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GOING WILDER IN THE KITCHEN!
 Personality: One of the most beautiful flowers in America, it is not just a pretty face. Although small and not showy, it offers high nutrition and powerful medicine. It is truly a plant with heart (-shaped leaves), that is good for the heart.

Habitat/Range: Damp areas, trail edges in forest and meadows. Found across upper US, in the South it is found more commonly in the mountains. Various related species have different ranges and habitats.

Cycle/Uses: Flowers in Spring (March-June depending)--May here in New Jersey, for a month or so. Flowers and young leaves are edible, with the leaves getting tougher later but still edible. Flowers make tea, jelly, candied flowers, jello molds, and syrup. Leaves are good in salad or lightly cooked as a green. They are high in Vitamins A and C. Flowers make a tincture--steeped in good rum they make one of the tastiest medicines ever. It has many uses, especially for opening up the senses--it is like subtly turning up the gain. Relatedly, it is a tonic for the nervous system, helping with headaches and nervous tension. It is healing for the heart, even emotionally speaking (grief and heartbreak). The leaf tea is a good gargle for sore throats, and a mild laxative. There are many indications that it is helpful against breast cancer, but no hard scientific evidence yet.

Preparation and Preservation: Pick and wash. For a tincture, soak flowers in good rum for six weeks, and drain out solids--delicious. Leaves can be served fresh, or dried for tea (much better fresh).

Cautions: Until you have had some experience distinguishing plants, and become familiar with violets, it is best to pick this only when in bloom--there are too many look-alikes with similar flowers, some dangerous. Avoid the root, as it is severly laxative.

Lore: Other violets have yellow or white flowers, with leaves heart-shaped, lanceolate, or divided-serrated (crows-foot).--The lovely, visible flower is sterile. The flower that actually sets seed is brown, inconspicuous, and grows close to the ground, in autmn, and self-pollinates. Mainly though, the plant spreads by underground rhizomes.

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