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.