‘…. it’s raining violets.’

Description: Cambridge, England: Botanic Garden: Primula x pubescens 'Verity's Violet' - copyright cambridge2000.com

by Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s note. Before you read this article, give yourself the right musical accompaniment, “April Showers” sung by Al Jolson. Jolson made many recordings of this famous song. The music was written by Louis Silvers, the lyrics by B. G. De Sylva; it was first sung by Jolson in the 1921 Broadway musical “Bombo”.

A quick search of any search engine should yield this pip of a song with the inimitable Jolson touch that soon made him a household name. “April Showers” spurred him on his way; it will help us on ours, too.

Acres of violets… nestled amongst the trees… quiet… serene… so abundant, unforgettable by sunlight… irresistible by moonlight… attired in transient glory for the midnight visit of Titania and all her court… you fell asleep too early to see…

These are the violets of my youth… and I cannot see a single blossom without being seized by the memory of their beauty. That is why, when the spring comes and the May violets with it, I prefer to walk alone through Cambridge streets, so that when I find the patches of violets I know so well, I can allow myself the bittersweet sensation of remembrance.

A companion on these walks, so desirable so often, is de trop in violet season. Such a one would try to be congenial, amiable, a real friend. But that is not what you want when the violets come…. you want what only you can recall… the memory of youth, beauty, of endless time for squandering and of the springtime of your life, when your life was just for living, and all life’s miseries and injunctions were yet to come, not present realities. The violets saw it all and smiled… for no one knew better than they how brief that season was. But they didn’t share that insight with you… they knew it would come soon enough on its own. And so it did, thus closing this time in all but memory. Each violet seen is a bridgeway to that memory… and precious so.

The violets of Woodward Avenue.

Winters in the heartland of America which is Illinois, are hard, interminable, testing the fortitude of every living thing, all longing for release and the clemency of spring. By February you are desperate for relief… and while the snow may stop for an instant, the mud does not. It is everywhere, not least in the places you are sternly admonished never to track it. But the mud is more insistent upon going in with you, than you are in heeding the insistent admonition.

Out of this rich mud, the mud that feeds America and the world, come the violets in rampancy and profusion. Their job is to obliterate the despondent memories of winter… and create the moment when you, turning a corner, see  them in all their glory, catching your breath and (without even knowing) breathing a paean of pure thanks for this flicker of time, forever magnificent; now ineffably part of your soul.

Some facts about violets.

Viola is a genus of flowering plants in the violet family Violaceae, with around 400-500 species distributed around the world. Most species are found in the temperate Northern Hemisphere; however, viola species (commonly called violets, pansies, or heartsease) are also found in widely divergent areas such as Hawaii, Australasia, and the Andes in South America.

Flower colors vary in the genus, ranging from violet, as their common name suggests, through various shades of blue, yellow, white, and cream, whilst some types are bicolored, often blue and yellow. Many cultivars and hybrids have been bred in a greater spectrum of colors. Flowering is often profuse, and may last for much of the spring and summer.

Edible violets.

Violets are not only wonderful to look at; they titillate the palate in surprising ways. Violets have a delicate, sweet and sometimes peppery flavor. Before including them in your next salad, however, reaping the advantages of their abundant antioxidants, have a care. Violets are good for you; some flowers that resemble violets are not. These include spring larkspur and monkshood, which are in fact poisonous. This suggests the plot for a murder mystery suitable for “Masterpiece Theatre”. Miss Honeycroft, though no longer young, was appreciated by hostesses for her wit and lively humor of a literary kind; her well-tended violets were much admired… it came as a great shock to the community when her body was found amongst them, jarring in bright red riding boots and nothing more… Kinky. Who would water the violets now?

Special warning: Be extra careful not to add African violets to that salad, even just a few. African violets, beloved of grandmothers worldwide (including mine) are so named because of their resemblance to violets, although they are not true violets and are absolutely not edible; neither are the rhizome or roots of any violets. They are poisonous to humans.

More ways to eat violets.

Violets may be sauteed like spinach and added to stir-fry vegetables. Wild violets also have a somewhat viscous texture when cooked which is used in traditional cooking as a thickener for soups and stews. But while I am sure you like a good stew so prepared… I am surer you crave the sweeter uses of violets….

Violets are a symbol of everlasting love and the enduring passion which their purple color suggests. Remember, this color, in Ancient Rome and  Byzantium, was reserved for emperors… the highest placed mortals on earth. Now swept away, you can enjoy some of their rarefied delights.

To make candied violet flowers, pick a large number of flowers and let them dry on a paper towel for a couple of hours. Beat an egg white to a 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. Lay each flower on wax paper to dry, then use as a decoration for your confections when the flowers are stiff enough to move. This will impress the special one in your life. But you want more than to impress, don’t you? You want to ensnare this person forever and forever passionately. Admit it. Here violets are essential.

Offer your beloved “Parma violets”, a select British tablet confectionery manufactured by the Derbyshire-based company Swizzels Matlow.  For maximum effect, offer, too, a glass of Creme Yvette, made from Parma violets, the most luxurious and lush violets of all. Rarer than rare, this liqueur has not been made for decades… giving it will therefore make the desired impression… and ensure the total submission of the one you crave to distraction. Such is the enduring power of the violet, in the wild or distilled.

“So if it’s raining, have no regrets, Because it it isn’t raining rain you know, It’s raining violets…”

Run outside now and seize them… and this moment… before they and it pass away forever, to your certain regret.


About the Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of Worldprofit, Inc., providing a wide range of online services for small and-home based businesses.

Dr. Lant is also the author of 18 best-selling business books.

Republished with author’s permission by Graham Lee – The Income Zone

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1 Comment

  • Graham

    May 11, 2011 at 6:00 pm Reply

    The voice of Al Jolson brings back so many memories from my youth, listening to Al Jolson and watching Larry Parks in The Jolson Story,… so many times!. My father who died in June last year loved Al Jolson, and this song in particular was one of his favourites.

    I really enjoyed reading this great article, but more so enjoyed listening to the music, which once again reminded me, how much I miss my father as each day passes.

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