Sweet Violets

Kid’s have a cough?  Make a syrup with this delicate herb that is safe for children.

“Violets smell like burnt sugar cubes that have been dipped in lemon and velvet.” 

Diane Ackerman

Sweet violets Barefoot HerbsDoesn’t this conjure such a delicious picture?  That caramelly smell tinged with lemon on a bed of (it has to be) purple velvet.

Greek mythology tells us that Sweet Violets (Viola odorata) originated from the tears of a nymph who was loved by Zeus.  To hide her from his wife, he turned her into a pure white cow.  She cried as she could not eat the bitter grass, so Zeus turned her tears into sweet violets to provide her with a sweeter, more delicate fodder.

I have so many violets in my garden as they simply spread all over the place. The roots become really matted which makes them an ideal plant for slopes or at the edge of beds to stop water run-off. To split them, take a clump out with a spade and break it into smaller clumps of about 20cm across. You can break them even smaller, but they will settle better when the clumps are not too small.  They are happiest with some shade and frequent watering encourages more blooms.


Culinary Uses

viola flowers crystalisedThe flowers are so pretty and can be crystallized for decoration.  I tried it once and realised I don’t have the patience.  This recipe for frosted violets is less time-consuming, although still fiddly.  Whatever you make, it takes a while to pick the flowers so, if you need a relaxing wind-down, sit next to the patch and pick some flowers to frost or to make Sweet Violet Jam, Love Liqueur or Vibrant Violet Vinegar

When you cook with violets, be sure to take off the green calex – the smallest amount of green will affect the glorious colour that you get from the petals. And, don’t let it boil as that will also reduce the purple colour.



Medicinal uses

Sweet violet syrup Barefoot HerbsThere are several medicinal uses for violets and this effective cough syrup is a good one to make for chesty coughs.  It has the added advantage of being safe for children and can be stored for a long time.

If you have skin disorders, such as eczema, sores and rashes, a cream made with the aerial parts of the herb will soothe the itchiness .

Other uses are as a digestive herb, an immune stimulant, mild laxative and to treat urinary infections.  Research has shown that it reduces the growth of secondary cancer tumours.


So if you are looking for a pretty herb that will grow in the shade, has lots of benefits and is safe for children, look no further.  Sweet Violet is the one for you!


Sweet Violet – Viola odorata




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Description, growing and harvesting

Uses in the kitchen, with recipes

Uses a medicine, with recipes

Body and skin care, with recipes

Home applications

Benefits in the garden

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