Violets and Pastel

Fill your suitcase: the unmissable souvenirs of Toulouse based on violet and pastel!

When you’re on a getaway, it’s always a pleasure to pick out a gift for your loved ones or a souvenir that will remind you of your trip… Among the must-have items to pack in your suitcase are violet and pastel-based products. Two amazing plants and two colours that are synonymous with Toulouse.

Violet; a flower to fall in love with

Love is a bouquet of violets” sang Luis Mariano. Toulouse violet has become one of the symbols of the Ville Rose.

Did you know that the urban myth recounting the arrival of violets in Toulouse is also a love story? An officer in the army of Napoléon III brought home a violet to his fiancée in Toulouse from his travels in Parma, Italy.

In the language of flowers, violets symbolise decency and modesty. Offering someone a bouquet of these flowers means: “I secretly love you”.
With its heart-shaped petals, it’s perfect for declaring your love!

There are more than 300 species of violet and the Conservatoire National de la Violette, located in the municipal greenhouses of Toulouse, presents nearly 100 varieties from different countries.

This delicate, seedless plant is reproduced by cuttings and grown under glass. The Toulouse violet is a double violet that can have 30 to 50 petals. With a flowering period of 4 to 5 months, it is harvested from October to March. Although the violet only blooms for a few months of the year, it can be found all year round in a variety of forms: delicacies, decoration, fragrances, textiles and cosmetics…

Did you know? In 2004, Queen Elizabeth II was welcomed to Toulouse with a bouquet of violets. For the occasion, she wore a violet coat and hat!

A delicious little flower

Gourmets should seriously consider trying sugared violet petals, best enjoyed as they come or as toppings on a cake. Created by a method that is unique in the world, it has become a global success. It can also be used to make a Toulouse Kir, invented by Mr Roger Terzi of Auzeville. What’s the recipe? Place a sugared violet at the bottom of a champagne flute and top with fizz.

Violet liqueur is made using the root of the plant and its recipe is a secret that is closely guarded by the Serre family, Toulouse distillers since 1841. It is still made in Villefranche de Lauragais by the Benoît Serres brand. Best served cold as a digestive or in a cocktail, accompanied by a platter of melon, strawberries and raspberries, or even an ice cream…
Alcohol abuse is dangerous for your health, consume in moderation.

Put Toulouse violet in your recipes and on your plate!
To make your life more “violet”, you will also find a choice of preserves, mustards, teas…original products created here in Toulouse.

Galette des Rois flavoured with violet, macarons, cordials… find recipes, DIY tips and other suggested uses for this beautiful little flower on Pinterest.

Fresh as a… violet

If you want to take home the flower’s elegant fragrance, candles, potpourri, soaps and perfumes are perfect. One essential item: “Violettes de Toulouse” from Maison Berdoues, a fragrance that has been world-famous since 1936. The fragrance of this flower is all the more subtle because it very quickly puts the olfactory receptors in our noses to sleep. In other words, when we breathe in this flower, we can’t smell its fragrance for long! We have to wait a few minutes before we can smell it again.

Every year, on the first weekend of February, Toulouse celebrates the violet at the Place du Capitole. Potting workshops, exhibitions, activities for young and old; it’s the “Fête de la Violette”.

Pastel or “the blue gold” of Toulouse

Pastel, or Isatis Tinctoria, is a plant with yellow flowers that has been employed since Antiquity for its medicinal properties and its capacity to create a long-lasting blue dye.

It was during the Renaissance that pastel growing expanded along with the trade in this dye, in particular across the Lauragais area, between Toulouse, Albi and Carcassonne, in a zone known as the “Blue Triangle”.

Its transformation was a lengthy one at the time. Pastel leaves were harvested, set out to dry and then crushed. After fermentation, they were shaped into balls named « coques » or « cocagnes »: the Lauragais is therefore the “Pays de Cocagne”. These balls were crushed in a mill to create a powder: Agranate, the plant’s pigment.

Did you know? Dyeing is done by oxidation: in fact, when the fabric to be dyed is immersed in a vat of water with the pigment, it turns… green, and it is only upon contact with oxygen that it turns blue!

This high quality, indelible colour and pigment, which can also be used in paint, was a driving force behind the economic development of the region. The merchants of Toulouse grew rich thanks to this “Blue Gold”. Some of them had palaces built in the heart of the city: mansion houses such as those built by Jean de Bernuy or Pierre d’Assézat.

This “Golden Age” ended when the market was flooded by indigo, an alternative dyeing plant that was easy to process.

Today, a wide range of products derived from pastel are available: textiles, stationery, accessories…

The pastel plant is also used in cosmetics that can be found in a great many shops across the Toulouse area. Its oils, pigments and seeds are used for their moisturising and nutritive properties, in the form of creams and soaps.