Foraged common blue violets

Foraging & Eating Wild Violets

Common blue violets (Viola sororia) are a wild food that is very easy to forage and enjoy. The flowers, stems, and leaves all taste good raw or cooked no matter what stage they’re at.

The violets here really take off about the same time as ragwort (which is not edible) blooms, and since both violet and ragwort leaves are similar and they grow in the same places, I make sure I don’t accidentally pick ragwort leaves into my violet mix. But they’re pretty easily distinguished: the ragwort blooms are about a foot tall and yellow, while violets are blue (or purple) and close to the ground.

These photos show how to easily tell the difference:

Ragwort vs violet
Ragwort vs violet

I also watch out for ground ivy (or creeping Charlie, or Glechoma hederacea), which also has purple blooms and a similar leaf shape. However, ground ivy is in the mint family, has a square stem, and is edible, although I find it too bitter to eat. But if I get a leaf or two of ground ivy in my mix it isn’t a big issue.

Creeping Charlie in Feb bloom
Creeping Charlie in Feb bloom

I do tend to eat as I forage, but I’m aware that my foods might be hosting other guests. So I work slowly and mindfully, watching for bees out pollinating or bugs and slugs making their way along the underside of a leaf.

Slug on violet leaf
Slug on underside of violet leaf

Once home (and after Rocky’s inspection) I dumped these in my kitchen sink for a quick rinse and check-through. Then I filled a big bowl with my clean violet greens and flowers, lightly wilted them in the microwave, and topped them with my cheese tortellinis and a couple of spoonfuls of pesto. Stir it all together and voila: a tasty, nutritious lunch.

Rocky inspects my foraging bucket
Rocky inspects my foraging bucket
Giving my violets a good wash
Giving my violets a good wash

I typically only pick enough for one or two meals, and the violets I didn’t eat will store very well in a fridge container for several days. I often enjoy violet greens and blooms in salads, as well as cooked (or like this batch, slightly wilted) greens. And since they are easy to find and pick, they make a wonderful addition to foraged wild greens and flowers.

Pesto on cheese tortellini with violets
Pesto on cheese tortellini with violets leaves and blooms

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