A spectacular view over Turnagain Arm while foraging for fireweed, isn’t that amazing?
Fireweed is a tall perennial plant that has an unbranched stem which grows numerous lance-shaped leaves on the lower half and flowers on upper half of the stem. Fireweed thrives in meadows, along road sides and river beds. Its name derives from the species’ ability to colonize large areas burnt by fire.
Alaskans say that summer has arrived when the blossoms lowest on the stem bloom and that summer is about to end when the blossoms reach the top of the plant. In the spring, before fireweed blooms, fireweed shoots – a good source of vitamin A and vitamin C – can be harvested for food. They can be eaten raw or steamed like asparagus. In Alaska, jelly, syrup, and spicy honey made with the blossoms of the plant are very popular. In Russia, on the other hand, Ivan Chay or Russian Tea made with the leaves of the plant is popular.
Today I am making fireweed syrup from the beautiful blossoms I patiently collected on a slanted hill, not an easy thing to do, but totally worth it!
With its rich color and floral notes, this delicious syrup can be poured over pancakes, added to cocktails, and used in baking. This recipe has proportions for basic sugar syrup. For thicker syrup, add more sugar and cook until the desired consistency is reached. It is important to remove the stems as they impart bitter taste to the syrup (The prep time below doesn’t include removal of the stems). This a small batch, so double or triple the amount of ingredients for a larger batch.
prep: 2 min cook: 25 min inactive: 25 hrs total: 25 hrs 27 min
1 cup fireweed flowers, no stems, packed
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
Place the flowers in a colander and gently rinse off.
Combine the water and sugar in a small sauce pan. Simmer on low-medium until sugars dissolve, stirring intermittently. Add the fireweed to the pan and cook over low-medium heat for 15 to 30 minutes depending on how thick you want your syrup to be. Don’t boil the mixture.
Remove from the heat and let cool. Then cover and place into the fridge for 24 hours to infuse. Strain it using a fine mesh strainer. Gently press on the flowers to squeeze the remaining juices. Be careful not to push the flowers through the strainer though.
Pour the syrup into a glass jar and screw on a lid. Keep it in a refrigerator for up to 1 month.