Toulouse: City of Violets
Violets have been cultivated in Toulouse since the 1850s and can be drunk as a liquor, eaten or crystallised to dissolve in champagne and are proudly an emblem of this French city. This humble flower with its delightful fragrance and bold colour has also inspired the city’s nickname of ‘City of Violets’.
It is said that the Toulousain violet was introduced to France by Napoléon III in the middle of the 19th century. This winter flower was cultivated in the north of Toulouse in Lalande or Launaguet’s market gardens. Production of the flower was seen by the local market gardeners as a way of creating revenue in addition to their vegetable and fruit production.
In 1985 the violet became officially protected thanks to a horticulturists’ association and from that time on, the name ‘Violet of Toulouse’ has been used officially for what was soon to become the symbol of the city. The association Terre de Violettes is an active group that in 1993 gathered together manufacturers producing perfumes or liqueurs from violets in Toulouse and launched the Fête de la Violette. This fête has become an annual event in Toulouse drawing many visitors to the city with this year’s fête being the 10th one held. The fête is organised by Les Amis de la Violette. A main attraction is the Capitole covered with a carpet of purple flowers. Have you been to this fête? What was your favourite part of this féte or festival?
Check out whats on in Toulouse here
But what makes the violet of Toulouse so extraordinary I hear you ask? This flower, of between thirty and forty petals, has a white heart and is particularly perfumed. It belongs to the family of Parme violets. Toulousain violets are cultivated in greenhouses from November to March, and are given particular care as they suffer easily from plant diseases. (Probably not a plant for me as I go well with hardy types but not so well with delicate species!)
Products made from violets include perfume, liquor (often added to champagne), soap, body lotions, cystralized pieces, crystalized sugar coated violet candies, essential oils, honey, teas and cookies.
All flowers have a special meaning in the language of flowers and violets represent peace, sweetness, modesty and shyness so it is no surprise that violets are often offered by boys to their girlfriends. Offering someone a violet is a way to declare your love in a discreet way, as the colour violet symbolises deep feelings.
Violet fact: violets contain aspirin
How to crystallise violets and other flower petals
You Will Need:
clean organic whole violets (or clean organic fresh edible other flowers or rose petals)
Place the clean dry flowers on a breadboard, baking tray or other flat surface lined with baking paper or wax paper.
Beat the egg white to a light foam.
Brush the flowers all over with beaten egg white, using a soft pastry brush. Sprinkle flowers all over with the caster sugar immediately. The sugar needs to stick to the egg white before it dries.
Let the flowers dry for at least 12 hours.
To store the candied violets once dry, place in a single layer in an airtight container for up to 2 months.
Use a flour sifter for sprinkling the flowers with the sugar, it will coat more evenly.
Leave the stalks on small flowers such as violets, it helps you to pick them up and paint the egg white on them.
Remember once the flowers have dried, they will be hard and brittle so handle them carefully.
Toothpicks may help you to move the flowers around once they are coated, without touching them with your hands, and undoing all your good work.
Below is a list of stores that have violet products for sale in central Toulouse:
Have fun with this ‘recipe’ and please share if you think your friends would be interested also, just click on the social share buttons below.
Thanks… Annette xx
This post first appeared on a french collection and is linked with Travel Notes & Beyond for #The Weekly Postcard, Lou Messugo for #All About France and Kylie Purtell for #Essentially Jess and Kylie link ups.
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