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Helpful Herbs: Johnny Jump Ups

Want an early splash of spring in your garden that you can also use in your kitchen? Look no further than the delightful Johnny Jump Up or Viola tricolor, a bright faced, hardy flower that is one of the first to blossom every spring. Part of the pansy family, these little flowers are more powerful than they look.

via Wikipedia, by Carl Axel Magnus Lindman

Started from seeds or purchased as seedlings, this diminutive plants can be planted in sunshine or partial shade and their main care consideration is to make sure they don't get over watered. They are perennial, even in cold climates, and will propagate themselves, making them great fillers between larger shrubs. Not only will they pop up in early spring, they can also tolerate hot summer heat.

Johnny Jump Ups are part of an unusual group of flowers, in that they are edible. They are a popular garnish for salads, adding color and brighteness to leafy greens. They're not just for salads, though. In drinks and on desserts they add flair, and they can also be made into a light, flavorful jam. Freeze the flowers in popsicles to delight your children, or garnish fresh cheese. One of the prettiest uses for the flowers I have found is to place them onto pancakes or crepes while they are cooking. Cooked down, the flavor of the flowers taste similar to spinach.

These pretty flowers aren't just tasty, they are great for your health as well. Johnny Jump Ups are anti-fugal and anti-inflammatory, making them good for minor aches and pains. They can be used on wounds to help them heal, and taken as a natural aspirin. These types of flowers are also used to treat sore throats and whooping cough, and can be applied directly to treat dry skin and acne.

Because of their hardiness and far reaching territoy, Johnny Jump Ups have been used for healing and cooking for centuries. Salves were made to treat wounds and sores, and various infusions of the plant have been part of remedies for intestenial problems, sore throats, coughs, high blood pressure, and hysteria.

Also known by their scientific name, Viola, Johnny Jump Ups can be called Heart's ease, Tickle My Fancy, Jump Up and Kiss Me, or Love in Idleness among other names, and called Stepmother in France and Germany. They are also more generally referred to as "Pansy", though that name covers more species than just the viola. They are referenced in A Midsummer Night's Dream as "love-in-idleness" and are used by Oberon and Puck to play with the fates of the other characters of Shakespeare's comedic play.

Lady Mary Elizabeth Bennet, a noblewoman of the 1800s, collected various sorts of the Johnny Jump Up and cultivated mutiple colors. Long before this, Johnny Jump Ups were used by Greeks for herbal cures. Ancient Roman legend says that the flowers of the viola were originally white, but an arrow from Cupid's bow turned them purple.

From ancient love potions to modern cures for skin and throat, Johnny Jump Ups are useful little flowers. Growing pratically anywhere, and delighting the eye in your garden or lawn, these small purple flowers are a fun addition to any garden.


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