Fireweed Shoots – The First Vegetable of Spring!

Fireweed shoots are poking out in Yukon yards!
Fireweed shoots are poking out in Yukon yards!  Photo by Suzanne Crocker
Up North, we love it when patches of fireweed take over our landscape, after all, it is The Yukon’s official flower. But did you know you can eat it too? Suzanne is enjoying having this first fresh vegetables of the season in her diet. Fireweed is an excellent survival plant as most of its parts are edible and it’s a good source of beta-carotene and vitamin C, which we are much in need of in the North. Its tender shoots can be harvested in spring and their texture and flavor is similar to that of asparagus, and can be eaten raw, sauteed or steamed. The best part is, that even though you are cutting them out of the plant, they will grow right back!  Harvesting the shoots doesn’t  damage the plant, and you can still enjoy the flowers later in the season. Also, the core of the older stalks is edible, sweet and highly mucilaginous which makes it an effective anti-inflammatory for internal and external use. The young leaves can be eaten raw in salads or cooked or steeped for use as a tonic tea for upset stomach. The flowers and buds are edible and the roots can be eaten raw or cooked.  Fireweed flavored honey and jelly are very popular as well. The trick is that fireweed grows rapidly during a typical Northern summer, as the hours of daylight extend to more than 18 hs a day. As a result, the season for harvesting the shoots is very short, and you better get them fast before they grow too tall and become bitter. The sweetest fireweed shoots are those cut when the leaves are still reddish. Take a look at your yard, and have a taste of a young fireweed shoot.

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