A fruity, floral jelly with a divine pink colour that looks and tastes perfect slathered on a scone
Chamaenerion angustifolium has earned some romantic monikers for a common weed. In the UK, it goes by the chocolate-boxy name of Rosebay Willowherb, while in the US it is referred to as Fireweed — named for its tendency to spring up, phoenix-like, from burned ground.
The resilient plant, which can produce up to 80,000 seeds per individual, was the first to bloom from London bomb craters in WWII and is considered by writer Leo Mellor (Reading the Ruins: Modernism, Bombsites and British Culture) as an “emblematic” after-image of destruction. Its tenacity makes it widespread across the northern hemisphere — where it stretches to Russia, it is known as Ivanchai, after the tea brewed from its flowers.
While it is a familiar plant in Britain, often standing out in vivid pink, cone-like spears among ferns, it is an iconic summer plant in Alaska, where it grows in striking swathes across the mountains. In the northern state, white fireweed honey is made by the local bees while farmers’ markets all sell fireweed jelly, considered a tradition.
It is so ubiquitous, there have been calls to name it as the state flower – a position currently occupied by the forget-me-not – and native wisdom dictates that the last of its blooms mark the summer’s end: “when fireweed turns to cotton, summer will soon be forgotten”.
The jelly has both fruity and floral undertones, although it is very sweet, and works well served classically with clotted cream and scones, or to liven up porridge or rice pudding.
1 compact pint jug of Rosebay Willowherb flowers
Juice of one lemon
8g packet powdered pectin
½ tsp butter or spread (to reduce foaming)
Sterilised jars (will make approx 900-950g)
Jelly bag or cheesecloth for straining
Bring the water to the boil and pour over the Rosebay Willowherb flowers. Allow to cool, cover and then refrigerate overnight.
Strain the liquid through a jelly bag or cheesecloth the next day
Combine the liquid with the lemon juice. This turns the Rosebay Willowherb liquid from a pale to a vivid pink.
Add the powdered pectin and butter.
Bring to a rolling boil and continue to boil hard for 1min
Add sugar and boil hard for another minute, stirring constantly
Pour the boiling liquid into hot, sterilised jars and seal. Finish by canning
Works particularly well on scones!
Discover more wild edibles and recipes on a foraging course
Always stay safe when foraging. You need to be 100% sure of your identification, 100% sure that your foraged item is edible, and 100% sure that you are not allergic to it (it is good practice to always try a small amount of any new food you are consuming). If in doubt, leave it out!