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Fireweed Jelly

Fireweed jelly is a beautiful, bright pink jelly made from the petals of foraged fireweed flowers. This yummy jelly made with simple ingredients is a must-try!

One of my favorite things is our nightly strolls around the yard. When the sun is finally dipping down and the heat isn't oppressive. The day's work is done and you're in wind-down mode. All that's left to do is walk around and admire your hard work and check out how your plants are growing and thriving.

Last week, we found a beautiful plant with fuchsia flowers thriving along the unfinished side of one of our retaining walls. Kevy looked into it and it turned out to be fireweed!

After double-checking my awesome new book The Boreal Herbal, I learned that fireweed is found all over North America, and got its name from its ability to quickly colonize burned areas after wildfires and that all parts of the plant are edible!

It was time to get creative in the kitchen.

3 bright pink jars of fireweed jelly.

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What Is Fireweed?

Fireweed, also known as rosebay willowherb, is a perennial herb native to the boreal region but its range extends from Yukon (where it is the official flower) and North-West Territories to as far south as California. Fireweed is actually circumpolar and found in many places in the northern hemisphere.

This showy wildflower is often found in clusters called stands or colonies in recently burned areas, open meadows, roadsides, disturbed soils, and luckily enough, our backyard!

Fireweed has a long harvest season, offering edibles from early spring till autumn. The young leaves are harvested in spring, flowers in summer, and roots in autumn. Fireweed was an invaluable source of food and medicine for indigenous people and early settlers. The flowers of the fireweed are sticky and filled with nectar - evidence of their importance as a food source for bees.

Harvested fireweed in silver bowl.

Identifying Fireweed

This plant is a forager's dream - they are a unique-looking, easily identifiable plant.

Fireweed flowers emerge from a tapered stalk, each flower has 4 bright pink/purple petals with a narrower, darker sepal between each petal. Each flower has 4 stigma and 8 stamen.

The flowers emerge from the base of the stalk in the early summer and move upwards as the season progresses. Flowers at the top of a stalk signal summer's end.

The alternate leaves of a fireweed plant are lance-shaped (long and narrow - ending in a point) with a pale central vein.

Labeled photo of fireweed.

Harvesting Fireweed Blossoms

OK, so now that we know what fireweed is and where to find it, we can do the fun stuff!

The easiest way to harvest fireweed flowers is to enlist a couple of helpers! I grabbed my kids and we hit the yard. It took us less than 30 minutes to gather all the blooms we needed.

Harvest the flower stalk only, holding the top of the stalk with one hand, and snip just below the last bright, fresh flower at the base of the cluster. Flowers that are wilted and look less than fresh have already been pollinated and can be left to create seeds.

The best time to harvest flowers is in the morning - this is when the plant has the highest level of volatile oils, supplying the best scent and flavor. The heat of the midday sun can cause wilting of your plants. Pick fireweed flowers for immediate use - their color and vibrancy fade if they are left harvested but unused.

Foraging always leaves me feeling blessed and thankful to nature for providing abundance. One of the ways I return the favor is by being respectful during harvesting - I take enough for myself but leave enough for the plant to continue to grow and propagate.

Tips + Tricks

  • Consider the source! Harvest your fireweed in a safe location. Consider wildlife as well as chemical contamination. Fireweed found deep in the forest is more likely to increase encounters with wildlife, while harvesting near a busy roadway is more likely to increase chemical exposure from pollution and road maintenance.
  • Pick flowers in the morning, and snip off the flower stalks immediately below the last wide open, vibrant flower. Leave the pollinated flowers wherever possible to help the plant continue to propagate.
  • Using your salad spinner to rinse and dry the flowers is a super quick and easy way to get that job done.

How To Make Fireweed Jelly

Prepare Flowers

  1. Gather fireweed flower spikes. Use a set of sharp garden snips, and cut the flower stalk below the last vibrant flower. Gather enough flowers for 4 cups of fireweed flowers.
  2. Pick blossoms from the flower stalks, measuring 4 packed cups. Transfer picked flowers to a large bowl of cold water. Agitate the flowers with your hands to remove any large or itty bitty debris, carefully pour off the water. Repeat this process at least twice. I like to use my salad spinner - after two rinses, I spin the flowers.

Make Fireweed Juice

  1. Combine 4 cups of prepared flowers in a large, heavy-bottomed pot with 2 1/2 cups of water.
  2. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat and simmer until fireweed petals lose their color - don't fret - the flowers are going to change from a vibrant pink to a dull lavender grey and the fireweed tea will be dull and you'll think I was fibbing all along, but the color comes back with the addition of lemon juice later on.
  3. Strain the flowers through a fine mesh sieve, cheese cloth, or coffee filter. I had a conical coffee filter for my Chemex coffee maker handy, and it just happened to fit perfectly in my vintage chinois, so that's what I used. Discard flowers in your compost or trash - don't feed them to your chickens as fireweed can be potentially toxic to them.
  4. If you're not making the jelly right away, cool the hot liquid, then store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Prepare Canning Supplies

  1. Wash and sterilize all jars, lids, screw bands, funnels, and ladles for canning.
  2. Prepare a small hot water bath canner by adding a canning rack and filling it with water.
  3. Cover the canner and set over medium-high heat to come to a boil while making jelly.

Make Fireweed Jelly

  1. Top up the strained juice with water to make exactly 2 1/2 cups. Then add to a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, set over medium heat - this is a small batch but jelly likes to bubble up, so ensure you have enough room in your clean pot.
  2. Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, and watch as it transforms into the beautiful fireweed juice you expected!
  3. Then add 1 57g package of classic powdered pectin and 1/2 teaspoon of butter to the pot, and whisk to combine. Bring this beautiful fireweed juice to a full boil over medium heat.
  4. Once the juice has reached a boil, add 3 cups of sugar and return to a hard rolling boil for 1 minute.
  5. Ladle jelly into sterilized and prepared jars leaving 1/2 inch of headspace, wipe the rim of each jar with a damp paper towel, then top with snap lids and close the rings fingertight. My method for ensuring fingertight is to spin the lid onto the jar without holding it, once the jar itself moves instead of only the lid, it's usually as tight as it needs to be!

Process Jelly

  1. Once jars are filled and closed, use a jar lifter to add them to your boiling water bath. Ensure jars are covered by at least 1 inch of water.
  2. Replace the lid on the canner and once the water reaches a rolling boil begin tracking processing time. Process for 10 minutes for 0-1000 feet in elevation, 15 minutes for 1001-3000 feet, 20 minutes for 30010-6000 feet, and 25 minutes for 6001-8000 feet.
  3. When the processing time is complete turn off the burner, remove the lid of the canner, and wait 5 minutes before using jar lifters to remove the jars of fireweed jelly from your canner. Place the hot jars on a heatproof surface, and allow them to cool undisturbed for 24 hours. I place my jars on an old wooden or plastic cutting board to protect them from the cold countertop. I love to hang out in the kitchen for a few minutes after removing my jars from the canner because there is no sweeter sound than the ping of a properly sealed jar!
  4. The next day, check jar seals to ensure processing was successful. Properly sealed lids will curve downward. Remove rings, wipe, and label all jelly jars before storing.
Jar of fireweed jelly tied with a bow.

Batch + Storage

Batch:

This recipe makes a small batch of fireweed jelly, yielding 4 half pint jars. If you'd like more, make your recipes separately rather than concurrently as doubling recipes with pectin can cause them to gel inconsistently.

Storage:

Store your wonderful jelly in a cool dry place away from direct sunlight. For best results, enjoy the fireweed jelly within 12 months.

Sun shining though a jar of fireweed jelly.

Jelly Didn't Set?

This happens from time to time when making jams and jellies. Don't fret, all your work isn't for naught! Here are some easy solutions:

  1. You can leave the "runny" jelly and treat it like a delicious fireweed syrup.
  2. Place a jar in the fridge for 24 hours - if the jelly sets firm, remove it from the fridge and allow to rest on the counter at room temperature - if it stays firm, treat the remaining jars the same, if not, you can always refrigerate the jars as needed.
  3. Recook and reprocess the jelly with sugar-free pectin: use all 4 cups of jelly, 1/4 cup of water, 1/4 cup of sugar, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, and 4 teaspoons of powdered pectin. Bring to a hard boil for 1 minute, then rejar and reprocess.
Overhead view of the bright pink jelly.

Garden Snips: A good pair of garden snips is a gift that keeps on giving. Having something small and sharp makes harvesting much easier!

Water Bath Canner: I always say water bath canning is the gateway to food preservation - it's easy, it's safe (when properly done), it's inexpensive to get started and it's a heck of a lot of fun. A good water bath canner is a great investment.

Mason Jars: I love mason jars. I collect them whenever possible, and I'm always scouring garage sales for vintage jars that I might not have at home. I derive a lot of joy from putting up food in unique jars. This recipe calls for half pint jars.

Yield: 4 half pint jars

Homemade Fireweed Jelly Recipe

A jar of fireweed jelly beside fireweed flowers.

Fireweed jelly is a must-try for any jelly lover! This vibrant pink jelly is made from the petals of foraged fireweed flowers and is so easy to make. Learn how to find and harvest fireweed flowers as well as a simple recipe and make your own fireweed jelly from your foraged goodies.

Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 20 minutes
Processing Time 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 cups fireweed flowers, packed
  • 2 1/2 cups cold filtered water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 57g package powdered pectin
  • 3 cups granulated sugar

Instructions

Prepare Flowers

  1. Gather fireweed flower spikes. Use a set of sharp garden snips, and cut the flower stalk below the last vibrant flower.
  2. Pick blossoms from the flower stalks, measuring 4 packed cups. Transfer picked flowers to a large bowl of cold water. Agitate the flowers with your hands to remove any large or itty bitty debris, carefully pour off the water. Repeat this process at least twice.

Make Fireweed Juice

  1. Combine 4 cups of prepared flowers in a large, heavy-bottomed pot with 2 1/2 cups of water.
  2. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat and simmer until fireweed petals lose their color - don't fret - the flowers are going to change from a vibrant pink to a dull lavender grey and the fireweed tea will be dull - the color comes back later on.
  3. Strain the flowers through a fine mesh sieve, cheesecloth, or coffee filter. Discard flowers in your compost or trash - don't feed them to your chickens as fireweed can be potentially toxic to them.
  4. If you're not making the jelly right away, cool the hot liquid, then store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Prepare Canning Supplies

  1. Wash and sterilize all jars, lids, screw bands, funnels, and ladles for canning.
  2. Prepare a small hot water bath canner by adding a canning rack and filling it with water.
  3. Cover the canner and set over medium-high heat to come to a boil while making jelly.

Make Fireweed Jelly

  1. Top up the strained juice to make exactly 2 1/2 cups. Then add to a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, set over medium heat - this is a small batch but jelly likes to bubble up, so ensure you have enough room in your clean pot.
  2. Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 1 57g package of classic powdered pectin, and 1/2 teaspoon of butter to the pot, and whisk to combine. Bring to a full boil over medium heat.
  3. Once the juice has reached a boil, add 3 cups of sugar and return to a hard rolling boil for 1 minute.
  4. Ladle jelly into sterilized and prepared jars leaving a half inch of headspace, wipe the rim of each jar with a damp paper towel, then top with snap lids and close the rings fingertight.

Process Jelly

  1. Once jars are filled and closed, use a jar lifter to add them to your boiling water bath. Ensure jars are covered by at least 1 inch of water.
  2. Replace the lid on the canner and begin counting the processing time when the water bath returns to a full rolling boil. Process for 10 minutes for 0-1000 feet in elevation, 15 minutes for 1001-3000 feet, 20 minutes for 30010-6000 feet, and 25 minutes for 6001-8000 feet.
  3. When the processing time is complete turn off the burner, remove the lid of the canner, and wait 5 minutes before using jar lifters to remove the jars of fireweed jelly from your canner. Place the hot jars on a heatproof surface, and allow them to cool undisturbed for 24 hours.
  4. The next day, check jar seals to ensure processing was successful. Properly sealed lids will curve downward. Remove rings, wipe, and label all jelly jars before storing.

Notes

Processing Time By Elevation:


Process for 10 minutes for 0-1000 feet in elevation, 15 minutes for 1001-3000 feet, 20 minutes for 30010-6000 feet, and 25 minutes for 6001-8000 feet

Batch:

This recipe makes a large batch of fireweed jelly, yielding 4 half-pint jars. If you'd like more, make your recipes separately rather than concurrently as doubling recipes with pectin can cause them to gel inconsistently.

Storage:

Store your wonderful jelly in a cool dry place away from direct sunlight. For best results, enjoy the fireweed jelly within 12 months.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

100

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 25Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 2mgCarbohydrates: 7gFiber: 0gSugar: 6gProtein: 0g

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Homemade fireweed jelly pinterest graphic.

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