Not So Deadly Nightshade Jelly

deadly nightshade jelly

There are few things I look forward to more each spring than the blooming of the deadly nightshade flower.  These absolutely stunning purple blossoms are not only gorgeous but with the right mix of ingredients, can be easily turned into a delicious, delicate, brilliantly colored jelly.


Alas, you poor meat bags…with your delicate human physiology.  For you guys, the Deadly Nightshade is just that…deadly.  The plant, otherwise known as the Atropa Belladonna may be related to tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants, but unlike its edible cousins, is so toxic, that just consuming a single leaf can kill you. For this reason, it’s been a favorite plant of choice for assassins throughout history.

The toxins within the plant work by disrupting your body’s ability to regulate involuntary activities like sweating, breathing, and heart rate. Absolutely stuffed full of poisonous alkaloids like scopolamine and hyoscyamine, this plant causes severe delirium and hallucinations, dilated pupils, sensitivity to light, blurred vision, tachycardia, loss of balance, migraine, rash, flushing, dry mouth and throat, slurred speech, confusion, and finally, convulsions.

So…yeah.  Not going to give you the 100% hell-accurate nightshade jelly recipe. Instead, we’re going to make some mortal-friendly substitutions.

While we will NOT be using the deadly nightshade, we will still be utilizing several other, NON-TOXIC flowers, and I guarantee you an end result that is the same brilliant, almost electric violet color nightshade jelly is…just without all the nasty deadly side effects…so please, for the love of all that is unholy, do not eat deadly nightshade.

And yes, before we go any further, this post does contain some affiliate links. Click here to read my whole disclosure.

Right now, I’m spending some time in Idaho and this year’s mild spring weather and deep soaking rains mean a bumper crop of beautiful flowers. We have a lilac bush in our backyard that is over 40 years old and produces the most delicate and beautiful lilac blossoms like clockwork every spring, filling the yard with their delicate floral aroma.

deadly nightshade jelly lilacs
Lilac blossoms

Our yard is also full of other flowers, including the bright and cheerful wild rose and the shy and thoughtful violet. I gathered up a few handfuls of each and brought them inside to clean and prepare.

Wild rose
English Violet

The first thing you need to do is to make sure that your flowers are edible. Seriously…step number one… Do not move onto any other part of this recipe until you are 100% sure your flowers are safe to eat. When in doubt, throw it out.

For a full article on the different types of edible violets as well as how they look (and other edible flowers you can use for this recipe), click here:

I believe the variety of violets I used in this batch are called the “English Violet” which is also sometimes called the “Sweet Violet.” We’ve had them growing in our yard for years, which is why I chose them, but really, any type of edible violet would be suitable. Be aware that some violets are a bit more bitter (but still edible) so adjust your sugar content to taste.

Once you know your flowers are safe to eat, you’ll also want to make sure they’re high quality. That means making sure you discard any brown or wilted flowers, stems, or undesirable bits. That also means making sure your flowers are washed and cleaned, especially if there is any possibility they came into contact with any pesticides or bug sprays.

Speaking of bugs, make sure you double check and remove any of those as well. I got lucky with the violets and roses, but we did find a few earwigs hiding in the lilac blossoms.

Because the process of making this jelly turns our normally brilliant flowers white, I decided to toss in a few dried butterfly pea flower blossoms I had on hand to help really punch up the final color (butterfly pea flowers are famous for their absolutely stunning and magical color properties…more on this in the coming steps!)  You can easily pick up a bag of these online here.

dried butterfly pea flower blossoms

Once your flowers are cleaned and prepped, it’s time to start making the jelly.

For this recipe you will need:

  • 2 compressed cups edible flower blossoms (we used lilac, violets, wild roses, and dried butterfly pea flowers)
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2-3 small packets of unflavored powdered gelatin*
  • 1/2 teaspoon clear vanilla

You’ll also need

  • large pot
  • spoon
  • Large plastic jug or glass jar
  • Strainer
  • Coffee filter

Before we get into this, I want to acknowledge all the jelly purists and start this off by saying yes, I am well aware that by using gelatin instead of pectin, we are not technically making a true “jelly” but a slight variation. I actually did attempt this recipe using pectin…three separate times, but for some reason, every time I added the pectin, it absolutely refused to gel and instead turned into a grainy, runny simple syrup that no amount of boiling down could fix (and in one instance eventually foamed over and caught fire…I’m still cleaning that mess off the burners. Even now, I’m still not 100% sure what the problem was. Maybe it was too much sugar to the amount of pectin I was using? Maybe it was something to do with the combination of chemicals released by the flowers? Maybe my pectin was old? Maybe I just happened to anger the jelly gods and they decided no matter what I did, pectin wasn’t going to be my friend for this recipe?!

Regardless, three tries later with different measurements and methods, I ditched the pectin, swapped in gelatin, and the rest is gorgeous violet Nom history.  My ultimate goal with this website is to make my recipes as accessible as possible for as broad an audience as possible and having three huge failures in a row with pectin made me wary of unleashing that misery on anyone else.  I’ve had success with pectin before when making fruit jelly, so while I’m not giving up on it altogether, for this recipe, I decided to make it a little easier on us all. You’re welcome.

As you can see from my first photo, the bulk of the flowers I gathered were the lilac blossoms, with a handful each of the rose petals, violets, and butterfly pea flowers tossed in for added variety in both color and flavor.

In a pot on your stove, bring your 2 cups of water to a boil. Turn off the heat and drop in your flowers. Allow them to steep in the pot until the whole thing comes to room temperature.

Once they’ve cooled down, transfer your steeping flowers to a plastic jug or glass jar and place in the fridge to continue to steep for at least 2 hours and up to 24. You’ll notice that the longer your flowers steep, the lighter they get and the darker your liquid will turn. Of course, this means that the longer they steep, the stronger your final jelly flavor will be. I let this batch soak for the full 24 hours.

Once you’re done steeping your flowers, you’ll need to separate them from the liquid. This is easily done by pouring them out over a fine mesh sieve. As you can see, my flowers are now almost completely void of color and my liquid is a gorgeous indigo blue/purple.

Transfer your drained liquid to your pot and return to the stove.

Scoop out 1/2 a cup of this liquid and set aside in a small bowl.

Add your sugar and your lemon juice to the rest of your liquid in the pot and watch the magic! As the lemon juice hits the liquid, it reacts with the naturally occurring anthocyanin pigment within the butterfly pea flower. The lemon juice changes the ph of the liquid, triggering the color change. It’s a little bit of chemical magic! It also helps ensure that our lilac and violet jelly is…well, violet!

deadly nightshade jelly

Bring the pot up to a boil over medium heat and cook only until the sugar is completely dissolved.

deadly nightshade jelly

While the bulk of your flower liquid is cooking in the pot, sprinkle your gelatin over the small bowl of cold flower liquid you reserved from earlier and allow to bloom for 5 minutes. Now is the time to determine exactly how solid you want your jelly. For a spreadable, toast perfect jelly, add in just two packets of your powdered gelatin. To make a firmer, moldable, dessert jelly, I suggest 2 1/2 to 3.

As soon as the gelatin is fully bloomed, add that to your pot of hot flower liquid, turn off the heat, and stir until all the gelatin is also dissolved.

And for anyone looking to make this a vegan or vegetarian recipe, simply substitute powdered agar at a ratio of 1:1. The only big change you’ll have to make if adding agar is to leave the pot on the stove and allow to boil for at least 60-90 seconds after adding the agar powder to ensure it’s fully dissolved and activated.

Once your sugar and gelatin are fully dissolved, you’ll notice that your jelly has a light layer of foam on top of it.

To get rid of that foam and ensure that your jelly is truly beautiful, I like to run it through a coffee filter. The easiest way to do this is to set the filter into your sieve over a bowl and just pour the hot flower liquid right on through.

Allow your liquid to completely filter and then transfer to glass or plastic jars and pop into your fridge for a few hours to firm up.

deadly nightshade jelly

Congratulations! You should now have 2 cups of absolutely gorgeous and vibrant jelly lightly flavored with the taste of sunshine and springtime! This jelly is perfect on delicate pastries like crumpets and crepes and for a truly decadent treat, pop some into the microwave for about 15 seconds and drizzle over vanilla ice cream…

Of course, you can just do what I do and grab a spoon, pop open a jar, and eat it straight like it is.

Each batch should make approximately 2 cups of jelly and will last in your fridge for up to 2 weeks…but at the rate we eat this stuff, I’m not 100% sure as we’ve never actually been able to keep it around that long.

The best part of this recipe is, while there is just a short window of time each spring for us to gather enough lilac blossoms to make this version, you can easily adapt it to any edible flower! We are looking forward to a summer of dandelion jelly, clover flower jelly, hibiscus jelly, pansy jelly, more rose jelly, and lavender jelly.

And to learn more about the deadly nightshade, click here:

Bone appetite!



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