At the end of last month, my husband and I managed to migrate to our summer house in South Western Finland for our holidays. An unexpected car repair had altered our plans slightly, as we originally wanted to arrive in the beginning of the summer. (The driving distance between our winter-time home in Lapland and our summer house in the South is close to 900 kilometers.) The summer was still starting when we left Lapland and I was slightly worried that the harvesting time for many wild plants might already be over in the South. Well, turns out that I didn’t miss out on anything! For the last week I have been picking and drying plants of all sorts to turn them into teas and remedies for later use.
Last week I picked up a lot of fireweed flowers (Chamaenerion angustifolium) and dried them in order to use them in baking and beverages. I collect whole fireweed blossoms and place them on a piece of baking paper. When the flowers dry up, I then separate the small, purple flowers from the stems.
Fireweed (maitohorsma in Finnish) is a multi purpose plant that blooms from June to August in Finland. Its leaves contain a lot of vitamin C, and they can be used both fresh and dried. I use both leaves and flowers for herbal tea. The flavor is quite mild and pleasant, so they can be used in tea blends. In the spring time, I fry young fireweed stems in butter and use them like asparagus. I remove the young leaves before frying the stems, and I’ve noticed that those little leaves are great for tea-making.
fireweed in Lemonade and cocktail making
This time I used some the flowers to make a home-made soda and gin-infused cocktail. My home-made fireweed lemonade has a pleasant, flowery flavor. The lemonade will be ready for drinking in about 3-5 days, depending on the storing temperature. It should become slightly fizzy and the smell and taste of yeast should disappear entirely. Fireweed flowers are purple and this lemonade has a beautiful pink color. If you turn the lemonade into cocktails, the beverage might turn pinkish gray, depending on the amount of lemon juice you use.
The flavor and color of the lemonade mixed with gin and lemon juice reminds me one of the most beloved cocktails in Finland – the Gin Long Drink. Every Finn knows this drink as Lonkero (Lonkero is an odd nickname, as it means a tentacle in Finnish). This classic cocktail is mixed from grapefruit soda and gin and was originally developed for the Olympic Games that Finland hosted in 1952. If you would like to turn your fireweed lemonade into delicious Fireweed – Gin cocktails, simply mix the lemonade with gin and a splash of lemon juice. Serve with a lot of ice and decorate with fresh fireweed flowers.
FIREWEED GIN LONG DRINK
4 cl Gin
A splash of Lemon
1,5 dl Fireweed lemonade (see the recipe below)
Pour the gin and lemon juice into a tall glass filled with ice.
Add the lemonade.