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Home > Cosmetics Constituents > Uses of cosmetics > Perennial Herbs
Perennial Herbs

AloeAloe
Wonderfully easy plant to grow with amazing skin-soothing and healing properties right off the plant. Grows with little care and needs only infrequent watering. A must for every windowsill gardener and a welcome addition to the backyard herb garden. Must be brought in when the weather turns cold. Aloe is one of the true heavyweights in medicinal herbs, and there is a surprising amount of good research regarding its benefits, which is not the case with many of the other herbs. If you dont have an aloe plant sitting on your kitchen windowsill, make it a point to pick one up next time you are out and about, because this is one truly amazing plant! Aloe has a nauseating bitter taste, rendering it unusable in cooking, but this very property is what protects it in the wild, as animals will move on to tastier treats. It is an easy plant to grow and requires little care, other than protecting it from frost. It resembles a cactus with its spiny, thick leaves, but it is really a member of the lily and onion families. Aloe requires temperatures above 40 degrees to grow properly, and due to this, most aloe plants are grown in containers that can be moved indoors when the cool weather approaches. It will tolerate poor soil and little water, and the growing conditions very much resemble those used for growing cactus, i.e. good drainage and as much sun as possible. In spring and summer, allow the soil to become moderately dry before watering, but in winter, let the soil dry completely before adding water. An aloe plant will survive in the same pot for many years, and it appears that aloes prefer somewhat crowded roots, so dont think you are doing this plant a favor by potting it up in a big, roomy container. If you must repot this plant, do it in the late winter or spring. Aloe can be propagated by seed or by removing the offshoots that grow at the base of the plant. The best way to remove these offshoots is to take the entire plant out of the pot, then separate the offshoots from the parent plant (they should have some roots of their own), returning the parent plant to its original container. Harvest the older outer leaves first and use to soothe skin problems.

Aloe has been well known for centuries for its healing properties, and both oral intake and topical dressings have been documented to facilitate healing of any kind of skin wound, burn, or scald - even speeding recovery time after surgery. Situations to try it on include blisters, insect bites, rashes, sores, herpes, urticaria, athletes foot, fungus, vaginal infections, conjunctivitis, sties, allergic reactions, and dry skin. The raw plant is best, but commercial preparations can also be used, especially for taking orally, as this plant tastes horrible. Other topical uses include acne, sunburn, frostbite (it appears to prevent decreased blood flow), shingles, screening out x-ray radiation, psoriasis, preventing scarring, rosacea, warts, wrinkles from aging, and eczema.

Internally, aloe is showing real promise in the fight against AIDS, and the virus has become undetectable in some patients who used it on a regular basis, due to its immune system stimulant properties. It also seems to help prevent opportunistic infections in cases of HIV and AIDS. It appears to be of help in cancer patients (including lung cancer) by activating the white blood cells and promoting growth of non-cancerous cells. The National Cancer Institute has included Aloe Vera in their recommendations for increased testing because of these apparent cancer-fighting properties. Taken orally, aloe also appears to work on heartburn, arthritis and rheumatism pain and asthma, and studies have shown that it has an effect on lowering blood sugar levels in diabetics. Other situations in which it appears to work when taken internally include congestion, intestinal worms, indigestion, stomach ulcers, colitis, hemorrhoids, liver problems such as cirrhosis and hepatitis, kidney infections, urinary tract infections, prostate problems, and as a general detoxifier. Lastly, many people who take aloe internally report just feeling better overall, which is in and of itself something of a testament to its remarkable properties.

As far as dosages are concerned, start small and work your way up to a therapeutic dose. Juices are a good way to start, and pills are probably the worst way to go with aloe. Aloe pulp is 95% water, and if you consider the process of drying this, then sticking it back together into a pill form, you can see why pills are probably not the best way to go. Also, give your regimen time to work. Sometimes it takes a couple of months for you to see the real effects of aloe treatments, so dont give up too soon.

Aloe is safe when used in moderation, but there are a few contradications. If you have a heart problem and use any kind of digitalis medication, consult your doctor before using any aloe product internally, as the interaction may cause irregular heartbeat. Avoid aloe preparations if you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or menstruating, as it can cause uterine contractions.


Angelica
Angelica is one of the herbs that is difficult to peg as a either biennial or perennial. It definitely does not fit into the annual category, because it wont flower, seed, and die until the second or third year (which would indicate biennial). If flowering is thwarted, however, the plant can survive for many years (suggestive of a perennial). Therefore, it is something of a perennial biennial, and will be listed as both on this page, since even the botanists are not in agreement on this issue. Angelica is a tall plant (up to 8 feet in some cases), so take this into consideration when placing it in the herb garden. The roots are long, thick, and fleshy. It has bright green, fine leaves and is an attractive plant, that somewhat resembles celery. It has an pervading, aromatic smell somewhat similar to celery, but that some liken more to musk, and others liken more to the smell of Juniper. It has a licorice taste, evident in the entire plant, from roots to seed. The root has a slightly bolder taste than the seeds, and combines well in yeast breads, cakes, muffins, and cookies (press it into the dough before baking). Then glaze or finish in whatever manner you choose. The stems can be candied for a unique, little known treat, and can be used to decorate cakes or puddings. The leaves can be used fresh in salads, soups, stews, or as a garnish. Both the roots and seeds are used commercially to flavor herb liqueurs, such as Benedictine and chartreuse, and the root is a flavoring agent in gin and vermouth. Angelica should be started from seed. It does not propagate well by division or by cutting the offshoots. It prefers rich, moist, well-drained soil and partial shade. The leaves can be harvested in the spring of the second year, the roots in the fall of the first year, and the seeds when ripe. Angelica has a long history of medical, magical, and culinary tales to its credit. In the past it has been used for such diverse medical problems as chest congestion, insomnia, flatulence, headaches, fevers, skin rashes, wounds, rheumatism, toothaches, to promote menstrual flow, and to induce abortions. Obviously many of these have not been borne out by modern science, but this is a plant that does have some medicinal merit, particularly with regard to digestive concerns and bronchial problems.


CornflowerCornflower
Cornflower, also known as Bachelors Button or blue-bottle, makes a welcome addition to any garden if only for its sky blue color (though there are varieties in pink and white too). But this plant has many other uses including having sturdy, long stems for cut flowers, making attractive medium to tall backdrops for the perennial or wildflower garden, being extremely easy to grow, and having some benefit in the medicinal garden. Though the flower taste is rather bland, in my opinion, they still make an excellent garnish for salads, entrees, and drinks. Cornflowers are another member of the huge Aster family, and originate in Europe, where they are sometimes a nuisance in corn and grain fields, thus the name Cornflower. They have naturalized throughout much of the United States, and are a mainstay in wildflower mixes. They make long-lasting cut flowers, and the name Bachelors Button comes from their lasting qualities when pinned into the lapel of a tuxedo or suit. Cut blooms are also a good choice for wedding day hair ornaments or weaved into a hair band or head wreath. Cornflowers come in both annual and perennial varieties, but the basic care and maintenance is the same. Sow seed either in late fall or early spring. The seeds usually take 7-10 days to sprout, and germinate readily. Pinching the annual varieties will produce more stems, and thus more flowers. These plants have sturdy stems that hold up well to windy conditions, but occasionally you may have to stake an individual here and there. Soil conditions can be variable, as long as it is well drained, but full sun or nearly full sun is appreciated. The plants self seed only sporadically, so fresh seed every year is suggested to assure their presence in the garden, though this does not rule out a volunteer here and there.

Cornflowers make good container choices because of their draught tolerant nature, and also look wonderful in a garden mixed with Oriental Poppies, Dames Rocket, Shasta Daisies, Coreopsis, Lavender, Zinnias, or a host of other plants. Towards the end of the growing season, their foliage may become somewhat raggedy looking, so having other plants of nearly the same height around them is a good way to camouflage their decline. The flowers can be dried in silica gel for craft projects, or hung upside down and dried for use in arrangements. An infusion of the flowers in water will make a beautiful blue dye for fabrics, but it is not a permanent dye, unfortunately. In Russia, the flowers are added to Vodka to give it a blue tint with a hint of spicy taste.

Not much study has been done on Cornflowers in modern times, though the plant has been used for centuries to ward off a plethora of ailments, mostly related to the eyes and eyesight. In modern medicine, Cornflower does appear to be of benefit externally and likely has antiseptic properties, making it worth a try for cuts, scrapes, and bruising of the skin. It is also fairly well known by herbalists as a remedy for conjunctivitis, eye swelling, puffiness, and pain related to the eye area. Cornflower has been around as a magickal tool for a long time. Its purported benefits magickally include enhancing psychic abilities, fertility, love, sex, and abundance, The flowers are used to decorate alters and the dried flower is carried in sachets or amulets to attract lovers. One entry states that you should sprinkle the dried flower on the right shoe when looking for a new lover. For enhancement of psychic abilities it can be combined with other psychic herbs and drunk in a tea. Possibilities include Anise, Bay, Borage, Calendula, Lemongrass, Lovage, Marjoram, Mint, and Oregano.


FennelFennel belongs to the Umbelliferae family, members of which also include angelica, anise, chervil, coriander, dill, and parsley. It is native to central and Western Europe, South Africa, and China. The leaves can be used in fish, veal, and pork, and mixed with flavored butters, oils, vinegars, and salad dressings. The seeds are used as a spice, mainly for breads. Fennel has feathery foliage and hollow stems. It is drought-hardy and will grow just about anywhere. It is a perennial that can also be grown as an annual. Established roots will overwinter easily. It will bolt with too much heat, so start seed early in spring. It grows to up to six feet, and flowers in mid-summer. A seed head with many ribbed seeds follows flowering. Fennel is a host for Swallowtail Butterflies, which spend their entire life cycle either on or near it, and as such, it is a valuable part of any garden habitat. The flowers also attract beneficial bees. Be careful where you plant Fennel, however, as many other plants will not do well in close proximity to it.

Fennel has through history been considered an appetite depressant, and as such, a weight loss aid. All parts of the Fennel plant are safe for use, and Hippocrates recommended a Tea to increase the flow of milk in nursing mothers. Menopausal women may want to try it to ease the associated symptoms. The leaves or stems can be pounded into a paste and given to nursing mothers to relieve breast swelling.

Fennel Teas, or Fennel Water have been used throughout history to break up
kidney stones, quiet hiccups, prevent nausea, aid digestion, prevent gout, purify the liver, reverse alcohol damage to the liver, and treat jaundice. For babies, it is said to to relieve colic and flatulence, and to expel worms. It may be effective when used along with conventional treatments in prostate cancer (and it is definitely worth trying, but consults with your doctor first). The tea can also be gargled as a breath freshener and applied as eyewash. Alternatively, the leaves can be dried, pulverized into a powder, and made into Capsules for when its not convenient to utilize a tea. To make Fennel water, use 8 drops of Oil to 1 pint of water - take up to 8 teaspoons per day. Fennel is disliked by fleas, and can therefore be used around the house in doorways and near pet bedding to reduce flea populations. Fennel is a cleansing and medicating herb, and can be used for a steam facial negativity and provide protection from harmful spells.

In spells, Fennel can be used alone or with other like herbs for courage, divination, cleansing, strength, energy, meditation, virility, psychic protection, and as a means for counter-magick. Hung in doorways or windows, Fennel protects from evil and sorcery, and placed in keyholes, it protects against spirits of the dead. Grown around the outside of the home, Fennel provides protection from evil influences and negativity.


GinkoGinko
Ginko (also called the Maidenhair Tree) is one of the more interesting herbs, not only because the plant itself is actually a tree, but because this tree has been in existence virtually unchanged since the age of the dinosaurs. The Ginko Biloba is the only surviving member of the family Ginkgoaceae, a family that numbered around 18 members at its height. The entire family of plants appears to have been wiped out by the ice age, and the Ginko was thought to be extinct until specimens were found in China. It is the descendants of these very trees that populate the streets and gardens of modern civilization.

The Ginkgo is a long-lived deciduous tree (loses its leaves in the fall), and has a moderate growth rate. It can be somewhat gawky and thin looking when very young, but becomes a large, stately tree as it ages. It takes 10-12 years for a Ginko to reach 20 feet, and about 20 years to attain a rounded shape as a shade tree. It has distinctive fan-shaped leaves that turn a very showy yellow color in the fall, and it makes a good specimen or shade tree in the landscape. It prefers full sun and humidity, and will withstand salt spray, pollution, and storms. In fact, the Ginkgo was the first tree to bud after the atomic bomb blast in Hiroshima. The only real necessity is good drainage. In urban settings it usually matures at about 80 feet. The tallest Ginkgo on record, however, is 1,100 years old and tops out at 200 feet.

Ginkgo will not produce seed until the tree is 25-30 years old, but it is suggested that for a home landscape situation you choose a male Ginkgo, because the females bear fruit that, quite frankly, stinks to high heaven. Deer will not bother a Ginkgo, so it is a good choice if you have deer roaming freely in the area.

Worldwide, Ginkgo is an extremely popular herb that millions use for better health. It is sometimes called an anti-aging herb because it has been proven to increase blood circulation to the entire body, especially the brain, increasing mood, mental alertness, memory, and overall stamina, which are the very functions that diminish as we age. Much study has been done on Ginkgo and its effects, and indeed, it does appear to be about as close to a fountain of youth as we are going to get anytime soon.

Fresh Ginkgo leaves can be dried and used in teas or made into capsules if you are lucky enough to have a Ginkgo tree close at hand, or you can buy standardized Ginkgo online or at a health food store. Ginkgo is one of the only herbs that has been reliably standardized, so you know exactly what you are getting. See the links below for instructions on making teas and capsules.

Controlled studies have revealed that Ginkgo does improve cognitive functioning due to improved blood flow in arteries and capillaries. It is often taken by older people as a sort of energizer to improve mood, alertness, memory, and attention span. It appears to protect veins and arteries and preserve their tone and elasticity. It is therefore used for problems associated with atherosclerosis, dementia, Alzheimers disease, Raynauds Syndrome, peripheral vascular disease, peripheral neuropathy, and associated poor circulation, including tingling, pain, and numbness in the extremities. This same improved blood flow characteristic also appears to have some impact on macular degeneration, with documented improvement in the vision of some patients, and symptoms of tinnitus and vertigo. Other less documented but likely benefits concern relief from hangovers, impotency in males, and sex drive in both males and females, making it something of an aphrodisiac. Other studies have revealed that Ginkgo has powerful antioxidant properties, thus making it a good choice for prevention and possibly reversal of stroke damage, cardiovascular problems and occlusive arterial disease, and that it has benefit in reducing the inflammation caused by asthma and allergies, and relieves symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis outbreaks.

Lastly, Ginkgo has been extensively studied, and side effects are minimal, if any. In rare cases, reports of stomach upset and headache have occurred, usually due to overuse. A prudent strategy is to start with a low dose and work your way up, as with any herbal remedy.


Ground Ivy Ground Ivy
Depending on who is doing the talking, ground ivy can be classified as either an aggressive, uncontrollable lawn weed or a fast-growing, attractive ground cover. Also commonly called Creeping Charlie, ground Ivy is a member of the mint family, a family that as we know includes some seriously rampant members as far as growth habit and rapid spread are concerned, and ground ivy is no exception.

Ground Ivy is a sprawling warm season perennial with the characteristic square stems (which are often purple) of mint family members. When brushed or crushed, the rounded, scalloped leaves emit a pleasant minty scent and the dainty flowers are violet in color. Left to its own devices, ground ivy will spread quickly and aggressively, choking out lawn grasses and other shorter and weaker plants. However, it really doesnt seem to affect taller plants and bulbs much at all, and its thick spread does effectively crowd out and eventually eliminate less attractive garden invaders such as crabgrass.

In the wild, ground ivy tends to proliferate in somewhat shady moist areas, but it will also tolerate hot, dry, full sun positions. It has few pest problems and spreads by creeping stems that root at the nodes.

If you are a brave soul who wants to try ground ivy as a ground cover, make sure you have a good-sized barrier to hold it in check, or it will jump over and quickly choke out grass and other low-growing ornamentals. For those who consider it a weed, there is unfortunately no good way to eliminate it unless only a very small area involved. Good garden practices and regular mowing are helpful, along with hand pulling whenever you see new individuals. For more severe infestations, pre-emergent herbicides dont seem to work too well, but post-emergents can help when done carefully in the fall after the weather cools. Alternately, multiple tillings and reseeding of grass may be the only way out in severe cases.

It is really a shame that ground ivy is such an aggressive little plant, as it can be quite attractive as a ground cover with other flowering ornamentals spaced throughout. It also has well-known medicinal properties, and a pleasant smell, two good qualities that somewhat redeem it from abject categorization as a noxious weed. See the links below for more information.


LavenderLavender
Lavender is the quintessential English or cottage garden plant, and is a must for the perennial or herb garden. It has grayish looking lance-shaped leaves that make a good backdrop for other plants and flowers, and the wonderful fragrant purple, pink, or white flowers make it an excellent choice for walkways or in containers near doorways or on porches or decks.

Lavender is a perennial member of the large mint family and does well in situations with full sun and dry, well-drained, average soil. Though there are around 30 varieties, the most popular for the home garden are the hardy English and more tender French and Spanish types. English lavender is considered the top choice for fragrance purposes, but all the lavenders make lovely, fragrant additions to almost any type of home situation, as long as they are given very well drained soil and lots of sunlight. Though English lavender can make it through the winter if given some shelter from the elements and a good protective mulch, the French and Spanish types should be moved inside or replaced yearly.

Lavender is difficult to raise from seed because of the long germination time, and most plants are started from cuttings or from root division. Cuttings 2-3 inches long can be taken from side shoots in the summer and placed in moist but very well-drained sand or soil. Keep in a shady area or under some sort of sun shield, and plant in the garden after about one year. During the first year in the garden, keep flower shoots cut off to help the plant bush out, but in subsequent years, it can be allowed to bloom freely. Lavender appreciates deadheading of the spent flowers to keep it productive. Harvesting should be done on a hot, dry day at the end of summer for the best oils and fragrance.

Though we are all aware of the fragrant properties of the lavenders, these plants also make useful additions to the medicine cabinet and are often used in various craft projects. The flowers can be candied for use in decorating cakes and and the leaves can be substituted for Rosemary in chicken dishes, but otherwise Lavender is not used widely in cooking. The flower spikes make wonderful additions to dried and fresh flower arrangements, the oils make for the best in aromatherapy and are used medicinally and for homemade bed and bath items, and the attractive, bushy habit makes Lavender a natural for many different types of garden situations. The stems, once stripped of leaves and flowers can be burned like an incense stick for a wonderful room freshener. Additionally, this is a plant that attracts bees and beneficial insects.


OreganoOregano
Mentioning Oregano immediately brings to mind tomato sauces and Italian cooking. Oregano is part of a fairly large genus of herbs, and there are many similar plants in this genus that are mistakenly identified as Oregano. A notable one is Marjoram. Oreganos are aromatic perennial plants with hairy square stems, and have a hot, peppery taste. Although we think of it mostly as being an addition to pizza and spaghetti, Oregano actually mingles well with a large number of foods, including roasted and stewed beef, poultry, game, marinated vegetables, potatoes, cheese and egg combinations, onions, shellfish, and roasted bell peppers.

Oregano can be used fresh or dried. It prefers well drained, average soil and full sun. It is native to the Mediterranean all the way to central Asia, but has naturalized widely in North America. It has tubular rose-purple to white flowers and blooms June to September. Plants themselves can be upright or mounding with underground rhizomes, with a maximum height for the uprights of 2-3 feet. Regular cuttings promote bushy growth on all oreganos. Cuban Oregano is a member of the same family as Coleus, and as such is not true oregano. It does share the same general taste as the oreganos, and can be used as a substitute, though this is more common in Cuba and surrounding areas than it is in the US. Cuban Oregano makes a nice houseplant - especially the variegated type shown above, and is propagated easily by cuttings.

Oregano is usually thought of as a culinary herb, but it has been used medicinally for thousands of years. Try a Tea made with Oregano for indigestion, bloating, flatulence, coughs, urinary problems, bronchial problems, headaches, swollen glands, and to promote menstruation. It has also been used in the past to relieve fevers, diarrhea, vomiting, and jaundice. Unsweetened tea can be used as a gargle or mouthwash. Alternatively, the leaves can be dried, pulverized, and made into capsule form for when it is inconvenient to make a tea. Please see the link below for details. At this point in time, there have not been enough studies done to refute or to support any of the above claims, but Oregano is a safe herb for testing at home, so feel free to experiment.

Externally, Oregano leaves can be pounded into a paste (add small amounts of hot water or tea to reach the desired consistency - oatmeal may also be added for consistency purposes). This paste can then be used for pain from rheumatism, swelling, itching, aching muscles, and sores. For tired joints and muscles, put a handful of Oregano leaves in a coffee filter, mesh bag or cheesecloth bag and run steaming bath water over it. Allow it to steep in the tub with you as you relax in the warm, fragrant water. Lastly, Oil can be made with Oregano leaves to use for toothache pain. Put a few drops on the affected tooth for relief.


TansyTansy
Tansy is an attractive Perennial that will thrive if given halfway decent conditions. It has fern-like leaves and thin stalks. It does have medicinal values, but this is not a plant for amateurs. Please take note that with enough quantity, it can cause violent reactions, so use it sparingly. In the past, Tansy has been used effectively for various problems in some instances by knowledgeable people, but as a medicinal herb, but safer, more effective products have long replaced it.

Having said that, Tansy sends out vigorous rhizomes, which are basically underground stems. It has become a weed in some areas because of its easy growth habit. It has a piney odor when brushed, so put it along a high traffic area for the fragrance. It has feathery leaves that have a tropical look, and the shorter specimens make a good rock garden plant. It has been used in the past for all kinds of pest control, and is helpful to some other herbs and vegetables when grown in close proximity to them. Beware, however, that if you grow it as a companion to other plants, you will have to find a way of containing its growth, as the underground rhizomes do tend to spread rapidly. Please see Companion Planting for more information regarding what plants will benefit from the company of Tansy.

Tansy can be used in small amounts in cooking. It has a strong, peppery taste and can be used as a substitute for pepper. It compliments scrambled eggs and omelets, herb butters, marinades, and stuffings, and can be used in baking cookies, pancakes, waffles, etc. It can be used fresh or minced, and can be propagated by seeds or division.


ThymeThyme
Thyme is one of the great culinary herbs. Theres an old saying..."When in doubt, use thyme." Thyme blends well with dozens of foods, and there are varieties that mimic other herbs almost exactly when used in cooking. Thyme is very nearly the perfect useful culinary herb. Thyme is a perennial herb that is basically a small, many-branched, aromatic shrub (6-12 inches in height). It has small lilac to pink flowers in June and July. It is native to the western Mediterranean region but is cultivated widely. It has a green taste with something of a clove aftertaste. It blends well with lemon, garlic, and basil, and is used as a garnish in salads and chowders. It can be used with just about any meat, casserole, stew, soup, or vegetable dish. Thyme is an easy plant to grow, and will do well in sun or partial shade. Bees are attracted to the flowers, and as such it is a good addition to a Habitat type of gardening scheme. The smaller varieties can be grown between brick pavers on pathways so the delicious scent can be smelled while walking over it. It is a wonderful container plant, and will cascade over the sides of its container, and it is also a very good rock garden specimen. This plant is a must for any herb garden, and it makes a good companion plant for other herbs and vegetables.

The origin of the name "Thyme" has been traced to two possible sources. Thymus is a Greek name for "courage," but to the Greeks it also meant, "to fumigate." It has been used through the centuries as a remedy for many ailments, from epilepsy to melancholy. Nowadays, herbalists for intestinal worms, gastrointestinal ailments, bronchial problems, laryngitis, diarrhea, and lack of appetite prescribe it. It has antiseptic properties, and can be used as a mouthwash, skin cleanser, and anti-fungal agent for athletes foot and as an anti-parasitic for lice, scabies, and crabs. For skin inflammations and sores, make a poultice by mashing the leaves into a paste.

To use Thyme as an anti-fungal agent or as a parasitic, mix four ounces of Thyme to a pint of alcohol, or buy the essential oil and use sparingly on the affected area. For bronchitis and gastric problems, make a tea to be used once per day. Add honey as a sweetener, if desired. The essential oil of Thyme (Thymol) can cause adverse reactions if taken in its pure form, so use Thyme-based medications sparingly. If taken in a tea, drink only once or twice per day, and if used on the skin, be aware that it may cause irritation.



VioletViolet
Violets have been cultivated and used in cooking and medicine for thousands of years. They are low-growing Perennials that are closely related to Pansies, and spread readily in the right conditions. They make an attractive and useful ground cover in shady situations, such as under trees. In my area, Violets are prone to being thought of as a weed, as they spring up all over the place and are difficult to control. However, in my opinion, if you have to have a weed problem, Violets are very much preferable to most of the other weeds I can think of. Violets have fragrant flowers that are borne on stalks that rise from the leaves. Their leaves are dark green and oval, kidney shaped, or heart shaped. The flowers can be white, blue, purple, and rarely, yellow. Violets flower in April and May, and prefer rich, moist soil and partial shade. They self-sow readily and also spread by runners, and they may need occasional thinning. Violet leaves and flowers are often used as garnishes in chilled soups and for a festive touch in punches. The petals can be candied and used to garnish cakes, fruits, and pastries. The leaves are tasty enough to be eaten alone, but also work well when added to green salads.

To make candied Violet flowers, pick a large number of flowers and let dry on a paper towel for a couple of hours. Beat an egg white to froth, and color it with food coloring, if desired. Using a fine brush, carefully coat each flower with the egg white, then pour fine sugar over each. Blend the sugar in your blender to make it a finer consistency, if desired. Lay each flower on wax paper to dry then use as a decoration for your confections when the flowers are stiff enough to move. Steeping leaves and flowers in water until it becomes fragrant makes violet water. The water can then be used in teas and in puddings and for flavoring ice cubes.
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