Edible Plants of New York: Why violets are more nutritious than spinach 


Wild plants are some of the most exciting foods to eat. They are free, nutrient-dense, and fun to gather. In particular during the late spring, leafy greens and flowers are on the menu.

Have you ever eaten from a place other than a grocery store, a restaurant, or a deli? Do you know who your gardener, farmer, or forager are? I do!

It’s my hope that you will soon feel empowered to find out that your forests, fields, and wetlands will and always be your grocery store too.

Why is it important to forage?

One of the reasons I believe foraging is great, is because it offers us a chance to eat different kinds of foods.

Wild plants contain a host of unique natural chemicals, fiber, and stimulating compounds that are defiantly worth looking into. This is one reason why the natural supplement industry is growing so rapidly. It’s because people are waking up to the fact that wild, or organically-grown plants and mushrooms have the power to impact our bodies in a good way.

It’s the way that these wild organisms live, that make them so delicious and nutritious. In short, they have to survive harsh conditions sometimes, and this make resilient!

To know more about the plant we are about to talk about, I would like to touch briefly upon some scientific terms.

What is a species?

According to Wikipedia, “A species is often defined as the largest group of organisms in which any two individuals of the appropriate sexes or mating types can produce fertile offspring, typically by sexual reproduction.”

From Wikipedia

Are violets a species?

Here in New York, a common species is Viola odorata (seen below). “Viola” is technically the genus, and “odorata” is the species name. Violets are in the Violaceae family.

According to our friends at GoBotany, there are thirty or so species of violets living in New England, and 1,000 of them globally.

Viola odorata can be found in “anthropogenic (man-made or disturbed habitats), meadows and fields”.


How do you eat violets?

I enjoy eating the young leaves and the flowers of violet. In particular, i’ve been picking the youngest leaves and putting them in my smoothie! Check out my youtube channel to learn more.

What does violet’s nutrient profile look like?

Thomas Zennie and Dwayne Ogzewalla in 1977 compared the Vitamin C and ProVitamin A levels of wild plants in Oho. They found that violet leaves had up to 20,000 Units of ProVitamin A/100 g, and 264 Units of Ascorbic Acid/100g.

They then compared the number 20,000 and 264 with the following data form “common garden fruit and vegetables”.

Do you notice any differences in these cultivated vegetables?

Not one of these common vegetables in the above table even comes close to the previous mentioned violet. It wasn’t clear whether these cultivated plants were produced organically. It’s my inkling however that these wild plants would still beat out the cultivated varieties.

What are the medicinal and traditional benefits of consuming violet?

In a one study, called the “Effect of the Aqueous and Hydro Alcoholic Extracts of Viola odorata L. on Biochemical and Histologic Liver Parameters in Diabetic Wistar Rats”, the researchers said, “According to our results, the concentrations of 100 mg/kg of the aqueous and hydro-alcoholic extracts of violet significantly decreased the number of Kupffer cells. Additionally, 100 and 400 mg/kg of the aqueous extract significantly decreased inflammatory accumulations.”

Many indigenous groups have been documented to eat violets as well. According to the North American Ethnobotanical Database, the Blackfoot use the plant as a pediatric aid. In particular, they find that this plant helps with respiratory ailments.

What’s next?

I would encourage you all to go out tomorrow and look for this plant. It may just be growing naturally right outside your front door.

If you have any more questions about this plant, please reach out to me at lionmanconsuting@protonmail.com. Check out our new website too!

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