Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Wild Harvest - Violet Syrup

Finally spring has fully arrived, and the first violets are in full bloom.  There were enough this week for our daughter and friend to harvest a nice basket full from our yard and a nearby field, and we made violet syrup together.  It took us about half an hour to pick the 4 cups violets we needed for this recipe.  Violet syrup is a beautiful pink colour and can be used to make delicious healthful drinks (see below).  Violets are high in Vitamin C, and are traditionally said to calm and uplift the spirits - thus also known by the common name "heartsease".  They are a gorgeous deep purple, with small heart-shaped leaves which are also edible.  To learn more about wild edibles of spring consider taking one of our Wild Edibles Workshops (April 30 and May 28) here at Little City Farm.

While we were out picking, the girls and I talked about three rules for ethical wild harvesting that are good to remember:

a) know your plants - properly identify the plant before harvesting and using (using a reputable plant ID book, or going with a knowledgeable person), know which parts to use, what time of season to harvest, and how to properly prepare the plant as some wild edibles should not be eaten raw

b) harvest respectfully, carefully and sparingly - only harvest about 1/4-1/3 of the plant collections you find so there are always enough left for other harvesters, as well as to go to seed and continue a strong plant for next season - it should basically not look like you have done any harvesting at all after you are done

c) choose plants from a safe and healthy location - avoid harvests near roadways, dog walking areas, and of course any areas where pesticides may have been sprayed

How to make Violet Syrup
You will need:
4 cups fresh violet flowers (not washed)
4 cups water that has just boiled
2-4 cups sugar (or honey)
8 Tbsp lemon juice

1) Place fresh violet flowers into a glass jar or measuring cup.  Cover with water that has just boiled, and place a lid or plate on top.  Steep this infusion for 24 hours (covered).

2) After 24 hours, strain the infusion.  Compost flowers, reserve the infused water.

3) Put infusion into a stainless steel pot, add sugar and lemon and bring to a boil.  Then turn down heat and simmer until sugar (or honey) is dissolved and syrup starts to thicken.  Stir constantly until syrup coats the back of the wooden spoon.  This can take from 15-30 min depending on how thick you want your syrup to be.

4) Bottle in glass jars, cap and store in the fridge.  Keeps 3 months in fridge.

5) To use:  add about 1/4 cup syrup to a glass, top with sparkling water and add fruit or ice cubes.  This is a delicious sweet and refreshing tonic to lighten your heart and put a spring in your step.

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