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Checking our pledge – How we’re doing at the 3/4 mark

April 2, 2012
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The pledge that Randy and I had worked out for this challenge is published further down this page. Today I am reporting on how we’ve done in comparison to that pledge in the first nine months. For the challenge, each participant had their own pledge, with different rules and exceptions – this one is just specific to Randy and me.

Overall Goal: Eat Alaskan-grown food to the greatest extent possible for one year beginning June 21, 2011.
Goal: Increase our knowledge of native Alaskan plants to increase the amount of food acquired through foraging:

  • Cloudberries: we tried these for the first time this year – they make a wonderful mildly orange-flavored jam and have a lot of natural pectin.
  • Nettles: Rather than harvesting nettles just for beer and wine, we harvested to supplement the greens we grow and store for the winter. We blanched and froze them like spinach, and they are a great green as a side dish. This will be one of the earliest crops to forage this year – available long before our greens will be harvest-ready.
  • High-bush cranberries: these usually play second fiddle to their low-bush cousins, but this year we harvested them and made a liqueur usingAlaskavodka, which turned out beautifully.
  • Still to come: first greens of spring, which may included fiddle head ferns (we tried them last year and did not much enjoy them, but I’ve learned more about cooking them, and will try again). Fireweed shoots can be used as asparagus, and I know just where they’ll be popping up!
  • We also found more ways to use what we’ve always foraged – new blueberry recipes, cranberry sauce, and using fresh and dried cranberries in place of raisons in any recipe that calls for raisons.

Goal: Learn to replace foods regularly purchased from outside by identifying foods inAlaska that comprise a viable substitute:

  • I’ve mentioned many of these in earlier posts – using Delta wheat and barley is a huge change, we use cracked wheat and barley in place of oatmeal, and exclusively local flour for our cooking and baking. I can’t help but think that flour that is ground moments before use has lost fewer nutrients than pre-ground flour from a store.
  • Honey turns out to be only a partial substitute for sugar, I had little luck with honey in jams (it didn’t gel) and it adds a strong flavor to some recipes that  I used it in. Although we’re still buying and using Alaskan honey, we are still buying sugar as well.
  • Fruits – we’ve had marginal success, and are not sure whether the frozen and canned fruits have as good a nutrient value as fresh. We were able to collect plenty of berries and apples, enough for the winter, the questions for us is nutrition, not just quantity.
  • Chicken broth – something we usually bought in bulk – has been almost entirely replaced by our own chicken/turkey broth and vegetable broths we started saving when boiling or blanching vegetables. In a pinch, I can make a batch of vegetable broth using a jar or tomatoes boiled on the wood stove with onion, celery and carrot. We may have bought 2 – 4 cans of broth since we started, so a great reduction.

Goal: Learn the nutritional composition of local foods to verify the diet is healthy and sustainable: Have found some information on this, but not much is Alaska-specific. Short of contracting out some chemical tests (or learning to do them myself) I don’t know how to come up with this information.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. April 2, 2012 8:34 pm

    By way of a reminder the Center Market is still happening every Wednesday 11-6 in the mall at Sears. There are organic vegetables still available, pork, beef, seafood, mushrooms, and cheese. We are coming up on our 104 weeks straight of vending in Anchorage at least once a week.

  2. April 2, 2012 9:58 pm

    Thank you for the reminder, Alex! I stop by whenever I’m in on a Wednesday!

  3. April 4, 2012 7:09 pm

    The website Nutrition Data has quite a few listings for Alaska-specific foods: http://nutritiondata.self.com/. Use their search box for “alaska” and see what you get. Thanks for the update!

  4. May 30, 2012 12:52 am

    There’s a book! … its published I think via the university? maybe cooperative extension? That is amazing and goes into nutritional info of local plants… I thought I wrote it down, but now I can’t find it… its small and the background of the cover is brown, and it has a spiral binding. I know Gullivers Books here in FBX carries it. I’ll see if can track down the info.

  5. June 2, 2012 2:12 am

    Jasmine,
    I’m in Fairbanks next week – I’ll stop by Gullivers and see if they know what I’m talking about. If you find the name before then, please let me know. Thanks for the information!

  6. July 2, 2012 11:46 pm

    I’m starting a similar endeavor this year. Are you guys doing this again this year? I’d like to follow along if you are. I’m really new to this whole thing so it’s going to be a real challenge, especially with grains and dairy. I live out in Bethel and I don’t think we have any way of getting Alaska milk out here. We’ll see. There’s definitely A LOT of learning that’s going to have to happen. I’m going to read through these posts over the last year to see what I can find out.

  7. July 3, 2012 2:11 am

    We are planning to keep eating as local as possible, but not be quite so strict. We bought canned mushrooms and canned tomatoes (organic) last week, although we were still planning to grow and can all we can this year. Last year, we canned over 46 pounds, and ran out of all but pizza sauce by April. Now we’re eating pizza, who can complain about that? And I do buy mushrooms from a grower on the Kenai when I can get them! Please keep in touch and let me know how you’re doing – I have tons of good recipes now.

  8. Carol permalink
    August 22, 2012 6:57 pm

    This blog is great! You have worked hard and acheived a lot.

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