Violets are some of the first flowers of spring and are both edible and medicinal along with being absolutely lovely. There are many varieties, from pansies to perennial violets to wild violets that like to infiltrate lawns and stream beds.
Violets grow in sun to light shade and prefer a rich garden loam and moderate watering. Purchase dense, sturdy-looking plants with lots of healthy, green leaves and buds. If they have been in a greenhouse, harden them off by putting them outside for a few nights tucked up close to the house. Don't forget to remove the stems of faded blooms, to keep them bushy and full of flowers. They are cool weather plants so they will fade out when summer heat sets in and often come back in the cooler temps of fall.
Violets are cooling and moistening and have been used as food, for poultices, and as a soothing anti-inflammatory for hot, inflamed tissue. Violet and pansy syrup have been used to ease sore throats and as a digestive tonic. A poultice of pansy or violet leaves, made by mashing leaves with aloe vera to make a paste can be applied to the skin to reduce inflammation. Violets have an affinity for the breast and are used for mastitis, infections, pain, and cysts.
Unsprayed leaves and blooms are edible and can be used in teas, salads, smoothies, soups, stews, butters, vinegars, and more. Leaves are rich in Vitamin A, C, and trace minerals. You can candy the flowers or add to salads and baked goods for lovely garnishes.