Monday, 2 May 2011

Herbal ally update: Vinegars and Visitors

My work with violet continues to surprise and delight me. Today I decanted the two infused vinegars I made a month ago together with the tincture.

The first vinegar was made with apple cider vinegar and is a deeper brown colour compared with the shop bought cider vinegar. Both taste sweet and pleasant – none of the harshness you expect from tasting neat vinegar. I poured the apple cider vinegar on my salmon salad at lunchtime and it tasted really good.

The macerated herbs from the vinegars both exhibited a mucilaginous “glow” when decanted. It was as if the vinegar had changed the consistency of the plant matter. This was not the case when the tincture was decanted. The violet flowers had been leeched of their colour and the leaves were pale green, but the overall consistency of the plant had not been affected.

The tincture was pale green with a slightly violet hue and tasted pleasant.

I made a salad with violet leaves last Tuesday when we returned from the farm after our Easter escapades, but I think the leaves now are too tough to be really enjoyable eating. I may try them again later as the violet bed is a vibrant green entity within the garden, but I may leave them until I need to make some more violet double infused oil.

I have made the oil for the past two years and it is a lovely addition to salves where you want to increase the moisturising content of the salve.

Whilst I was bemoaning the loss of violet flowers in the middle of April, I suddenly became aware of another violet flowering beautifully under the wooden patio seat. This was the original violet in the garden, but I had not taken any special notice of it until now.

The difference between this violet and the viola odorata is that the flowers tower over the tiny leaves with a magnificent arching stem. The petals are pale in comparison to the sweet violet and the leaves are a deeper green with a mat finish instead of the bright green lustre of the woodland plant.

The leaf when chewed is more mucilaginous than the sweet violet leaves showing that this visitor, or rather, long-term resident of this garden, would be suitable for many of the uses other violets are renowned.

This violet is the dog violet, viola riviniana. I became quite excited when I first saw it, thinking I might have stumbled across the rare heath dog violet, viola canina, since the latter grows on acid soil, but it seems much more likely that my visitor is the more common variety. It has a delicacy and poignancy all of its own and offered an extension to my violet flower study with its later blooms.

You can find my violet article for the Herb Society in two parts here.


tansy said...

interesting observation about the violet flowers! did you take pictures of the spent flowers? i'd love to see the comparison.

i need to pick some violets for tincturing soon before they all disappear...

Sarah Head said...

Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures, but it was very noticeable how slimy the vinegar remains were and how crisp the tintured ones.

Herbaholic said...

Lucky you to have Viola canina growing in the garden, I noticed this year that some of my violets had managed to seed themselves into the path and pots, still didn't get enough flowers for anything useful though, I need a violet bed, that's what I need!

Love the lily of the valley pic, just blogged about you and the day I visited and you discovered they'd flowered for the first time, your face was a picture :) See you soon...

D x