Fermented Fireweed Tea

Posted by Colleen Bones on

  Fireweed is in full bloom which means we're in the heart of summer! Fireweed, also widely known as willow herb, is an easily identifiable native plant that stands up to 8 feet tall with prominent purple to deep pink flowers that bloom in June through August. It favors roadsides, wastelands, logged clearings and usually one of the first plants to grow after a forest fire, hence the name. It restores the soil and prepares the forest for regeneration. It is also an important food source for bears, moose, elk and deer as well as pollinating insects and hummingbirds.


This fermented Fireweed tea is not like a regular herbal tea infusion, the leaves will be fermented just like those in black tea, and as a result, you can make a tea very similar to black tea without the caffeine and addictive properties. The fermentation process works its magic to create a deeper, more fruity flavor.

Fireweed tea has a long history in Russia being used for medicinal purposes. Its also known as Ivan Tea. Fireweed became popular in the 17th century because it was an easily accessible wild plant growing abundantly in nature making it a cheaper alternative to "proper tea".

Fireweed is just as beautiful as it is powerful. Fireweed is rich in antioxidants that benefit the entire body. The digestive system, the urinary system, the circulatory system, the heart, the brain, the endocrine system, immune system, the lungs, and the skin. It is both a tonic and a nutritive. Fireweed is an excellent source of dietary fiber, vitamin A, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, calcium, magnesium, and manganese. Fireweed is such a great herb to connect with. Eating and drinking wild foods align us with the season. Be sure to check out the Fireweed monograph in the herbarium section of the website.

  How to make
Fermented Fireweed Tea

 First and foremost make sure you properly identify fireweed to ensure you have the right plant. Strip or cut the leaves off the stalk, just below the flowering portion of the plant and above the leaves that are large, yellowing, damaged or older. Forage for about a 1lb. Allow your leaves to wilt overnight. This allows some of the moisture to dissipate and helps to prevent mold from forming during the fermentation process. Once wilted, grab some leaves, 3-6 at a time and roll them vigorously in between your palms, forming a ball. Its important to bruise the leaves so the oxidation process can begin. Once all the leaves are rolled, place them in a bowl or jar and loosely place a lid on top. (You don't want to use a basket as this will dry the leaves rather than ferment them) Ferment for 2-3 days out of direct sunlight. Pick an environment that is not too humid but not to dry. Move around once or twice a day. After the leaves are a very dark green, almost black, lay them out in the sun to dry if you live in a hot, dry place to stop fermentation. You can also dry roast them in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Store the dry leaves in a mason jar and brew as you would any loose black tea. For added visual effect, dry some of the flowers along with the leaves. Store in a glass jar with a tightly fitted lid. The taste improves over time, so letting it rest a few weeks will enhance the flavor 


This is a tasty tonic with a deep, fruity flavor and no caffeine! Drink after your morning coffee on cold days with a little honey and a splash of cream. 

The entire plant is edible. Try the fresh fragrant flowers! Harvest them as soon as they open. They contain sweet nectar that make a delicious cup of tea. They can also be dried for later use. Harvest the shoots in early spring (may) when they are just 6 to 12 inches high and plant as a potherb. The mature stalk can be used as cordage, during and after flowering. Harvest the roots in the fall. 

Additional Notes:

Fireweed is known as Chamaenerion angustifolium and Epilobium angustifolium




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