Edible Flowers Week: Johnny Jump-Up Pansies

Calendula, pansies, marigolds, and dandelion all brighten up salads beautifully.  The trick is to pull the petals off the flower heads and just eat the petals.  When pansies are candied for cakes, that’s when the whole pansy is used.

Johnny Jump Up pansies viola tricolor edible

Johnny Jump Ups remind me of little bunny angels

The Johnny Jump-Up Pansy

As pretty as every member I’ve met from the pansy (Viola) genus has been, I have a soft spot for Johnny Jump-Ups (Viola tricolor).  These are smaller than many other pansies, and reliably have blue-purple-indigo “ears” with yellow-gold “angel body”, making them look like little bunny angels.  To me.

While all pansies are tough-as-nails little flowers, enduring the cold snaps that kill uncovered tomato plants and many other garden lovelies, Johnny Jump-Ups get their name from their stunning recovery capacity.

Get a light snow?  Just brush it off the Johnny Jump-Ups and they’ll be perky by noon.  Get a heavier snow?  If it’s just a winter teaser and melts off in a few days, a day later, there’s the Johnny Jump-Ups, gamely advertising for any bees dawdling in the area.  How could I not love such fierceness?  Pansies are marvelous, and Johnny’s my favorite.

 Viola Genus? Does That Include Violets?

The Viola genus includes pansies, violas, violets, Johnny Jump-Ups, and  several hundred hybrids.  While I feel fine eating the cute little wild violets that grow in the yard, I have zero clue about the edibility of more far ranging members like Heartease.

African violets, the fuzzy darlings that grace so many kitchen window sills in temperate North America, are an entirely different genus and should NOT be eaten.




Thank you to the blog Au Naturelle for the image.


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4 responses to “Edible Flowers Week: Johnny Jump-Up Pansies

  1. I have fond memories of johnny jump ups as the first edible flower I ever ate. It was at the first restaurant job I had.

  2. When I was in Maine the lady had what she called Johnny Jump Up flowers they were growing all over the place she kept pulling them out but they kept coming back every spring.
    That’s what I am looking for. Are they the same as Pansies? I have had pansies in the past but they never came back the next year.
    What should I be looking for when I look for the seeds, the flowers don’t have to be editable. I just want them back every spring. I live in northern ND.

    • A lot of populated Maine is still “only” zone 4b, even up by Bangor and Skowhegan. It’s not until you get up into the 1/3 or 1/2 of the state that you hit zone 3. Same goes for North Dakota- it’s only zone 3 up along the Canadian border. This makes a huge difference- the 3-4 line is one of those break over points where a whole bunch of plants drop out and cease going further north. You could probably get perennial Johnny Jump Ups (V. tricolor) or some of the other really hardy viola family members (V. odorata and V. Wittrockiana) to go for it, especially with some winter protection, in zone 4, but the effort level will really jump once you move into Zone 3. So in that way, Maine and North Dakota are similar. It’s actually summer that’s more likely to be your problem. Mainers just never get hot the way the northern plains do, and the violas don’t like high heat much. There are wild violets around in Nebraska, so there’s at least something in the family that can do this, but I don’t know that Johnny Jump Ups in particular can.

      The difference between violas, violets, and pansies? Depends on who you ask. They are all Viola genus members, but the importance of the size of the flower, the “ray” or “blotch” pattern, and the number of petals that point “up” are all things you can find people willing to go to the mat about. Personally, I’d look around for where in the area something (anything) in the family is not just growing but “naturalizing” or fitting itself into the landscape. What qualities are there that you can replicate? An east facing slope? The shade of an oak or pine? Good dirt or sandy or clayey?

      Best of luck. They are awfully spunky, so I can see why you’d want to include them. If you can’t get them to play along (or while you’re waiting), you may also like the purple poppy mallow. Not as diminutive, but bright and hardy and very likely to be happy to come back year after year without much work on your part.

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