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