Happy Valentine’s Day!
I suppose it is fitting that February is National Heart Health Month, and we are encouraged to eat heart healthy. But hearts need more than food to be healthy. They also need a healthy spirit, something that might be hard to achieve on a dreary grey February day.
Luckily, here in the Southwest, February is the month we can easily grow one of the most heart-easing and cheerful flowers on the face of the earth – heart ease! “Heart ease” is the common name for Viola tricolor, best known as one of the mothers of the pansy. The simple beauty and delightfully friendly tri-colored faces of heart ease, pansies, and violets have long been admired by poets, artists, lovers, and cooks!
Savor the Delicate Flavor of Heart Ease.
Humans have been eating pansies and violets for centuries. Fresh or candied flowers were a favorite edible decoration at medieval banquets. Tarts made from pansies or violets were a Victorian delicacy. Heart ease flowers can be used to flavor and color salads, herbal butters, jams, jellies, syrups, desserts, herbal vinegars, and even wines. Studies indicate that flowers contain appreciable amounts of vitamins A and C, so along with adding color to the salad they are healthy for you.
Pansies and violets have been used to treat health problems ranging from epilepsy to depression. A tea made from the leaves was prescribed for quelling anger and inducing sleep. Roman revelers wore wreaths of violets in hopes of preventing hangovers.
Grow Heart Ease.
At this time of year it is best to buy “seedlings” or already growing plants. I wrote
about this more fully on my gardening blog this week – GardeningWithSoule.com.
In fact, if you are stumped for a Valentine’s gift that is lovely, long-lasting, and not fattening – a pot of pansies fits the ticket!
Flowering and ornamental plants from nurseries are very often treated with toxic insecticides and fungicides (biocides). These biocides are systemic, meaning they are found throughout all plant tissues. Systemic biocides stay in the plants for around three months. Herbs and vegetable plants from a nursery are not treated with systemic biocides because they are edibles. DO – Check with your local nursery! There are a number of local nurseries that have non-treated violets because of the edible flowers.
Father Kino ate violets!
To learn more visit Savorist Monica King Saturdays at the Arivaca’s Farmers Market, or come to one of Savorist Jacqueline Soule’s free lectures. We try to mention both on our Facebook page. We both have copies of Father Kino’s Herbs: Growing and Using Them Today (Tierra del Sol Institute Press).” This link is to Amazon and if you buy the book there we may get a few pennies.
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