Five Things To Do With Wild Violets

Photo by Paul Kirtley of

There are 450 different species of Viola in North America and you can eat all of them! Look for them in shady habitats, like a patch of grass next to a sidewalk under a big tree, or in the forest.

Image by Clayton College of Natural Health

Identify violets by their distinctive five-petal flowers and rounded, heart-shaped leaves with branching parallel veins. You’ll see one leaf per stem coming from the base of the plant. (As long as you have the flower right you won’t have trouble, but if you’re in the forest later in the season, take care not to confuse the leaves with the toxic lily — see photo showing the difference here).

The flavor of the leaves are very mild, even bland, but the flowers are delicately sweet. Here are five ways to eat violets:

1) Eat the leaves and flowers raw in a salad for a lovely pop of color and sweetness, as well as health. Violets are detoxifying; they help the liver clear waste products from the blood.

2) Boil the leaves and serve them in a mix of greens. The flavor is very mild. I like adding them to pasta dishes.

3) Add the flowers to a bottle of vinegar to make an infused salad dressing. The flowers are high in vitamins A and C.

4) Dry the flowers for a tea you can drink year-round.

5) Candy the flowers for a 19th century treat. Here’s how.

Patch of violets

Medicinal Action: Violets are reportedly soothing for people with ulcers, and yellow violets are said to have a mild laxative effect. Both factoids according to Thomas J. Elpel.

Note: Ornamental African violets are a different, reportedly toxic kind of violet (Gesneriaceae spp.).

Share this post with your friends and family and help others learn the delicious nature of this common springtime weed.

Explore many more wild plants on the Search Plants! page.

12 thoughts on “Five Things To Do With Wild Violets

  1. @paz que – quite a response! Obviously a button was pushed. Calling the peppercress “plentiful” was a nice way of saying that it drives me crazy too. I hear what you are saying, and the book you are clearly recommending sounds interesting- I’ll probably pick it up. Regardless, I still remove ivy, blackberries, violets, and peppercress from my yard because I also enjoy the other plants that exist when they don’t overcrowd the yard. I get that “invasive” species are here to stay (just like people), but it doesn’t mean that I have to let them completely take over my yard. I let weeds grow in a few spots in the garden, but I think clearing them from other areas is perfectly OK.

  2. This just popped up in my yard, I noticed it last weekend and I wasn’t sure if it was violet or not. Hmm, I will have to count the number of flowers to be sure. Very exciting.

  3. Oh, this is good to know! Like Mike, my back yard is filled with wild violets. I wish I had known they were edible before mowing the grass yesterday with my old reel type mower. They’re bound to return with the longer grass though so maybe I’ll have a chance to try them out yet!

  4. This is fast becoming my favorite blog – great stuff. My husband thinks violet leaves can be a bit furry, but if you roll the leaves, then slice thinly, it’s unnoticeable. Also, love how well the violet flowers hold up in a salad. Great to know they are ALL edible!

  5. (rebecca, please edit as need be.)
    whoops. you pushed a button, mike.
    i will guess that you are NOT an ‘invasion biologist’.
    but i will now proceed to ‘over-react-respond’.
    what makes violets ‘invasive’; but pepper-cress ‘plentiful’?
    are not they both just ‘gentle and prolific’?
    the power and misuse of words.
    check out: ‘Invasion Biology: Critique of a Pseudoscience’
    by David I. Theodoropoulos
    ( )

    “David Theodoropoulos, a conservationist and founder of an excellent resource for seeds of multi-functional plants, J.L. Hudson Seedsman, has waded into the battle with an arsenal of scholarship. His book, Invasion Biology: Critique of a Pseudoscience, ranges beyond an examination of invasive-plant science (more properly, the lack it) and also explores the psychological, political, and cultural reasons behind our eagerness to hate certain species…”–from ‘Another Kind of Genocide’ a review of ‘I.B.C.P.S.’
    by Toby Hemenway

    “This is THE book you need to read to understand the debate about ‘invasion biology’. The corporate, academic, and government scientists are babbling on in hyper scientific jargon about the immanent threat of so many animals and plants, trying to justify a culture of fear and all out war against them. But the real and critical problems facing life on earth are human misuse of resources…”–from a review by Nicholas Mcgill on amazon books.

    ”The breeding of hate and intolerance for alien species is a disease that is infecting environmentalism throughout the world. Invasive species extremists are wanting to define a natural order and to enforce that order by killing animals and plants that “don’t belong” in a given environment. They are quite willing to slash and burn the environment in an attempt to purify it of ‘aliens’…”–from a review by Sidney Ross Singer

    “It’s easy to be taken in by the inflammatory jargon. New species in a region are called ‘invaders’ — never mind that species are constantly moving, even between continents, and such moves are both natural and beneficial. Other derogatory words reinforce the slander: alien, aggressive, dominating, crowding, habitat robbing, monocultural, choking, threats to bio-diversity…” –from a review by Mel Beckman

    “Invasion Biology is a profound, devastating critique. Well-written and lucid, professionals will appreciate the thoroughness of the citations (I searched in vain for a statement of fact not supported by citation); and the style, while technical, will still be readable by the non-specialist. Sure to be the most controversial book in ecology in a decade. Clear and compelling, this book completely changed my world-view about invasive species…” –from a review by Luna Verde

    • Paz,

      Always great to hear from you.

      You’re the third person to mention that book recently, so my curiosity is piqued. I’m very interested in reading it, and if I like it I will review it for this blog!


  6. The violet all over my yard must be invasive because it appears everywhere! Good to know it is edible though. I’ll combine it with the plentiful peppercress in my yard…

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