On the left, fireweed in Hailey, ID, and on the right, near Johnson Creek/Wapiti Meadow Ranch.
Fireweed is a common sight in the intermountain west, and even more so in Alaska, where it occupies land recently burned by wildfires. We will be dealing with burnt landscapes for many many years to come, since Idaho and most of the West is aflame as I type this. Fireweed is also found near river/stream banks and open meadows. Epilobium angustoifolium can be used in salads, teas and jellies. My sister in law shared this recipe with me; it was given to her by a dear family friend and Alaskan fisherman, Paul Chervanak. Note: it is not true honey, but a homesteader’s substitute for the real thing.
Fireweed Honey or “Homesteaders’ Honey”
2 ½ c. water
30 red clover blossoms
30 white clover blossoms
18 fireweed blossoms (about 2 stalks)
6 c. sugar
1 t. alum
Wash flowers in cold water. Boil water in large stock pot. Pour over flowers, steep like tea for 10 min. Strain through colander w/coffee filter inserted. Boil again. Add sugar and alum. Boil 10 more min. Strain through colander and pour into sterile hot jars. Place lid and rim on jars (after heating them in a pot of hot water) and tighten and allow to seal. Makes 6 pints.
Here’s a link to the University of Alaska’s Cooperative Extension website and more recipes. Enjoy!