One of my favorite scents of springtime (and there are many, trust me) are the beautiful, fragrant, Italian sweet Violets. These violas have been bred to have intense fragrance (think *purple candy*), with beautiful coloring. I’m growing these to try and get long enough stems to add into corsages and posies for our wedding work. I’m raising three varieties I obtained from Select Seeds, Parma ‘Comte de Brazza’ – a white double violet, Parma ‘Duchesse de Parme’ – a blue double violet, and Sweet ‘Rosina’ a single rose colored violet.
According to the American Violet Society, Parma violets originated in Italy in the 16th century, first introduced by the Bourbon Dynasty before making their way around Europe. They were prized at the turn of the century, when fragrant flowers were coveted for adorning hands and lapels. Rarely setting seeds, the most common way to propagate these violets are to make them happy enough to produce runners, and pot up the small plantlets as they show.
The Parma violets are not hardy here, unable to handle our harsh zone 5 winter. Sweet Rosina is supposedly hardy, but I will be overwintering them in a minimally heated greenhouse this winter, just to be safe. I have them planted in crates to make them mobile to easily facilitate moving them into their winter home.
While I wait for the plants to show increased vigor and length, I’ve been pinching off the flower heads on their tiny stems, and making batches of sweet violet syrup. This is truly a departure, fragrance-wise, from making syrup with wild violets in your yard. These sweet violets were cultivated specifically for their ornamentation, including fragrance.
This syrup is perfect for adding to cocktails (recipe to follow) using in desserts. The flowers themselves make a beautiful display atop cakes and sweets, so long as they are organically cultivated, as we do here.
Sweet Violet Syrup
A handful of sweet violets
8oz. boiling water
8oz. white sugar
Clean the sweet violets of any dirt, and add to a small glass mason jar. Pour 8 oz. of boiling water over the violets, cover and let steep for 12-24 hours. Strain the violets from the liquid, add to a saucepan with 8 oz. of white sugar. Gently heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Funnel into a pint sized mason jar, let cool and store in the refrigerator.
Sweet Violet Gin Cocktail
1.5 oz. Gin
1 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 oz. sweet violet syrup
4-5 oz. Prosecco
Add gin, lemon juice, and violet syrup to a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake. Strain into a large wine glass, add Prosecco and gently stir. Garnish with a bruised mint leaf, if you desire.