My aunt’s tasty Violet Coolers
I loved all childhood summer holidays with my favourite Aunty Gita who grew the prettiest little patch of purple violets on her balcony. She said they cheered her up when my uncle cracked his truly creepy jokes over the fact that she was uneducated and knew nothing about anything. The truth was that he was not very educated either, and to add to his unexciting portfolio, smoked like a chimney and always had a new ‘girlfriend’ in his car as he travelled the two hours towards his flat in suburban Bombay.
The two hours turned into all night journeys to secret trysts.
Not surprisingly, he was often waylaid by his ‘girl-friend’s’ nasty other boyfriends and beaten up to a pulp! Aunty survived all of uncle’s exhausting adventures (it seemed to me) by nurturing her purple blue violets! While they cooled her gentle soul, I never knew then that they were edible. How she would have loved to make real coolers out of them!
I just discovered that the blue and purple mildly scented violets were used by the English in the 16th century to make a syrup. This was used as a laxative for children and to treat adult ailments such as epilepsy, pleurisy and jaundice. In the olden days healers in Athens used this flower to treat anger and cure insomnia. Pliny the Roman healer said its roots seeped in vinegar would cure gout, and banish headaches and dizziness by making a garland of the violets to wear around the head!
Now it is used as a coloring agent, in perfumes and in cough syrups!
If you have those gorgeous purple violets in your garden, or can get them in a nursery you can make up a batch of violet syrup to make cool summer drinks. You can also put it over ice cream or ice a cake with it.
Pick enough blossoms of deep purple wild violets to fill a glass jar. Rinse the blossoms in cold water; remove the green stalks and the calyxes. Put the violets in the jar and fill it almost to the brim with boiling water. Cover and leave it to stand overnight.
The next morning strain out the violets. For each cup of liquid add 2cups granulated sugar and the juice of half a lemon. Bring this mixture to a boil. Pour it into a sterile bottle and refrigerate or freeze it. It should keep in the refrigerator for 6 months , but if it begins to ferment, throw it out.
Pour a little syrup over ice in a glass. Add water or carbonated water to taste.
From: Reader’s Digest: Magic and Medicine of Plants.
Violets, also known as pansies are used to treat skin problems like itching, eczema, acne, impetigo and other ailments. Germany’s Commission E, the expert panel that judges the safety and effectiveness of herbal medicines, approves of using pansy tea as a skin treatment. Make a pansy tea with about one teaspoon of dried herb per cup of boiling water, steep it for ten minutes. From: The Green Pharmacy, James A. Duke, PH.D.
pics and text: daksha