“Don’t let love interfere with your appetite. It never does with mine.” Anthony Trollope
For those in the mood for amour, there is a lovely little woodland aphrodisiac blooming right now – the violet. Today we associate this demure little beauty with primness and old lady perfumes – but it has not always been so. In ancient Greece its aroma was said to “torment young men beyond endurance” and it was used by courtesans to scent their breath and erogenous zones. Affiliated with Venus and love from time immemorial, the violet (according to the American Violet Society) was the original official flower of Valentine’s Day – not the rose.
Growing wild in the Northwest, Viola sororia only grow a few inches high and are found in shady forests or wet areas each spring. They can also migrate into urban areas and are so plentiful they are often targeted as invasive weeds. In fact, the ones I used for this recipe had migrated to my front lawn, where a riot of their sweet little droopy heads were just visible above the grass.
Violet flowers are mostly purplish blue but also come in pink and white varieties, but all can be used for concocting perfumes, flavorings, syrups, vinegar and even medicine. Romans were said to like violet-flavored wine so much they spent more time cultivating violets than olives! Violets were also included in many magical potions for love and fertility.
The blossoms are yummy nibbled raw and better candied (brush egg white on the flowers, coat in confectioners sugar, then bake in the oven on the lowest temperature) and its heart-shaped peppery young leaves can be tossed in a salad as well. And according to herbalist sources, just two violet leaves fulfill our daily requirement for vitamin C! But don’t go hog-wild, eating the leaves in very large quantities (because of their saponins or soap-like compounds) can lead to digestive upset – certainly a romantic dampener.
Violet leaves are excellent support for the immune and lymphatic system (which functions as a kind of waste disposal for the body tissues). They are also considered an alterative (or “blood purifier”) and can help restore optimal functioning by aiding metabolic processes and the elimination of waste products. Some classify violet as a nervine with an affinity for the heart, helping to comfort heartache and grief.
This recipe is inspired by the old herbal custom of infusing violets in honey. This enhances its aromatic flavours (and possibly its aphrodisiac effects!) While I made violet honey last year, this spring I decided to create a rich, creamy, violet-infused honey butter, which was positively ambrosial slathered on my favorite Fry’s croissant. And while I’m not sure if it left me in a kissing mood, it certainly had me licking my fingers! So if your interested in creating your own delectable, melt in the mouth love treat, I suggest you follow these simple steps.
Violet Honey Butter
First make your Violet Honey:
- Harvest 1/2 cup of flowers in morning after the dew has burned off, this is when their volatile flavour compounds are high
- Wilt the flowers (to remove excess liquid) then place in a jar and pour in some gently warmed honey. Cover with a lid and place in a warm place for a week or two (every couple of days open the lid and wipe off any condensation that has formed)
- After your honey has sat the appropriate time, gently warm once again, then strain through a fine sieve or muslin cloth. Store in a glass jar. (Should be good as long as year as long as it isn’t too runny, meaning there may be too much water in it)
Now you’re ready to make your whipped honey butter:
- Whip four ounces of organic butter (grass-fed if you can get your hands on it) with a mixer (or by hand if you wish) until fluffy
- Gradually add in your violet suffused honey (about three tablespoons – or more- according to the sweetness you prefer) and mix until well-blended
Voila you’re done! Enjoy slathered on whatever you choose – even each other!
P.S. I also stirred in a few minced wild violet blossoms into the honey butter – it was so pretty and added little perfumey piquant jolts of flavour!