Violet (Viola odorata, V. riviniana) - Crystallised Violets
Violets appear early in spring and are gone in a couple of months. They grow in a couple of months. They grow in hedgerows, scrub and woodlands and have kidney-shaped leaves and long-stemmed purple flowers.
When to Pick: early spring
A quaker brother and sister, Wilson and Lydia Strangeman, once owned Kinoith the beautiful Regency house and farm that we now live in They grew a large patch of fragrant violets, which they used to pick and send on the Inishfallen boat from Cork to Covent Garden in London When I started to restore the gardens here in the early 1970’s I gathered up all the remnants of fragrant Parma violet I could find and made a violet bed. One of the bedrooms in our Pink Cottage is called the Violet Loft, because this was where the violets were arranged into little posie surrounded by leaves for people’s lapels. We do not know of a better way to remember Lydia then to crystallise the little flowers to use as edible decorations.
The art of crystallising flowers simply takes patience and a meticulous nature – the sort of job that drives some people around the bend, but which others adore. If it appeals to you, the work will be well rewarded, as they look and taste divine. Properly done, they will last for months. We store ours in a pottery jar or a tin box interleaved with silicone paper.
freshly picked, sweet-smelling violets
a child’s unused paint brush
Your caster sugar needs to be absolutely dry, so for extra protection, sieve it onto a Swiss roll tin and place in the oven at 140°C / 275°F / gas mark 1 for about 30 minutes. Break up the egg white slightly with a fork, but don’t beat it much; it doesn’t need to be fluffy. Using a clean paintbrush, brush the egg white very carefully and sparingly over each petal and into every crevice. Then gently pour some caster sugar over the violet so that every part is coated with a thin, sugary coating. Arrange the flower carefully on a greaseproof paper-lined tray, and continue with the remaining violets. Allow the violets to dry overnight in a warm dry place (say close to the Aga, over a radiator or in the airing cupboard).
There are other flowers – and leaves – to crystallise: primroses, violas, apple blossom, rose petals, mint, lemon balm, lemon verbena, sweet cicely and rose geranium leaves.
Forgotten Skills Book