I know a bank where the violet grows

violet petals

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
(William Shakespeare)

I don’t know where the wild thyme blows but I do know where the paigles, primroses and the violets grow. Several banks, in fact, where small patches of violets nestle in the shade of the hedgerows and pale yellow primroses and deeper coloured paigles litter the grass like confetti.  I choose my places to pick violets, away from the footpaths where boots tread them down and dogs relieve themselves, and take home a bunch for the bedside table and a bowlful for culinary delights. These culinary delights are mostly scattering a handful of petals over something sweet but we also eat them in salads and in a savoury dish of rice cooked with dried fruit, spices and nuts, decorated with primrose and polyanthus petals.
Each year, I make crystallised Violets to scatter over lemon trifle or decorate cakes and a jar of violet sugar for icing or whipped cream. I also make Violet Liqueur, which despite my previous assertion that Violet Liqueur may not have great keeping qualities, stores well. At the weekend, we found a little left in the bottle from last year that we poured over ice with a good squeeze of lime juice, a little syrup from my candied peel and the merest splash of tonic water to make a rather delicious Sunday lunch aperitif.

violet syllabub
Sunday lunch was a little violet themed as the rest of the Violet Liqueur went into a syllabub. I love syllabub, mainly because it’s so easy to make but also because a little goes a long way. My little custard glasses only hold about two tablespoons but after a filling main course, when you just need a small taste of sweetness, they’re big enough for a serving of syllabub. You do of course need to use a teaspoon to complete the illusion of a proper pudding.

violet jam
For the first time, I made Violet Jam this year. Just two tiny jars of firmly set jam. Enough for spring and early summer but not enough to sit unopened on the shelf gathering dust alongside the August 2009 Plums with Mulled Wine Jam. I have visions of sitting in the garden, sun shining and birds singing, eating scones alternately spread with Violet Jam and Rose Petal Jam. The reality may prove rather different.

Violet Jam Recipe
for a tiny amount, so you may want to double the quantities

1 ½ cups of violet flowers pulled from the stems
115 g granulated sugar
115 g jam sugar (sugar with added pectin)
100 ml water
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Mix the flowers and granulated sugar in a bowl, cover and leave overnight for the sugar to draw out the juice.

Next day, put the jam sugar into a small saucepan with the water and juice. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved.

Add the petal and sugar mix to the saucepan and bring to a rolling boil.

Boil for 4 minutes and then take off the heat and leave for a few minutes to cool a little before pouring into sterilised jars.

Cover the jars.

Eat the jam. Close your eyes. Soak up the sun. Relax.

Do you cook with flowers? Do tell.

May I also suggest …

25 thoughts on “I know a bank where the violet grows

  1. What a great post, love your violet sugar and crystallized violets and your other great ideas! Beautiful pics. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Very lovely post Anne, I love the sound of all your ideas for violets, but especially using them in rice dishes with dried fruit, nuts & spices, how lovely. Definitely time for decorating with flowers, I’m loving all the primroses in the garden at the moment – before they all get picked by little girls for cake decorating.

  3. I don’t, but I should. Food should look attractive, and flowers certainly achieve that. I don’t know enough about which flowers are edible and which are not.

  4. Oh, pretty, pretty, pretty. Even the word ‘violet’ is pretty. We might liven up a salad with the odd nasturtium flower but no violets.

  5. What a great post! I was planning to sow some violet seed this autumn in the hope that I’ll begin to cultivate a little patch for similar purpley pleasures! I know where to come for the recipes now 🙂

  6. I can imagine those crystallised violets on top of a pretty, girly cake Anne! You are creative with your use of flowers!

  7. Oh so pretty!! The violet sugar looks beautiful. I can just picture it in whipped cream with meringue. I’m a fan of rose flavours in cooking and I like rose petal jam, but I’ve never tried violets.

  8. Absolutely entrancing post Anne! I adore violets and all these culinary delights look and sound wonderful. Unfortunately I don’t have a tame source for the flowers although I have planted some viola odorata seeds and they have germinated but are ways off flowering. Let’s hope they get there fast and I can try making your jam! E x

  9. The violet sugar is just lovely and your luch time aperatif is very creative. I love making syllabub for dinner parties. So easy and as you say a little goes a long way. It only gets tricky when people ask what in it. “Er, just boze and cream and sugar and well not much else really..oh wait there is fruit”, I like rhubarb syllabub, the tartness cuts through the creamy richness.

  10. I love violets & can’t wait until we see some here. I always remember picking bunches of them for my mother who would make a big deal of putting them in little jelly glasses for the table. That violet jam sounds incredible.

  11. What a beautiful post. I candied violets last year but will definitely have to expand my use of the wild violets. Thank you for all your lovely suggestions.

  12. I have never cooked with flowers but I have been peeking into neighbouring gardens in the hope to see some violets that I could maybe harvest…. not many wild places around here where I could find some. I have eaten dandelion leave salad if that counts (it was rather unpleasant and bitter). I have also never made syllabub and I now wonder why!

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