One of the first signs that warmer days are upon us is when the bright pink hue of the Fireweed flower starts to pop up along roads, fields and especially in the alpine. This flower is a native to the northern hemisphere, it is the first plant to grow after a forest fire and you will also find it in old cut blocks after logging. With its ability to grow in the alpine, the growing season is extended over 3 months. High up in the mountains you will still find these magical plants in full bloom.
Harvest season starts as soon as the flowers begin to bloom. To sustainably harvest Fireweed, you should make sure that whole plant is never disturbed and the flowers are always left intact. We begin by removing a mid section of leaves from these waist high flowers. The bottom leaves, and the top leaves below the flowers, are left on the plant. This ensures the plant will continue to grow, and continue to flower. Fireweed is a favourite of bees and you will see bees buzzing around in the fields of flowers. As we move through he fields we only harvest selective plants, here and there, to leave the patch almost as it was.
Once the harvest is complete, the leaves are left to wilt for at least 48 hours. When the spine of the leaf becomes bendable, and does not snap easily, they are ready to roll. Rolling is done with groups of leaves rolled in the palm of the hand. the Rolled up leaves are then left for another 48 hours to ferment and this is when the oils are released. The process of fermentation was actually invented in Russia. Ivan Chai, or fireweed tea, is a favourite tea in Russia where Fireweed also grows in abundance.
After the rolled up leaves have fermented they are then placed on racks to dry and dehydrate. The final product resembles a black tea and has a sweet taste, almost like honey.
Not only is Fireweed tea delicious to drink, it also has a whole list of health benefits. Fireweed is used to normalize blood pressure, balance digestion, improve concentration and energy, builds immunity and strengthens circulation. It also supports kidney and urinary track function, detoxifies the body and has been known to relieve migraines and tension headaches. How's that for a list of super powers?!
Anastasia lives in beautiful Nakusp, BC in the West Kootenay mountains. She spends many days in the mountains with her family and husky dog. She was born in Russia and remembers drinking Ivan Chai regularly. Over the last few years she has self taught her self to forage fireweed along with mushrooms, berries and other edibles. The process of making tea is something she is very passionate about and strives to improve its process and flavour every year.