Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Violets for February

I think violets as the flower for February is perfect.  Mostly because I love the fact that the traditional color of violets are that violet pink red, which is perfect for Valentine’s Day.  The other reason I think are perfect for February is that you can candy them.  What better treat to pull off the shelf at the end of a long winter in anticipation of spring that a sweet treat.

While most people do not think of candying flowers, this is actually an ancient tradition.  It is a habit of culinary use that has lost its appeal, though we are starting to see a slow shift in this area.  A return to age old recipes as society is starting to realize that our ancestors had the truth of it, home grown, real food is the way in which to regain and maintain one’s health.  

In my research I ran across and old hand written recipe, in the family files.  Though I am not sure of which side of family or which of my relatives this recipe came from, though.
Candied Violets

*Harvest chemical free, unblemished violet blossoms

*Lay them out on a paper towel to dry.

* Once dry paint (use a fine brush) lightly with beaten egg whites

*Sprinkle with sugar

*Let dry. The drying process will take several days. Length of time is going to depend on where located, how warm you do or do not keep your house, where you set them to dry. Drying to quickly will ruin them, drying to slowly and they will mold. Do to the variance in dry time I recommend starting with a very small batch or a couple of small batches and try different locations until you find the perfect timing.

*Once dry store in an airtight jar. Preferably someplace dark and away from light, so they will keep indefinitely. (A cupboard you are not into daily and is temperament is perfect)

*Wash gently – this is tricky, what works well is fill a sink with barely under room temperature water gently drop the blossoms in and dunk. A small handled strainer, used to gently remove them (with as little water movement as possible.)

Note of Caution: (This was included at the end of the recipe)  While the flowers of violets are edible, they should not be taken internally in large doses. 

Candies violets are best when used as decoration atop cakes, a plate of fruit, and in translucent jellies.  When used with chilled soups and punches, they make a lovely and delicate garnish.

How long have violets been around?  It has been confirmed that the Greeks were cultivating violets as early as 500 B.C. Though it has not been confirmed it is believed that the Greeks were cultivating them much earlier than that.  In ancient Greek mythology it is believed that when one wears a crown of violets it will ward off headaches and dizzy spells.

Additional quick facts on violets:

-Violet originates from the Latin term viola

-Typically they have asymmetrical flowers and heart shaped leaves

-The shape of their petals can help define many species of violets

-There are somewhere between 400 and 500 different species of violets

With 400 to 500 different species to choose from how does one decide? Look at where you live and then narrow your search parameters down to the species that will grow well in your region.  They are native to the temperate Northern Hemisphere. With varieties also found in Australasia, Hawaii and in South America in the Andes.

Growing violets are relatively easy, especially if provide the right soil conditions.  They prefer moist and slightly shaded growing conditions.  Violets do well as an indoor houseplant, especially when placed in either the bathroom window or above the kitchen sink.

Violets can range in flower petal color from blue, white, to purple and the occasional yellow. They typically flower between April and May. Making them a perfect gift for someone with a birthday in February, especially if they like to garden.

For the romantic, flowers have a language all their own.  Violets when included in a nosegay, are one who has or will have faithfulness and modesty. Each color then adds its own additional twist of meaning, which is further affected by the other plants added to the nosegay bouquet. While faithfulness and modesty are the wide held meaning behind violets, due to the Victorian era. The violet was considered a symbol of fertility and love by the ancient Greeks. So much so that they use to create love potions out of the violets.

Revised rewrite of original posting on February  7, 2011

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