Those tiny purple blossoms that are covering lawns, meadows and roadsides right now are much more than just ‘weeds’. You’ve probably never given much thought to the common blue violet, aside from admiring its delicate little flowers – but gather enough, and you can make a delicious syrup that soothes sore throats, turns pancakes pink and makes one seriously delicious (and highly unusual) cocktail. The best part – it’s incredibly quick and easy.
Pick a pesticide-free location to gather your violet blossoms – I spent a lazy, sunny afternoon tightly packing a large mason jar from the large violet patch in my backyard. The common blue violet has five rounded petals and broad, heart-shaped leaves; choose the least blemished and darkest ones you find; the white ones don’t have much flavor.
I tried both of the following recipes: one with honey (which is better for use as cough syrup) and one with sugar. I recommend adding the juice of half a lemon to both recipes for better flavor, though your syrup will end up more magenta than violet. Don’t be put off by the very green and earthy smell of the steeping violets! The final mixture is heavenly. I added a few tablespoons to some sparkling water and vodka; it would also be delicious with champagne, lemonade or iced tea.
A few tips from experience: watch the simmering mixture carefully, because it can burn – and handle it carefully when you’re pouring it into bottles, because boiling sugar is not kind to the skin. I used a ladle with a spout, along with a funnel.
1/2 pound/225g fresh violets
2 cups/500ml water
2 cups/500ml honey
Enlist all the help you can to pick violet blossoms. Boil water; pour over blossoms; cover. Let steep overnight in nonmetallic container. Strain out flowers. Reserve purple liquid. Combine violet infusion and honey. Simmer gently, stirring, for ten or fifteen minutes, until it seems like syrup. Fill clean jars. Cool. Keep well chilled to preserve.
3 ounces (about 4 cups) stemmed violets
2 cups water
About 2 cups sugar
Combine the flowers and water in a saucepan. Simmer the contents, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
Strain the mixture through a dampened jelly bag. You can squeeze the bag, when it’s cool enough to handle, to extract more liquid. Then measure the volume of the liquid, and combine it in a preserving pan with an equal volume of sugar. Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Raise the heat to high, and bring the syrup to a full boil.
Remove the pan from the heat. Funnel the syrup into a bottle. Store the bottle, tightly capped, in the refrigerator.