Come and help us celebrate Viola as Herb of the Year 2022 at October's Herb Market at the Pearl Brewery in San Antonio
October 15th, 2022 - 9 am to 1 pm
Herb Of The Year:
2005 Oregano and Marjoram
2006 Scented Geraniums
2007 Lemon Balm
2009 Bay Laurel
2016 Peppers Caspicum ssp.
2020 Rubus ssp. (Blackberries,
Raspberries et al.)
2021 Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)
2022 Viola (Violet, Johnny Jump Ups)
HERB OF THE YEAR FOR 2022
Heartsease, Viola tricolor, some of us know this herb from child hood as johnny-jump-ups and it is also known as wild pansy, hearts delight - and the one I just love - come-and-cuddle-me. We also have love-in-idleness, call-me-to-you and kiss-me-at-the-garden gate! The names make one smile, which is perhaps why pansies of all descriptions are portrayed in art as happy faces.
It may seem strange to think of the viola as an herb, but long before they appeared in our gardens, they were valued for their medicinal properties. Nearly 2,000 years ago our old, opinionated friend the Greek physician Dioscorides, noted that violets have a "cooling" effect on inflammations of the stomach and of the eyes. The 16th century English physician, John Gerard described more than a dozen medicines made from the leaves or flowers of the plant.
Herbalists today still rely on violets to treat coughs, colds and catarrh, chronic skin problems such as eczema and psoriasis, urinary ract infections and arthritis. All these conditions involve inflammation in one way or another and violets appear to have a special power to "cool" or reduce inflammation. Research has shown that extracts of violet leaves and flowers can be as effective as corticosteroid drugs in reducing inflammation, without the nasty side effects.
Violas and their cousins, heartsease and pansies are widely planted in gardens for their masses of flowers which can come in brash or understated colors depending on the variety. They do best in moist, well-drained partly sunny locations, but they are surprisingly adaptable in less optimal situations. Here in south central Texas, we can plant in October and for the most part we can see them through the winter season into early spring. The edible fresh flowers are great fun to add to salads, soups and desserts. The flowers may be candied by coating fresh flowers with sugar syrup. Although not all violets are scented, sweet violet (viola odorata) is renowned for its "soft, powdery and romantic scent" and has been used in perfumery for at least 1,500 years.
We are inclined to take violets for granted because they are so common, so easy to acquire and so hard to get out of the garden. But if you think of them as specially evolved landing pads for bees, you may view them in a whole new light, as one of nature's amazing inventions. The stripes on the lowest petal are lines for guiding the bees into the heart of the flower.
Whether for medicine, food or fragrance, violets really are herbs. Lets celebrate them and enjoy their various aspects as this year's Herb of the Year
Herb of the Year Criteria
The International Herb Association established National Herb Week in 1991 and every year since 1995 they have chosen an Herb Of The Year. The Herb Of The Year must fulfill its mandate by being useful in 2 out of 3 categories: Medicinal, Culinary or Decorative.
The original use of herbs was for medicine. In ancient Egypt, China, Greece and Assyria the treatment of diseases was performed by the use of herbs and spices either ingested or used as a poultice, salve, balm or the ancient word 'nard.' Arcane herbal knowledge has come down to us through the generations and today we look to the past finding out how our ancestors used herbs on a daily basis to keep their households healthy and happy. Here in San Antonio we are part of an ancient native American culture that used herbs for healing and in food preparation daily. There is no substitute for clipping a handful of fresh herbs from your garden or a pot on your kitchen window adding flavor and freshness to your dinner table and in so doing improving our health and linking us to centuries of herbal knowledge.
What Is An Herb? According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, an herb is defined as a "(1) seed plant that lacks woody tissue and dies to the ground at the end of a growing season. (2) A plant or plant part valued for medicinal or savory qualities." The value of the plant can be in its leaves, stems, seeds or root. They are valued and harvested for their flavor, healthful qualities, fragrance or dye. Examples such as mint, oregano, cilantro and basil are harvested for their leaves which we primarily use in our kitchens. Spices are the woody parts or seeds of herbaceous plants. Examples are caraway, fennel, sesame, black pepper and cinnamon.