When and how to forage
Fireweed is a common sight in Nordic summer fields. This weed is a true colonizer and rapidly spread leaving no or little space to other species. For some reason many hate it, but it is actually a very underestimated plant, as many parts of the plant can be utilized in different recipes, both savory and desserts.
In springtime, you’ll see fireweed sprout in the fields and will look like this:
That’s a great time to pick the fireweed shoots. Beware, though, the season to pick fireweed shoots is very short as they grow very quickly, thanks to the 18-22 hours of daily light they get. The most tender shoots are the ones that are still completely red. Anyway, avoid picking them when taller than 20 cm. To pick them, either cut them with scissors or a knife or gently uproot them, as the white part underground is the best tasting.
How to use fireweed shoots
- They easiest, and probably most delicious way, is to fry them in a pan with a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. It is a great side dish and will be a crowd pleaser.
- Chop them and mix into a frittata. This is also a no brainer, I love it especially in the mornings.
- Substitute fireweed in recipes that call for asparagus. The taste of fireweed surprisingly reminds that of asparagus, so it is a simple way to try and add some foraged goods into your recipes. I wouldn’t use fireweed for a velvet soup, though, as it more leafier than asparagus and the blended version might not be as smooth.
- Freeze the shoots and use them later. If you picked a lot of fireweed, just go ahead and freeze them, so you will be able to enjoy them for a longer period of time.
How I used fireweed this year was in and on a focaccia. I loved how the shoots on the inside stayed soft and juice, whereas the ones on the surface turned crunchy; a perfect texture combo!
Fireweed shoots focaccia
- 500 g flour 200 g of strong flour and 300 g of all purpose
- 1 tbsp of salt
- 1 g diastatic malt or 1 tsp of sugar
- 8 g fresh yeast
- 300 ml lukewarm water *
- Olive oil
- 50 g fireweed shoots
- Salt to taste
- Mix both flours, salt, malt (or sugain a bowl.
- Melt the fresh yeast into the water and gradually add it to the flour.
- Knead vigorously for at least 10 minutes. Add water or flour if necessary.
- Cover the dough with a cloth or with cling film, in case the area where you live is very dry.
- Let the dough rise for one night or 2 hours in an oven with the light on.
- Preheat the oven at 180°C (356 F).
- Grease a pan with olive oil. Place half of the dough in the pan and level it out with your fingers.
- Chop grossly all fireweed shoots except 3 or 4 shoots and spread them on the focaccia dough. Salt lightly.
- Place the second half of the dough onto the shoots, level it out with your fingers.
- Place the remaining shoots on top of the focaccia, slightly pressing them down.
- Cover with abundant oil and sprinkle with salt.
- Bake for 40 minutes or until the focaccia will have browned on top.
- Store the focaccia in a bread box or paper bag and serve warm.