The Athenians believed that violets could help with sleep issues, strengthen the heart and also, simmer down your anger issues.
Violet root was often made into a liniment with vinegar to treat gout, and some believed that wearing a garland of violets on your head would thwart a hangover. The flowers were also used as cosmetics, and an ancient Celtic poem reveres a recipe comprised of violet flowers and goats milk to improve beauty. A tenth century text, Macer’s Herbal says that violets could in fact, ward off “wykked sperytis” and Askham’s Herbal prescribes a special recipe to cure insomnia using violet:
For the that may not slepe for sickness seeth this herb in water and at even let him soke well hys feete in the water to the ancles, wha he goeth to bed, bind of this herbe to his temples.
And, Laertes says, as he stands over Ophelia’s grave:
Lay her i’ the earth:
And from her fair and unpolluted flesh
May violets spring!
And of course:
“For Hamlet, and the trifling of his favour,
Hold it a fashion, and a toy in blood;
A violet in the youth of primy nature,
Forward, not permanent- sweet, not lasting;
The perfume and suppliance of a minute;
And lastly, it makes a beautiful syrup.
A 17th century recipe reads:
Take a quantity of Blew Violets, clip off the whites and pound them well in a stone morter; then take as much fair running water as will sufficiently moysten them and mix with the Violets; strain them all; and to every halfe pint of the liquor put one pound of the best loafe sugar; set it on the fire, putting the sugar in as it melts, still stirring it; let it boyle but once or twice att the most; then take it from the fire, and keep it to your use. This is a daynty sirrup of Violets.
You get that? If you didn’t, that’s fine- here’s what you do:
8 ounces or so violet flowers- now, this may not sound like a lot until you get into it. To save you some trouble: fill up about a half gallon container and that will be roughly 8 ounces.
You’re going to take those blossoms and pull off all of the green parts. Then, you need to pour two cups of boiling water over the blossoms- and if you’ve got a pestal, smash the flowers with it. If you don’t, find some other smashy, smooshy thingie to work with. Smoosh it around for a bit, and add in another ½ cup of water. Some may find it favorable to add a full cup, but a half usually does the trick for me. If you really want to get fancy: make that ½ cup lemon juice.
In the morning, after you’re sufficiently coffeed up, put this mixture into a heavy pot. You can blend it with either 2 cups of honey or 4 cups of sugar. Simmer for around a half an hour, taking care in the beginning because it does have a tendency to foam up. It should end up a really neat purple syrup- and I have read you can water bath can it, though, I have not tried it.
This is great on or even IN ice cream, and I have contemplated adding more sugar, going further to make violet candies: but…I don’t know. I guess we’ll see this year.