Flowery Friday.

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I wonder how much soil is under that rock?  I’m guessing, not much.  And I’m not showing it in this photo, but there was snow clinging to the rocks just southeast of where I was standing.  In July.  This common willowherb (Epilobium ciliatum), a close relative of the (ahem!) even more common fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium*, also known as rosebay willowherb), is a mountain plant with heaps of beauty AND brawn.

*In another case of Nomenclature Gone Wild, fireweed was previously known as Epilobium angustifolium.  I can’t yet find an explanation as to why the genus name was changed for this plant and not for common willowherb…but I’ll keep digging.

Fireweed jelly.

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We recently travelled to northern Alberta and on our return trip, we stopped to harvest some fireweed flowers – I’ve had it in mind for a few years now to make jelly with them and finally had a chance to collect some nice bunches. Fireweed grows prolifically here in the south, as well, but you don’t often see it in the city – it seems that I spot it most regularly when it’s in a national park or on private land. Up north, it’s…free range. Or something like that.  😉

We have had the longest heat wave I think I can ever remember here on the Prairies, so to drag out the boiling water canner and make jelly in an already scorching kitchen wasn’t a prospect I was terribly keen on, but this jelly was sooooo worth it! I daresay I love the flavour more than the rose petal jelly I made a couple of years ago (do you remember that?). The fireweed does indeed taste a bit like roses, but it’s far fruitier – and how can you match that incredible colour? I was very impressed – this will definitely be on my list of must-makes every year from now on. The recipe I used may be found here; you have to make the juice first before getting started on the jelly.  Don’t omit the lemon juice, as it contributes to the vibrancy of the colour.

Have you tried any new canning recipes out this year? (Jam, jellies, pickles, chutneys, salsa…etc.). And if you don’t can, have you grown or eaten any new types of fruits and veggies that you’re now a big fan of?

Lilac flower jelly. (Or rose or peony or fireweed or…).

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Well, the late lilacs are pretty much finished blooming here, and I’m just getting around to posting my recipe for lilac flower jelly, which I made…oh…nearly a month ago. Oops! Somehow things got away from me, and now the lilac blossoms are summer memories. There is a consolation, however: if you want to substitute another edible flower such as roses or peonies or fireweed for the lilacs, you can – the same amount of petals and preparation techniques apply. Have fun with it, and please let me know how your flower jellies turn out! 🙂

Lilac Flower Jelly

3 cups lilac flower petals

2 1/4 cups water

2 tablespoons lemon juice

3 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 package liquid pectin

Follow standard canning procedure and sterilize 4 half-pint jars, lids, and rings.

Remove lilac flower petals from stems and wash thoroughly.  Lay petals between a layer of unbleached paper towels and gently dry.  Place petals in large pot and crush with a pestle or the back of a wooden spoon.  Add water to pot and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer gently for 30 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat.  Strain the petals from the liquid using a fine mesh sieve.  The water won’t be a very attractive colour at this point – don’t panic!  Put the petals aside to compost later.  Place the liquid back into the pot and add lemon juice.  Stir, and notice that the colour of the liquid will appear much more appealing.

Add the sugar and stir.  Bring the contents of the pot to a boil.  Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Add pectin and bring to a boil again.  Boil hard another minute, and keep stirring all the while.

Remove from heat.  Using a spoon, skim off the top of the jelly to remove any bubbles and foam.  Pour the jelly into sterilized jars and cover.

Process jars in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes, adjusting for altitude.

Have you ever made or eaten edible flower jellies?  Which ones are your favourites?

 

Flowery spotlight: Fireweed.

On a mid-July trip to northern Alberta, the roadsides were brimming with bright purple fireweed (Epilobium angustifolia, formerly Chamerion angustifolium); I don’t think I’ve seen that many plants in quite a few years.  While this beautiful wildflower isn’t considered noxious in this province, it has a rather aggressive growth habit (an understatement!) and most people don’t usually encourage it in the garden.

Fireweed is so-called because of its ability to be “first on the scene” and colonize burned land after a natural fire.  This may partially explain its abundance in northern Alberta, a region beset by several forest fires in recent years.   (In my reading, I came across this interesting notation, which remarked on the colonization of fireweed in Skamania County after the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980).  According to an article by Julie Walker in the Calgary Horticultural Society’s August/September 2012 issue of Calgary Gardening, fireweed will consume all of the potassium from burned soil and return it three-fold when the plant dies, thus rejuvenating the land.

As a bonus, fireweed is edible, too!  Tender young parts of the plant can be cooked into a variety of dishes such as stirfries and quiches.  The leaves and flowers are often added to salads.  Unfortunately, I didn’t think to sample the flowers while I was on our trip; I would have had to seek them out in an area less polluted by highway traffic.  There’s always next year!  🙂

Have you ever eaten fireweed?