Useful Plants and a Hopeful Chance
July 03, 2013
Fireweed at Exit Glacier
Fireweed is found throughout the state, and is abundant at Exit Glacier (in Kenai Fjords National Park). The plants border the trails and the smaller dwarf fireweed is found close to the glacier. This plant is common here because it is the one of the first plants to come back after ground is disturbed (ex. recent glacier or man-made trails).
Common fireweed at Exit Glacier. Photo: NPS
Interesting uses for fireweed: various Native American groups used the seed fluff in weaving and for padding in pillows. Twine for fishing nets could also be made from fireweed. Once the outer layers of the stem were peeled, dried then soaked they could be spun into twine that could be used in fishing nets.
Can fireweed be eaten? The flowers can be used for honey or jelly. The unopened flower buds are tasty in salad or stir-fry. Early shoots can be eaten raw or in soups and salads. The leaves once dried can be made into tea. (Fireweed leaves are rich in Vitamin C.)
*IMPORTANT* Please wash well and verify that you correctly identify any plant harvested. Other plants may be harmful to your health. Plants along roadways or other areas with pollution or pesticide should not be eaten. (Also note that plants cannot be harvested in Kenai Fjords National Park.)
Here is a recipe with fireweed flowers: FIREWEED SCONES
2 cups flour
¼ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons butter
1 cup sour cream
1 egg yolk
½ cup fireweed blossoms
Mix dry ingredients together. Cut the butter into dry ingredients until crumbly. Mix sour cream and egg yolk together and mix with dry ingredients until combined. (Dough will be sticky.) Put dough on a floured surface and sprinkle blossoms on top. Knead lightly to mix flowers in (several times). Pat out into a square about ¾ inch thick. Cut into four squares and cut each square diagonally to make eight scones. Bake at 400°F for 12 to 15 minutes.
-Lindsey Kromrey,Interpretation Student-Ranger-Student
Seeing Alaska Through a Tourist's Eyes
I think it's interesting how people, like me, who have grown up in Seward take things like mountains, bear, moose and the land in general, for granted.
I am going to record some of the things I hear in this journal, like, "I've never seen a moose and I am determined to see one before my trip is over."
When I hear something like this I think, why? It's just a moose, but to someone who has never seen a moose, it is something totally new and foreign and I am very interested in it.
-Sebastian Kratz, Interpretation YCC
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Did You Know?
River otters defecate in certain spots to mark their territory. Researchers in Kenai Fjords National Park have discovered that these "latrine sites" enrich the soil, allowing plants to grow in those spots that aren't found anywhere else close by.