How to Make Violet Facial Toner

violet9It’s spring here in the Mid-Altantic, and with it comes violets! In the past, I have posted recipes using these delicate purple flowers, including violet syrup and violet cordial. Besides being pretty, tasty and nutritious, violets also make a wonderful ingredient in natural skin care.

violet1

They are moisturizing, toning, antiseptic, and healing. And violets contain significant amounts of mucilage that help soothe the skin, reduce inflammation, redness, and sooth irritated tissue. Violet flowers and leaves are excellent for dry, sensitive skin. Following is a recipe for violet facial toner, which you can make with either Apple Cider Vinegar or Witch Hazel.

Apple Cider Vinegar makes a great facial wash and toner, since it is great at removing excess oils and helps balance the pH levels. It has antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties and also contains alpha hydroxy acids, which help remove dead skin cells, resulting in a healthier-looking complexion.

Witch Hazel has astringent, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties and makes a great facial toner, even by itself, for all skin types. Be sure to use a true Witch Hazel extract, which contains mostly Witch Hazel and less than 20% alcohol.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (1 quart) distilled water
  • 1 cup violet flowers and leaves
  • 1 cup organic apple cider vinegar or organic witch hazel
  • Lavender essential oil (optional)

violet2Boil the water. Then make an infusion by pouring the water over the violet flowers and leaves in a glass or ceramic container. Cover and let stand for 1 hour (the closed jar keeps the water-soluble vitamins from escaping in the steam).  Strain out the flowers and you will have a beautiful purplish-blue liquid.

violet6

Combine the violet infusion with the vinegar or witch hazel. Pour into sterilized bottles and store in a cool, dry place. The vinegar and witch hazel act as natural preservatives, so this mixture will last quite a while.

violet8

Use this cleansing, pH-balancing, restoring toner after washing your face.  Apply with clean sterile cotton balls or pour a small amount in your hand and splash on, avoiding your eyes.

Both versions have mild, pleasant scents, but if you’d like something a little more flowery, you can add a few drops of lavender essential oil.

Strawberry Jam Made with Port Wine


It’s strawberry season at the farmers markets in my area. I look forward to this time of year, and always take full advantage of the abundance of this wonderful fruit. While we eat a lot of them fresh, I like to use them in a variety of recipes, including salads, soups, smoothies and more. This year, I decided to make jam, and since I love cooking with wine, I thought I would substitute port for the water in this super simple recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of cleaned, hulled, coarsely chopped strawberries (organic or local)
  • 1 cup of port wine
  • 1 cup of sugar (I used organic fair trade)
  • juice of 1 lemon

Place all of the ingredients in a thick-bottomed saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently to keep it from burning, and frequently scraping it from the sides of the pan.

Cook until thickened (about 30-40 minutes).

Pour into a clean container, and store in the refrigerator. Eat within 2 weeks (this should be absolutely no problem). Enjoy on toast, or as a glaze for meat dishes.

Join Us At the Squidfire Spring 2010 Art Mart!

Please join us and over 50 amazing artists for another fabulous Squidfire Art Mart. It will be held from May 8th from 11am-6pm at 801 S Broadway, Baltimore, MD 21231, right in the heart of in the heart of the funky and vibrant Fells Point area. Hope to see you there!

How To Make Violet Syrup

vs1

I love the deep purple hues of violets. These beautiful little flowers grow in abundance this time of year, so I took the opportunity to try out one of the recipes from Gibbons’ book, “Stalking the Healthful Herb.” According to Euell Gibbons, violets are “nature’s vitamin pill” containing 150mg of vitamin C per 100g of blossoms, three times the amount of that in oranges weight for weight.

I decided to make violet syrup, since it is healthful and a gourmet addition to desserts or cocktails.

So, I went out into my yard and picked about a cupful of violet blossoms. I did this in the early afternoon on a sunny day, a good time to harvest blossoms and herbs since the sun has dried off any moisture that might have collected on them overnight.

I placed the blossoms in a clean, dry canning jar.

vs21

Then I covered them in an equal amount of boiling water (1 cup). You can see from the photo that the water begins to take on a beautiful light blue hue.

vs3

Then, I let the mixture steep for 24 hours. I then strained out the violet blossoms (and put them in my compost canister, pictured behind the jar). What was left was this gorgeous jewel-toned blue liquid. Violet essence!

vs4

I put the strained liquid into a sauce pan and added the juice of half a lemon, and 2 cups of sugar (the only sugar I had was vanilla sugar that I had made by placing a halved vanilla bean in a jar of sugar and letting it sit for two months — the color was a light brown, which may have affected the color of my syrup). The addition of the lemon juice caused a chemical reaction, turning the blue liquid into a pinkish-purpleish liquid. I brought this to a boil, and cooked it at a low boil for about 10 minutes.

vs7

I then poured the syrup into a sterilized canning jar, and placed it in the refrigerator. The final result is below. I will try this recipe again with less lemon juice. I’m not sure how the taste will compare, but I’d like to preserve as much of the gorgeous blue color of the violet water as possible.

vs8

According to Gibbons, ancient herbalists used violet syrup to cure epilepsy, pleurisy, jaundice, consumption, insomnia and more. He found that it had demulcent and expectorant properties, making it a tasty cough syrup. However, he recommends enjoying just for the pure pleasure of the taste, putting on pancakes, making drinks from it, or pouring some over shaved ice.

Green In the House

starting seeds in my greenhouse

starting seeds in my greenhouse

One of the best things about my home is that it came with a greenhouse in the backyard. It’s been dormant all winter, but this weekend I put it to good use by starting some seeds.

This is my second year of using the greenhouse. Last year, I had a success in starting basil, tomatoes, peppers and thyme, most of which successfully transferred.

In staying true to the “green” in greenhouse, I use only organic seeds in organic potting soil. And, I’ve been saving bowls from Annie Chun’s noodle bowls (my husband apparently had quite a few this winter), which are made from corn-based compostable “plastic”. (Yes, that’s plastic wrap on the pots, not terribly green, but it’s a less toxic type I bought from Whole Foods).

For pest control, I’ve been using a soy oil based spray that I bought at Whole Foods and a mixture of rosemary and lavendar essential oils in water that I made. This year, I’m adding neem oil to my arsenal.

We plan to plant several vegetables and herbs later in the season, but it’s nice to get a head start with some species that are easy to grow from seed.