There’s nothing like a relentless winter to make me leap for joy when I finally spot a couple of tiny, familiar springtime faces in the yard.
I have always wondered why these little flowers are called Johnny Jump Ups. The name, I imagine, must have been coined by Johnny, a Southerner living up north, jumping for joy at the sight of blooming flowers after enduring six months of winter.
As pretty as the flowers are, Johnny Jump Ups make a tasty little treat, too. Members of the same perennial family such as sweet violets, violas and pansies are edible as well. The most common way to integrate the colorful blooms into a meal is as a garnish or in a salad. They also make delicious spreads, jellies and even vinegar. Sweet violets (Viola odorata) can be used in tea, syrup and cakes or even candied. While the sweet violet flowers taste slightly perfumed, their leaves are tart.
Johnny Jump Ups have even been known to treat epilepsy, asthma and eczema.
For best flavor, harvest newly bloomed flowers in the morning. This is when the oils are most concentrated and blooms look their best. The more you harvest, the more flowers will grow.