I’m something of a guilty forager. It’s public land, yes, but part of me still feels like I’m taking something that doesn’t belong to me, like I’m breaking a rule. Gathering wild violets or ramps or morels, well, it feels like a secret engagement, something quietly forbidden. I know logically that that’s just bunk, but I think it adds a shot of adrenaline to the whole experience, beyond, of course, the thrill of eating—guidebook in hand—in the hopes that my presumed morel is not a lookalike or that the wild violet between my teeth has not been recently besmirched by a passing animal. I suppose I’m something of a ninny when it comes to foraging. But once the rush of fear and guilt have passed, there’s a quietness about this food. It’s so lovely, so wild. It grows peacefully, without coaxing or force or intervention. And it’s wildly delicious, too; vibrant, verdant, like spring itself. Concerns tossed aside, who can resist?
Candied Wild Violets
as many wild violets as you find and would like to candy
1 egg white, or pasteurized egg white if you have concerns about eating raw egg
a little dish of superfine sugar, or conventional sugar which you have ground in a spice grinder, blender, or food processor until it is very fine in texture
- Leaving the stems intact, wipe any obvious debris from your violets.
- Holding the stem of a violet close to the flower head in one hand, dip the thumb and forefinger of your other hand into the egg white and smear each petal gently to moisten it using a pinch and pull motion. Your goal is to evenly moisten each petal with egg white without bruising the flower and while maintain its delicate shape.
- When all of the petals have been coated with egg white, set the flower carefully on a piece of waxed paper and shake some sugar over it gently. Holding the stem, turn the flower to coat all surfaces, and then shake the flower gently to remove any excess sugar.
- Proceed until all of your violets have been candied.
- When the flowers are dry, pinch off their stems.
- Store the flowers at room temperature.
Candied violets are a lovely addition to cakes and cupcakes, to ice cream or custard, or to salads that would benefit from a sweet and floral element. If you add them to salad, use them as a garnish after the other ingredients have been tossed together with a dressing.