This month, Charlie further explores the world of plants as he delves into the rich tapestry of greenery around him.
You know, even though I’m a doggie and by nature love the great outdoors, we all know I have more of that city-bred glamor in me rather than the qualities of a carefree forest-dweller. But my foray into the world of plants has put me in touch with my feminine side, and birthed in me a new appreciation for their wonderful world.
I think it’s been building on me slowly, but after last month’s expose on the virtues of the dandelion, I started looking around outside for other forsaken and under-appreciated plants. This month, I want to share with you about the violet, that lovely delicate purple flower that resembles the pansy in miniature form.
It’s called Viola sororia in Latin. Not only does writing or saying that make me feel extra smart, it’s also extra practical, because no matter where you are in the world, even if you don’t speak the same language, people who know about plants will know the plants’ Latin names. Even though it’s a dead language, it’s still a universal one. Handy.
All the more so because the violet, just like the dandelion, is edible. So the next time you find yourself in China, and you’re just hankering for a plate of violets but your travel dictionary is coming up dry, try requesting them in Latin instead.
The violet and the dandelion are in the same boat in terms of being regarded by most Americans (with the exception of children, herbalists, and yours truly) with under-appreciation, although the shy little violet tends to draw less notice. Perhaps the lack of regard is because, like the dandelion, they are common, grow prolifically, and wherever they please with little regard for landscaping plans. But I still feel like that misses the mark, because it’s not often that I hear people complain about all the trees that have popped up all over the place, and despite their commonality, people love them so much they give them hugs.
At any rate, we’ll just have to put that in the bin of life’s great mysteries, and return to the virtues of the violet. You can enjoy the flavor of violets by turning them into candy. After you pick the flowers, gently coat the petals with beaten egg white applied with a small paintbrush. Then sprinkle them with superfine sugar, and leave them to dry overnight. Adorn the tops of frosted cupcakes for a delicious and beautiful natural delight. You can also freeze them into ice cubes, and sprinkle them over salads or fruit bowls, mix them into pancake batter, or bake them into cakes.
The properties of violets are cooling and moistening, and they have been used in herbal medicine for years as a blood cleanser and to support healthy lymph flow. Violets can be infused in oil to make a beautiful body lotion, or a healing salve. It’s said to calm and sooth insect bites, eczema, abrasions, and hemorrhoids. And isn’t this neat— violets grow subterranean flowers too! So end to end, the plant is all flower.
Here are some myths and additional folklore associated with the violet. One day, the Roman goddess Venus asked her son, Cupid, who he found more beautiful— her or a group of young girls. When Cupid chose the girls, his mother flew into a rage and beat the girls black and blue. Then they turned into violets. Because of their association with the goddess of love, for centuries people used them in love potions (when those were all the rage). Violets were also seen to represent the qualities of modesty and chastity in other myths. They were also said to cure heart disease because their shape resembled that of a heart. That’s all from me and the sweet gentle violet for this month. Until next time.