Cultivate Simple Podcast in iTunes Chiot's Run on Facebook Chiot's Run on Twitter Chiot's Run on Pinterest Chiot's Run on Flickr RSS Feed StumbleUpon

Making Wild Violet Syrup

May 3rd, 2011

I mentioned yesterday that the wild violets were in full bloom and we’d been harvesting the blooms and the leaves for our salads. Since I don’t treat my lawn in any way, the violets have slowly taken over and now my entire lawn is dotted with beautiful purple blooms.

I decided to make some violet syrup this year. The syrup is a good source of vitamin C and is supposed to be a great cough syrup. It’s also said to help you fall asleep without making your drowsy. Since I can be a bit of an insomniac, this sounds wonderful to me!

Making violet syrup is no small feat, you need 8 oz of violet blossoms. At first this may not seem like a lot, until you start picking. I harvested a pint of blossoms and they weighed in at 1.2 oz. Out came the big half gallon mason jar and I spent some time sitting on the front lawn harvesting those tiny purple beauties. I’m sure my neighbors were wondering what in the world I was doing. It was quite relaxing though, I enjoyed myself. Mr Chiots saw me through the window and had to come out and get a photo.

It took me about an hour to pick a half gallon jar full of blossoms, which happened to weigh 8 oz. If you have kids this would be a great project for them to do, they would not doubt love this chore!

Pour 2 cups of boiling water over the blossoms and use a wooden spoon to slightly mash the blossoms down into the water. If you need a little more water to cover the blossoms add just enough to cover. I added an extra half cup of water. Let sit overnight on the counter. In the morning, strain out the blossoms and you’ll be left with a beautiful violet liquid. I bet this would be a wonderful natural dye for Easter eggs, or fabric.

Pour the violet water into a saucepan and add 2 cups of honey. Simmer for about 30 minutes until slightly thick and syrupy (keep an eye on it in the beginning as it can foam up and boil over). Pour into jar and store in the fridge. You can waterbath can this for 10 minutes if you’d like to make larger batches. I ended up with about two and a half cups of syrup.

I’m looking forward to using this syrup throughout the year. It tastes like honey and smells of violets and is a beautiful lavender color. It would taste wonderful on ice cream or in tea and as far as cough syrup goes, it’s so much better than the mediciny stuff you’d buy at the store.

Do you make any of your own herbal syrups?

Beautiful Wild Violets

May 2nd, 2011

This time of year our lawn is flush with tiny purple blossoms from all the wild violets. They are quite beautiful, definitely a great reason to not spray!

Wild violets aren’t just a pretty face either, they’re quite healthy. Violets are loaded with vitamin C and all kinds of other goodness (read a great article about them here). You can eat the flowers, leaves and the tubers (although tubers should be eaten in moderation).

There are all kinds of things you can do with them, candy them, make jelly, tincture them, make syrup. We mostly pick them and add them to our salads. I’ll be making violet syrup this year as well (recipe and info on that tomorrow). I may also try to make a tincture to use in my ears. I have tinnitus on occasion and it’s supposed to be helpful for that, I’ll let you know if it works.

In addition to violets, we’ve been picking dandelions and garlic mustard blooms for our salads. Spring is truly a beautiful time, both in the garden and on my plate!

Do you have wild violets in your garden? Do you harvest any flowers to eat?

Wild Foods of Spring

May 11th, 2013

On a mild day in spring it is pleasant to take a light basket on one’s arm and go for a long walk, garnering whatever the fields, woods and streams offer, the best foraging is probably close to home, around the flower and vegetable gardens, where many early-developing weeds are most abundant and tasty. The fattest finest dandelions will certainly be plentiful there, and violets, and possibly Saint Barbara’s weed. Chickweed will never be far from any recently cultivated ground, and if you have succeeded in keeping jewelweed out of the shadier parts of your garden, we would like to know your secret. But in the garden, other edibles plants will be available, all familiar nuisances, many worth gathering for food.

Joe Eck & Wayne Winterrowd in Living Seasonally: The Kitchen Garden and the Table at North Hill
fiddleheads 1
I haven’t had much of a chance to get out foraging yet, but I did score some fiddlehead ferns at the farmers market last week. We enjoyed them sautéed for breakfast with poached eggs on top.
fiddleheads 2
Dandelions have been making their way from the edges of the woodlot to our plates. I’ve been waiting for rain to start searching for mushrooms in earnest. Looks like this will be the perfect week for the that.
wild violets
Wild violets also abound in the lawn, they always find their way into salads to add that special bit of beauty and a ton of vitamin C. There’s nothing quite like finding food that you didn’t have to take the time to cultivate!

Are you enjoying any foraged food at the moment?

Learning More About Wild Food

January 12th, 2011

“People simply fall in love with wild foods. Lord knows these wild things swept me away. Folks want to be seduced by their mystery, their freedom from the bonds of agriculture. Our human civilization, based on agriculture, has struggled for millennia to no longer depend on foraging in the wild. But here at the start of the twenty-first century, the old hunter-gatherer luring in all of us just won’t let go.”

Connie Green
(The Wild Table: Seasonal Foraged Food and Recipes)

I’m really enjoying reading through this book right now. Every year I try to learn a little more about wild edible food that I can forage for, they’re delicious and super healthy (and free).

We hunt for morels every spring and enjoy those thoroughly, I’d love to learn about more edible mushrooms in my area. I also harvest wild plants like plantain for salves along with dandelions, garlic mustard and wild violets for salads. We have a plentiful supply of wild blackberries close by that we freeze and enjoy all winter long.

Winter time is when I focus on learning about more wild foods that I can find in the woods around our home. I haven’t decided what new wild foods I’m going to be searching for this year, any suggestions?

Do you eat any wild foods? Where do you learn about them?

The Organic Lawn

September 17th, 2012

Just like the rest of my gardens, the lawn here at Chiot’s Run is organic. It doesn’t require much care, mowing a few times a month and a top dressing of chicken manure twice a season. Other than that, it’s left to fend for itself. I’d describe the lawn as “a mixed herbal lawn”. Whatever grows is allowed to stay.

The lawn area has shrunk by at least half since we moved in. It was replaced with food and seed producing plants. We’ll never be without a little spot of lawn though, I really love the look and I think if you allow mixed herbs and wildflowers to grow it does add a beneficial habitat to your garden.

As a result, I can count about 15-20 different species of plants; different grasses, white Dutch clover, plantain (both tall and short), creeping charlie, wild violets, and a few other various species of “herbs”. The lawn is also full of insects of all shapes and sizes, crickets, grasshoppers, beetles, ants, spiders, moths, and many other things that creep, crawl, hop, burrow, and slither.

To some of my neighbors, this would be a travesty. They’d douse their lawns with chemicals to get rid of weeds, kill bugs, and to make the remaining finely bladed grass lush and green. Organic lawns really are healthier, the mix of plants provides an ecosystem all it’s own. My lawn is teeming with life, even after this summer’s drought. My neighbor’s perfectly sprayed carpet of green on the other hand, is mostly dead. This was their lawn last week:

This was my lawn last week:

So what can you do to help your lawn and go organic?

  • overseed with some white dutch clover
  • allow herbs and other plants to grow
  • add rock dusts according to your soil type, like gypsum, etc.
  • use natural fertilizers like chicken manure, bone meal and blood meal
  • top dress with compost or other organic matter

The proof is in the pudding when it comes to tough summers like this one. My lawn was lush and green most of the summer. A few varieties of grass and other plants went dormant, but other ones kept going strong. Because I don’t add chemicals, the soil gets better each year and thus the lawn looks better and better each and every year, even when there’s a drought.

Do you have any area of the garden dedicated to a lawn?

Seeds and Sundries
Shop Through Amazon

Shop through this link and I get a few cents each time. It's not much, but it allows me to buy a new cookbook or new gardening book every couple months. I appreciate your support!

Reading & Watching

Shop through these links and I get a few cents each time. It's not much, but it allows me to buy a new cookbook or new gardening book every couple months. I appreciate your support!

Berkey Water Filter

This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.