Violet flowers are pretty, but I enjoy violet greens much more than the flowers. Here and there you might see some people saying they put a few violet leaves in a salad, and that can be ok, but just ok. Violet greens, unless harvested very young, are often pretty tough, which is why most of the time when I eat them, either as a salad or in a soup, say, they're going to be cooked.
Cooked violet greens will be nice and tender, with a soft slippery-ness characteristic of many plants in the Malvaceae (okra, mallow, etc) that I also enjoy. Personally, I would much rather eat gently cooked violet greens than raw ones anytime.
One of my favorite ways to have them is a variation on the classic Japanese gomae salad. It's easy: you take some greens and blanch or steam them until tender, then mix them with a thick dressing made from pounded, toasted nuts or seeds, the oil from the same nut or seed (if possible) maple syrup.
There's a ton of different ways that you can mix this up and make it your own. The basic formula uses sesame seeds and sesame oil, but it's really adaptable. Here's a few ideas:
- Hickory nuts + hickory nut oil
- Pumpkinseeds + pumpkinseed oil
- Black walnuts + black walnut oil
- Pecans + pecan oil
- Sunflower seeds + Smudes sunflower oil
Are you getting the picture here? Try out some versions and see what you can come up with.
Violet Greens Gomae (Japanese Violet Salad)
- 2-3 tablespoons nuts or seeds pumpkinseeds, sesame seeds, etc (refer to my suggestions in the post)
- 1 tablespoon soy or equivalent
- 1 tablespoon oil from the same nuts
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 8 ounces fresh violet greens with minimal amounts of stem
- Blanch the greens in boiling salted water until just tender, then shock in an ice bath and squeeze dry. Alternately, you can steam them until they're tender and taste good to you.
- Toast the nuts, then grind to a paste in a mortar and pestle, and stir in the remaining ingredients.
- Toss well with the greens, double check the seasoning, adjust as you see fit for salt and sugar, and serve, cool or at room temperature.