Here’s a pretty little wildflower that’s found growing profusely in our backyard, as well as in many other areas of the United States.
The wild violet, of the genus Viola, is considered by many to be a nuisance weed in need of elimination from a lovely lawn, rather than one of Nature’s gifts sent to beautify the landscape.
The wild violet is a low-growing perennial that prefers shady or semi-shady (and somewhat moist) locations in order to thrive and multiply. That multiplication is accomplished by means of rhizomes and seeds that allow a small clump of wild violets to spread and extend over a larger area in just a few years if left unchecked.
The choice is up to you--if you like the little wildflowers with their colorful early-spring blossoms gracing your lawn, then leave them alone and they’ll multiply for you and provide an ongoing show.
If, on the other hand, you’re among those who view the little rascals as weeds to be eliminated, then grab your hoe and dig them out by the roots. They are tough little guys, and seem to be rather resistant to chemical control. If you plan to go that route, several applications may be required.
I am of the “let ‘em grow and thanks for the gift” school. Maybe that’s because I first became aware of the existence of wild violets by way of my grandmother, who had a nice crop of them in her front yard and would pick them for a small bouquet to be used for decoration on her dining table. We have the original little purple glass container in our home that Granny used for her violet bouquets so many times so many years ago. Guess what we use it for?! (see photo below)
Wild violets were used in medicinal applications by the early Native Americans. Either the leaves, roots, or blooms (or combinations thereof) were utilized to make poultices and emulsions that were used to treat ailments ranging from headaches to colds to upset stomach.
Our modern day pansies that are so widely available in garden centers for planting into the home gardener’s landscape are actually domesticated relatives of the wild violets, being also of the genus Viola. See also: The Pansy Is No Pansy
In addition to being useful as tabletop bouquet decorations, the blooms of the wild violets can also be gathered and made into wild violet jelly.
Start with 2 cups of washed violet blooms. Put them into a clear glass (Pyrex) container and pour 2 cups of boiling water over them. Let this steep for at least 2 to 3 hours--longer will make brighter colored liquid. Next, pour the cooled purplish liquid through a fine strainer to remove all the solid material remaining from the blooms.
Now pour this liquid into a stainless steel pan and stir in 1/4 cup of lemon juice and 4 cups of sugar. Bring the contents of the pan to a rolling boil, while stirring, and add 3 ounces of liquid pectin (like Certo). Continue to stir and boil for a couple more minutes.
Carefully pour or scoop the hot liquid into clean canning jars, seal the jars, and immerse them into a hot water canning bath for at least 10 to 15 minutes.
The resulting jelly works well on biscuits, bagels, or other toasted breads. No weed or wildflower ever tasted so good!