Do you know how to forage for food? If your answer is no then you could ask the 4-Her’s for some advice! 4-H Alaska Way of Life recently explored the many edible foods found in the wild of Southeast Alaska with their Wild Edible Series. Although 4-H is often famous for its focus on agriculture in the Lower 48, these Alaskan’s know that the best food comes from the wild. The Wild Edible Series enabled 4-Her’s to hone their foraging, harvesting and processing skills to utilize the bounty that surrounds them everyday.
4-Hers hike through a Muskeg in search of edible plants
The 4-Her’s began their experience by learning the importance of sustainable harvest and hard work while picking huckleberries and blueberries. The bear, birds and bushes all need berries too! Using their harvest, the 4-Her’s discovered the basics of jam-making, experimented with recipes and taste-tested the results.
4-Hers make and process jam
Mycologists Kitty LaBounty, Noah Siegel and Alissa Allen joined the series to reveal the significance of fungi as a food source and service to the Tongass. Fungi are an essential part of the nutrient cycle to break down trees and keep our forest alive. The mycologists stressed the importance of proper identification, teaching that even edible mushrooms must be cooked first in order to be safe to consume.
Noah teaches 4-Hers about mushroom identification
Alyssa and Kitty discuss fungi with 4-Hers
To follow up with the summer fishing clinic, 4-Her’s encountered ways to process Salmon, one of the most popular wild edible foods produced by the Tongass. 4-Her’s brined pink salmon, identified a pellicle and set up an electric smoker. In true cooking-show style, the participants worked together to make smoked salmon dip and enjoyed the delicious results.
4-Hers sample smoked salmon dip
4-Her’s also learned how to make fruit leather, a delicious and natural snack, with local Sitka Rose hips. Participants discovered that eating healthy does not mean sacrificing flavor as they tasted the fruits of their labor. One excited 4-Her even exclaimed, “This tastes better than the store bought stuff!”
4-Her harvests Sitka Rose hips
Encountering ways to live with the land in Southeast Alaska, provides 4-Hers knowledgeable skills and encourages healthy lifestyles. As we become familiar with wild edibles, we also grow in appreciation of our important local food systems while strengthening our desire to conserve the land and sea that surrounds us.