love stories

part of the exhibition “In a time of change” with Bonanza Creek LTER

Show notes:

Shoots, leaves, flowers, and stems of fireweed (Chamaenerion angustifolium) enliven the borders and disturbed floors of the boreal forest between snow melt and snow fall.

Individuals across the northern hemisphere have consumed, constructed and healed with this perennial plant. The peoples of interior Alaska call the rhizomatous, floral willowherb gȯh.

Image description: Maroon card, focused on the shoot of fireweed. 

Text: "Around spring equinox, observe moose, hare, and deer eating this early-season source of vitamin c, beta carotene and flavonoids.

A rhizome supports early-to-sprout shoots. They are a few-inches tall and topped with a cluster of leaves. 
Use your fingernail or a tool such as a pocketknife to loosen soil around the base. After harvesting the shoot, pat down soil to avoid disturbing the rhizome. 

Eat raw shoots in salad or cooked slightly like asparagus in stir fry. The taste is reminiscent of sweet radish.
In coming weeks, leaves mature. The fibrous leaves are often harvested for tea and skin washes."
Image description: Green card, focused on the leaf of fireweed. 

Text: At the start of summer, observe moose, hare, deer eating this early-season source of vitamin c, beta carotene and flavonoids.
The individual leaves branch from the stem, sometimes in a cluster. Snap tender leaves off at the stem. Plants that maintain at least ½ of their leaves can regenerate those that it gave. Note the location of the harvested fireweed to avoid taking mature leaves more than once. 
Fresh leaves can be placed on the ground to create a clean surface for processing fish and other meats. To preserve, place fresh leaves on a dry, flat surface out of sunlight. In 2 to 7 days, the dry 
leaves can be stored 
in a paper bag. 
For a subtle cup of tea, reminiscent of citrus, boil water and steep for 10 minutes or more.

Recipes lend locations of ingredients and instructions to follow. When done so carefully, we are graced with a nourishing gift. I call such intimate passages of where, when, and how to share such gifts of the boreal forest “love stories”.

Image description: Purple card, focused on the flower of fireweed. 

Text: "On long summer days, observe bees, flies and other pollinators frequenting the nectar, rich in vitamins A and C, and sugar. Flowers darken from pink to purple.

Snap soft flowers off at the stem. Flowers that are slightly closed have been already been used by buzzing pollinators. You can consume raw flowers within a few days or further preserve. 			

To dry, place on a flat surface out of sunlight. Then store in a jar to concentrate fragrance. 

For juice, pack flowers into a vessel. Fill vessel to brim with water, bring combination to boil. Add ¼ of the existing volume in sugar, and lemon to taste. Jar.

To candy, boil equal parts sugar and water. Dip flowers in mixture and dry on wax paper. 

For a floral cup of tea, steep dried flowers for at least 5 minutes. "
Image description: Mustard-colored card, focused on the stem of fireweed. 

Text: "As summer concludes a soft breeze can disperse fireweed seeds adorned with a white tuft of hair. The stem toughens and the color intensity lessens. 

With temperatures below freezing, cut stems close to the ground. Split cuttings by pinching or scoring the length of the stems. Once open, bend stem outwards to a 90°. You may hear a crack. Peel the flexible outer bark away from the more rigid and now broken inner bark. 
 This outer fiber called bast can be used to make cordage for rope, clothing and baskets. Use a friend’s hand, heavy object or clamp to maintain tension and evenness, when twisting. Store cordage in cool location such as a cellar. 

Share fireweed gratitude stories throughout the winter."

I appreciate all who shared the love stories, adorning the cards, of how we can see, hear, smell, taste, and feel fireweed.

I appreciate you for reading this far. Be my guest: take a card (request by email), plant a new love story.

Thank you Katie Craney, Teresa Hollingsworth, Katie Spellman, Keith Thompson, Megan Perra, Elizabeth Alexander, Marian Eiben, Stefanie Ickert-Bond, Jan Dawe, Mary Beth Leigh, and you.

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