The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Johnny Jump Ups

By Laverne Sutton © 1985

Issue: February, 1985

The morning was crisp, with the lingering coolness of the passing winter, as my friend and I made our way around the outer edge of the yard, enjoying the early spring.

"Oh, look! A violet!" I said, stooping to pick the small wild flower from its circle of leaves.

"That's a Johnny-Jump-Up!" my friend says.

I was taught not to argue with my elders, but it was plain to see this lady didn't know her flowers.

"That's a violet!" I insisted.

"Well!" she says. "You call it what you want, but up in the mountains where I grew up, it's a Johnny-Jump-Up."

"Down home, each spring, the woods are full of violets. I used to pick them for a centerpiece."

"We set them on the table too',' she informed me. "But not to look at, we ate them." She gently poked at the plant with the tip of her cane. "Take this little plant, we would put the whole thing (except the root), into a pot with a piece of fat back. We used them for an early green, and sometimes candied the flowers."

When it comes to sucking the nectar out of a hibiscus, I'm an expert, but I never heard of eating a violet. Now I find they not only decorate your table, but also your plate.

To candy: Mix 2 cups sugar and 1/2 cup water. Cook over low heat until mixture grains. Holding fresh picked flowers by stems, dip flower into mixture. Drain. After flower dries, pinch off stem.