Wild violets are both edible and medicinal and come up in the late winter or early spring. Foraging for wild violets is easy as they grow almost everywhere! Wild violets are an edible and medicinal flower, and easy to spot! Learn how to identify and forage for wild violets, and the many ways to use them in the kitchen and in herbal medicine.
If you want to learn more about the edible and medicinal weeds that surround us and how to use them, check out my eBook: Wildcrafting Weeds: 20 Easy to Forage Edible and Medicinal Plants (that might be growing in your backyard)!
Gather & Root Online Foraging Course
My online foraging course is a great way to learn about wild edible and medicinal plants! Learn more about the gather + root online foraging course here.
Wild Violets in Early Spring
I think the thing that I love most about wild violets is that they are usually the first flower to show their face in early spring. Actually, where we live in Southern Oregon they come up in mid-February!
These little purple flowers give us a nice little foreshadowing of spring when we’re still in the midst of winter, which is a welcome sight.
Wild violets grow plentifully right in our backyard under the apple tree, which makes foraging for them rather easy.
Even if you don’t have them in your yard, foraging for wild violets usually isn’t difficult, as they grow almost everywhere!
Identifying Wild Violets
Wild violets are in the Viola genus, which also includes common garden violas.
There are many varieties of wild violets, with Viola odorata and Viola sororia being the most common types for foraging.
While many violets have purple flowers, some are blue, yellow, white or multicolored. Yellow violet varieties aren’t used as often because they tend to have a laxative effect.
Wild violets are a low growing plant that prefers a shady, wooded area with rich soil.
They have a basal rosette of toothed, heart shaped leaves, and drooping flowers with five petals that do not produce seeds.
Interestingly enough, tiny round black seeds are produced from non-edible brown flowers at ground level.
Wild violets mainly reproduce via underground rhizomes that are not edible.
One important thing to note if you live in certain coastal regions of Oregon, Long Beach Washington, or the northern California coast:
The federally threatened Oregon Silverspot Butterfly and Myrtle’s Silverspot Butterfly are reliant on early blue violets (Viola adunca) to survive. There’s a risk of these species becoming extinct from the west coast, so it’s good to be extra careful when harvesting violets in these locations, and possibly not harvesting any at all if you are within the habitat of these rare butterflies.
Wild Violet Look-alikes
There is only one wild violet look-alike that you need to be aware of and that is lesser celandine (Ficaria verna) which is toxic.
While lesser celandine has yellow flowers that don’t resemble wild violets at all, it has very similar heart-shaped leaves.
Because of this it is safest to wait until wild violet blooms before harvesting to be certain of identification.
Wild violets are not the same as African violets (Saintpaulias spp), a common house plant which are not edible at all.
Edible Uses of Wild Violets
Both the leaves and blossoms are edible, either raw or cooked, and are extremely high in vitamin C.
My favorite way to use violet flowers is in violet infused vinegar!
These wild violet muffins sound pretty amazing as well.
Violet leaves can either be eaten raw in a lovely wild greens salad, sauteed or steamed, or made into a tea.
Medicinal Uses of Wild Violets
Violets leaves are highly medicinal, with a soothing mucilaginous property. They are antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and a blood cleanser.
They are good for coughs and colds, and can be made into a violet leaf and honey cough syrup.
Violets can also be used topically for skin conditions like eczema, dry skin, bug bites, and varicose veins.
If you can’t find any wild violets, or if it’s the wrong season, you can purchase dried violet leaf from Mountain Rose Herbs (my favorite place to get high-quality, organic dried herbs).
A batch of homemade violet syrup is a great way to use up some of these edible flowers!
I hope this post inspires you to go foraging for wild violets! They are awesome little spring flowers that have so many great uses.
How do you like to use wild violets?