Fields, Forests & Wetlands Foods of Eastern North America
A Complete Wild Food Guide
Violet, Common Blue
A group of Common Blue Violets coming up in a lawn in early spring.
Urban, Rural or Both: Both
Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia). This plant often forms colonies of plants that come from the rhizomes.
This is a plant not many would think of as edible for some reason. When cooked, the leaves taste more or less like spinach, and so, they can be used like you would use spinach. The nice thing about that is, this plant comes up earlier in the spring than many, and the green leaves (and flowers) can be used before you have spinach growing in your garden if you have one.
The spring leaves are safe and fine in salads raw. Make them as one leaf ingredient among others.
The flowers are great looking in salads raw. They combine well with Dandelion flowers for color. When the Dandelion flowers are in their prime, so are these, so you can gather both and use on top of a salad for looks. Neither the Violet nor the Dandelion flowers have a lot of flavor, but they look great and don't affect the salad in any other way. Also, you can use some Red Clover flowers as well - all three colors look great and exotic together.
Growing this plant in your home garden:
For detailed growing instructions, see my Wild Foods Home Garden Common Blue Violets page.
- Plant Size: Leaves up to 10 cm (4 inches) tall and 15 cm (6 inches) wide
- Duration: Perennial
- Leaf Shape: Ovate to Orbicular-Cordate, meaning oval to round with Cordate shape at the base where the stem comes out. Cordate means the stem of the leaf comes from an indentation at the base of the leaf and the two bottom sides of the leaf extend below the stem. See leaf shapes here for a picture of Cordate.
- Leaf Phyllotaxis (Leaf Arrangement) on branch: (rosette) of basal leaves (leaves at the base)
- Leaf Size: up to 7.5 cm (3 inches) long by 7.5 cm (3 inches) wide
- Leaf Margin: Scalloped margin (crenate) to sawtooth (serrate)
- Leaf Notes: Can be dark green to a lighter yellow tinted green
- Flowers: about 2 cm (3/4 inch) diameter, with five rounded tipped petals. Mauve, purple to blue. The center of the flower is whitish. Bloom from mid to later spring. Flowers are scentless
- Habitat: This plant often forms colonies of plants that come from the rhizomes. Likes partly shaded areas with moist but not wet soils. Open woods, lawns, edges of woods, gardens as a "weed" or planted.
- Recipe search on the web here (Google search) and here (Bing search).
- Pictures on the web here (Google images) and here (Bing images).
- USDA distribution map and plant profile here.
- The Biota of North America Program (BONAP) distribution map here. BONAP map color key here.
(By: Rob Routledge CC BY-SA 3.0)
Drawing. (USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. Vol. 2: 549)
Not always violet in color. Can be blue or like this one called Freckles. (James Steakley CC BY-SA 3.0)
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