, serve as an expectorant (clearing excess mucus) and used as soothing poultices for scrapes and bruises. Wild violet seeds and roots are also said to have a purgative effect and were often used for just that. Some people say it also has antiseptic properties and was used as an ointment.
Some other uses for wild violets are coloring agents and dyes.
**Warnings, Disclaimers, and Precautions**
Please be sure to read ALL of this section!!
**The seeds and roots of this plant have a purgative effect and will induce vomiting.
**When identifying plants you are unfamiliar with, please use as multiple references, as well as help from experts when available. Unless you are 110% sure what a plant is, it is best to avoid it completely.
**If you plan on using any plants for medicinal uses, consult a healthcare professional, as well as botanist familiar in the field of wild plants. And as always, use as many references and expert opinions as possible when identifying a plant.
**Be sure to avoid any plants growing near roads, around chemicals, other poisonous plants, or polluted/contaminated water.
**As always, be sure to use the Universal Edibility Test to ensure the plant is the correct plant and to help identify any unknown allergies you may have.