Free, fun, and nutritious BY SUSAN SOMMER
one of my favorite pastimes every spring, summer, and fall. Our Southcentral Nettles forests are rich in fiddlehead ferns, morels, spruce tips, and currants; meadows grow fireweed, dandelion, chives, dock, and nettle; and each fall, south-facing slopes burst with blueberries, crowberries, and lowbush cranberries. I get the same response every time I tell someone new that I eat Devil’s club: confusion, disbelief, sometimes even horror. “Just the shoots,” I assure them. When plucked prior to unfurling, the shoots are soft and tasty. Leather gloves are a must, though, to protect fingers from the spiny stalks. These early spring greens can be chopped up and added to any favorite dish as a hearty green. I even freeze them to toss into smoothies mid-winter for fresh flavor. Stinging nettles are an excellent source of protein, calcium, iron, manganese, and vitamins A and K. Cooked or dried, the sting disappears. Harvest the newest leaves and use them in everything from omelets to pesto to tea. Rather than cussing the dandelions in my yard from here to eternity, I eat them. While the leaves are edible, I prefer the flowers; battered and fried in butter, they make a crunchy treat. I also freeze them for a lively summer memory in smoothies. These bright yellow wonders are high in vitamin D. I also once tried dandelion root “coffee,” which looked just like the real thing and tasted surprisingly similar. If you need some space, chomp on a fistful of wild chives while out hiking—the stalks—especially the ones with purple blooms—are pungent enough to keep away evil spirits as well as your date or mate. Substitute chopped chives in any dish that calls for scallions. I pick berries as often as possible every fall, but no matter how many I squirrel away, I always run out in March. Ah, well, better to have plucked and eaten than never to have plucked at all. The quiet time on a mountainside awash in fall colors, gathering each berry one by one, is equally as enjoyable as using them throughout the year in Berries muffins, pancakes, and pies.
ARVESTING WILD ALASKAN EDIBLES IS
A L A S K A M A G A Z I N E . C O M JULY/AUGUST 2019
5/14/19 7:00 AM
Alaska Magazine July 2019