Chinese Violet Chips

One of the most common wild food plants available throughout the Hawaiian Islands is Chinese violet (Asystasia gangetica), a common herb growing mostly in lower elevation windward locations, but who can also be found in shady areas on leeward sides. Depending on how much water the plant gets, the greens are an easily found wild food that are mild in flavor. 

I recently had a new wild food intern arrive at my place and asked her to harvest this plant, as it was smothering my ‘olena starts. This woman (Marla) is rad, an adventurous eater and chef who had whipped up a chimichurri made from the raw greens when I returned – brilliant – except that the greens need to be cooked! She said she had done an internet search and that the greens were ok to eat raw…after some mystery I realized that an internet search of “chinese violet edible” brings you to another plant who is also known by the name Chinese violet (Viola yezoensis). eeeeek, yet another case of common names versus scientific names and the MASSIVE IMPORTANCE of learning those scientific names.

Marla tried again and came up with these delicious, cooked, chips in the recipe below. A learning opportunity for everyone. I’ve been eating Chinese violets (Asystasia gangetica) for the last 7 years, and I’ve never found any information on the flowers’ edibility. The flowers are gorgeous added to dye bundles though, and create a greenish/blue color depending on what kind of natural dyebath you’ve brewed up! There isn’t a lot of research on this plant, mostly we have ethnobotanical information on how people around Africa and Asia eat it, but this paper gives you a glimpse into how science is confirming some of its traditional medicinal uses as an anti-asthmatic and more are emerging.

Chinese violet (Asystasia gangetica) has a stemmy appearance, and although it typically grows near to the ground it can climb on top of, or with, other plants that reach some height. Photo by Sunny Savage
All of these Chinese violet (Asystasia gangetica) leaves are perfect for eating.
Photo by Sunny Savage
A showy display of Chinese violet’s trumpet-shaped flowers, which can be either purple or white. Photo by Forest & Kim Starr

Chinese Violet Leaf Chips

Ingredients:

1 Cup Chinese Violet Leaves (rinse and pat dry)

2 Tablespoons High Heat Cooking Oil (Olive Oil works for this short cooking time)

1/2 Teaspoon Salt

1/2 Teaspoon Black Pepper

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone liner sheet.

2. Add leaves and oil to a large bowl and toss with hands until leaves are evenly coated. 

3. Add salt and pepper to bowl and toss with hands until leaves are evenly coated.

4. Place leaves in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Do not overlap. 

5. Bake for 5 minutes.
6. Best when eaten immediately after baking, but can be stored by putting into an airtight container.

Chinese violet leaves prior to baking in the oven. These have a small amount of nutritional yeast added to them. You could try adding spices or ground nuts as well. 
Photo by Marla Tomorug

2 comments

  1. Tamiflu says:

    Chinese violet infestations in Australia have all occurred on coastal sandy soils, but the plant is thought to tolerate a wide range of soil types, preferring full sun or part shade. Plants become spindly in deep shade.

    • Sunny Savage says:

      thanks for sharing! yes it gets quite spindly at times and does seem to tolerate quite a variety of habitats.

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