Viola, Johnny Jump-ups, Viola spp.
I simply love these unassuming flowers. They seem to pop up throughout the garden in hopes of being appreciated. They are so lovely and make a quick and easy snack as you walk through your garden.
You will begin to see them in the early spring, and depending on their location, they may die back during the hot summer months only to return in the cooler fall. I’m fortunate to have an area in my herb garden that stays fairly moist and shaded throughout the summer where they tend to clump together and happily grow (occasionally cleavers will join the party which always makes me happy).
Johnny Jump-ups make a lovely purple-hued jelly or syrup, which can be served on toast, pancakes, waffles, or ice cream. They add a touch of uncomplicated charm to a wild greens salad. Once they start popping up in the spring, I go out daily and pluck the fully developed flowers off and store them in a jar in the refrigerator until I have enough to make a recipe. They hold up nicely until ready to use.
The flowers have a faint minty flavor and the leaves provide a soothing, mucilaginous poultice for bee stings, bug bites, cuts or abrasions.
The entire aerial plant can be dried and used to make a soothing tea for the upper respiratory system.