If you’re from Alaska, you probably know all about fireweed already. For the rest of us, though, this vibrant wildflower might be a bit more mysterious. The United States Department of Agriculture describes the blooms as a “showy wildflower” that thrives in open meadows, along streams, roadsides, and forest edges. Especially lucky areas can find entire meadows blanketed in fireweed. Its flaming name comes from the plant’s ability to grow in places scorched by fire. For example, the USDA points out that it was one of the first plants to bloom after the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980.
The perennial can grow as high as nine feet, but it typically stops somewhere between four to six feet. Adding fireweed to your own yard can require a lot of attention to make sure they don’t overtake all of your other herbs and flowers. Of course, an abundance of these beautiful blooms wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, but you likely don’t want to sacrifice the rest of your garden for it. Fireweed isn’t just for looking at, though. The USDA lists high levels of vitamin A and vitamin C, and even recommend tossing the shoots or stems in your salads as a “tasty spring vegetable.” Another yummy option is to use the flowers to make jelly you can store and enjoy year round.
How to Make Fireweed Jelly
There are several different methods depending on what’s been passed down from various communities and families over the years, but most follow a similar recipe.
- 8 cups fireweed blossoms
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 4 1/2 cups water
- 5 cups sugar
- 2 packages pectin
- Start by making sure the blossoms are clean, and then boil them with the water and lemon juice on the stove.
- After about 10 minutes, or when the petals start to lose their color and turn gray-ish, strain the juice out using a cheesecloth.
- Return the juice to your pot and add the pectin.
- Allow that to reach a boil and then mix in the sugar, letting that boil for about another minute before removing from heat.
You can now pour the jelly into jars, or whichever your preferred storage method might be. Once it’s cooled down, you can start smearing it on bread or pastries. Enjoy!