Use freshly foraged violets gathered on a Northern Michigan spring hike to brighten up your next tea, lemonade or cocktail with this violet simple syrup recipe.

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One of my favorite parts of hiking during the spring thaw is hunting for clusters of petite purple petals tucked under leaves and between fresh blades of grass. Come April, the North’s forest floor is speckled with an array of burgeoning violets. They love to grow in shady places—I often find them poking their heads up near water and underneath canopies of shrubs and trees.

Last spring, while inhaling the sweet, heady perfume of my Ziploc bags filled to the brim with flowers post-hike, I decided to make a violet simple syrup to add to fresh lemonade (or jazz up a gin and tonic!). The recipe I found online was easy to follow, and the most satisfying part was watching the acid of the lemon juice added at the end change the syrup from a deep royal blue to a vibrant purple. (You can do the same experiment with just a glass of steeped violet tea and lemon juice!)

A bowl of freshly foraged violets

Photo by Allison Jarrell

Violet Simple Syrup Recipe

Sourced from Nerds with Knives

  • 2 cups rinsed purple violet petals loosely packed, green leaves and stems removed
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1⁄8–1⁄4 teaspoon lemon juice, optional
Two drinks, one purple, one pink, made with wild violet syrup

Photo by Allison Jarrell

  1. Add the violet petals to a heat-proof bowl and pour over 1 cup of boiling water. Swish the flowers around to make sure they’re submerged and let the mixture steep at room temperature for 24 to 48 hours. Place a fine-mesh strainer over another bowl and strain out the petals, pressing or squeezing them to extract as much liquid as possible. Add the violet liquid back to the heat-proof bowl.
  2. Bring 1 to 2 inches of water to a simmer in a medium saucepan and set the bowl with the violet liquid on top of the pan. Make sure the boiling water isn’t directly touching the bowl. Add in the sugar and stir until it is dissolved, about 5 to 7 minutes. Make sure the syrup doesn’t reach a simmer so the color stays vibrant. Remove the bowl from the heat and stir in 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice. If you want the color to be more purple, stir in the other 1/4 teaspoon. Transfer the syrup to a clean glass bottle or jar and store in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.

To make violet lemonade: Stir together 1 part lemon juice and 1 part water with 2 parts violet syrup. For a festive presentation, I also added fresh violets to my ice cube tray, placing 2 or 3 in each cube. Pour a glass and enjoy!

Northern Michigan Violet Hunting Pro Tips

Bring along a field guide to identify what you’re picking, and make sure the area you’re foraging is pesticide-free. Also worth noting: it’s illegal to pick wildflowers on state, federal or conservancy land, and bird-foot violets with long, linear leaves are protected in Michigan.

Wild Violets in the woods

Photo by Allison Jarrell

Photo(s) by Allison Jarrell