Scientific name: Viola species
What: Leaves, flowers
How: Leaves and flowers raw (great in salads), tea from flowers
Where: small, heart-shaped flowers in shady, moist areas
When: Winter (in Houston), Spring, early summer
Nutritional Value: very rich in vitamin A,C
Nutritional Value: Violets contain the chemical Violine which, in VERY large doses, can cause vomiting and diarrhea.
Wild violet plant.
Wild violet seed pods.
Close-up of wild violet flower.
Texas distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture. The marked counties are guidelines only. Plants may appear in other counties, especially if used in landscaping.
North American distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture.
Wild violets are a wonderful winter/spring nibble. They are loaded with vitamin A & C which help keep many an Appalachian child nourished. The leaves and flowers are eaten raw or mixed in any sort of salad or green smoothie. Look for clumps of them in the dappled shade of woods/forests with moist soil.
A reader of this blog wrote me of a bad experience after eating a bunch of wild violets sautéed with butter and garlic. Later that night she was struck by horrible stomach distress and spent the night in the bathroom. This issue had never come up in my experience or in any reference books I own. Further research turned up a record in an old Indian (Asian subcontinent) herbal book that the violet compound "violine" is an emeto-cathartic (makes you purge from both ends!) in large doses. The fact that this isn't mentioned anywhere else suggests it is an extremely rare issue and not one I'm concerned about when eating reasonable amounts of violets.
Buy my book! Idiots Guide Foraging covers 70 of North America's tastiest and easy to find wild edibles shown with the same big pictures as here on the Foraging Texas website.