Sweet Violets, Spring’s Charming Vixens

In our last winter storm I was out in the elements crazily dusting snow off my vexed violets, cooing and fussing over them as they braved their way into early spring. Frankly, I’m fascinated with these lovelies, but I’m just another smitten suitor dazzled by their delicate beauty.

Those charming vixens! Spring’s early seedlings of mystery wink and nod as if masked in shocking displays of purple isn’t enough, then they taunt us with their intoxicating scent and coyly retract it, leaving us begging for more.

It’s true. These fragile beauties have a darker side, and as stellar leads in nature’s early chorus line, why shouldn’t they? Violets have the disarming ability to give it and take it away. They possess ionone, a cunning chemical that affects our olfactory nerves. After one enchanting whiff it derails our senses and inhibits our ability to recapture their elusive perfume. A disappearing act! Those Spring Teasers!

Come to find out, Violets have a long and colorful past. Clear back to Napoleon’s day folks were enamored by them and wrestled for them. Shakespeare and other poets wrote odes on their behalf:

“The forward violet thus did I chide;
Sweet thief, whence didst thou steal
thy sweet that smells,
If not my loves breath?”
– Will Shakespeare knew.
Throughout history Violets have been valued for their culinary and medicinal uses as well as their beauty and scent. Even Pliny recounts their power to ‘lessen anger and strengthen the heart.’ Today they are still used in healing poultices, easing inflammation and relieving bruises.

Clearly, these are no vapid underachievers, Violets have real strength and character. Sweet Violets, how I salute you!

Violet Salad with Vanilla Vinaigrette
A simple and beautiful spring salad

Vanilla Vinaigrette2 tablespoons mild vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, fresh grated, preferably
Pinch sugar
Pinch salt and pepper
1/2 cup olive oil, or canola oil flavored with a bit of walnut oil if available

Salad
8 – 10 ounces field greens including radicchio
1/2 cucumber, partially peeled, sliced
Handful of violets, not sprayed, stems removed as well as bottom calyx if fuzzy

If possible prepare dressing 1 to 2 hours ahead to allow flavors to marry. For dressing, combine vinegar thru salt and pepper, whisk in oil; taste and adjust for balance.

Prepare the greens, place in bowl and top with sliced cucumber. Lightly dress the salad, toss to combine and sprinkle with violets. Serves 4~~

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