Saturday, June 25, 2016

Alaska's Bountiful Harvest

A Pacific Halibut about 71 pounds before gutting and removing the head




Three troll caught, ocean bright Alaskan King Salmon. The largest one was 22 pounds
Locally caught Dungeness crabs. My son's caught these in two pots set overnight
Fresh blueberries from the back yard. The kids picked about two gallons in a few hours
Samonberries from around the house
 

            One of the joys of living in Alaska is that there is so much to enjoy of nature's bounty. Many Alaskan's, especially those of us who are living outside of the larger towns, utilize the abundance of food sources that are prevalent here. Every season brings something that can be harvested. Right now salmon and halibut are abundant, and the wise person catches some for now and some for the long winter ahead. For many people, especially those out in the bush, smoking fish has been a way to preserve it for hundreds of years. Now we have freezers, but smoking is still a very popular way to preserve fish, and it's a very tasty way I might add. Dungeness crab is available year round, although it's much more pleasant to pick crab pots in the summer when the weather is more favorable. Although, here in Hoonah, it's only a five minute boat ride to the other side of Pit Island  to pull your pots. For some folks, who may not own a crab pot or two, on the extreme tides where the tide is very high, and then very low, in fact it's a minus tide, meaning that it is below the mean low water mark, large areas of the bottom are exposed, and those who want to can search the eel grass and find crabs hidden beneath. The minus tides are also the time to dig clams and cockles. They are fairly easy to find because they spit water out of their holes in the sand. Unfortunately, I don't care for either one, but I wish I did. I like to dig them, and I love harvesting what nature provides. The common rule for digging clams is that you only dig them in the "R" months, when the water is cooler and there is less chance of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning. The Salmon berries are almost done growing, and with the rain that we're getting today, I suspect that they won't be worth picking. They have a relatively short growing time- a few weeks of being ripe I would say. They are so named because of their similarity in appearance to salmon eggs. They are kind of a watery berry, but they are good to eat raw, or in jam. I'm not sure, but you might be able to make a pie with them; I suspect you would need a lot of corn starch or flour to thicken up the mix. You have some competition for them, as the birds and the bears also like to eat them. Just last week I saw a  rather mangy looking brown bear eating berries up behind a house on the upper road. With all the heat that we've had this summer, I think he was shedding his coat. Of course in the fall and winter here in Southeast we have Sitka Blacktail deer to hunt. Over on the mainland there are moose and black bears. I've never eaten black bears that I can remember, although I did eat some brown bear once, which is a real no-no. Terrible stuff and subject to Tricinosis. Some of the natives hunt seals. I ate that once also when I was living at the farm. To me it tasted like a raw fish, not to my liking at all. There is some kind of animal that grows on the rocks  that the natives used to harvest called gumboots. I don't know if they taste like boots or are just as tough as a boot or a combination of the two. I've never had the nerve to try one. For those whose tastes lean toward the exotic, there are also octopus here. I understand that on low tide some folks used to search the holes  in the rocks that were exposed and search for a pile of clam shells  outside the hole. They would then pour a little bleach inside to drive the octopus out. I've eaten it before, but it's not to my liking. Really tough, and the flavor doesn't appeal to me. Last, and certainly not least, there are shrimp in these waters. I've only had success catching them once. One time there were two octopus in my shrimp pot, so I suppose they had a feast. The other time I had seventeen big ones, one bigger than a dollar bill. They were tasty. Often when I'm long lining for halibut, I will catch Pacific cod, and they will be filled with shrimp. Surprising that anything that swims so slow could catch a shrimp, but perhaps they experience a burst of speed when there is food present. Kind of like me.Of course this isn't all that is available to those who want to harvest the land and sea. There are other plants that are edible, and fish and eels and skates. I guess if push came to shove you could eat these little squirrels. Up north there are caribou and moose and I don't know what all. I know that certain groups of natives hunt for whales. I'm not sure if they eat walrus or not. Doesn't sound appealing to me, but I grew up on Campbells  soup and Wonder bread, so I guess it's a matter of what's available. Anyway, there you go. It's the busy time of year for me. I've been out fishing quite a bit and don't have a lot of time for doing blog posts. However, there are about 350 others that I've written, so if you need a Wilderness Blues fix, feel free to check the archives. Hope your summer is going well. I'll chat again soon.

5 comments:

  1. Great blog dad. Hope you are doing good fishing. Love you

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    1. Thanks, I'm not sure who wrote this, but I've been getting a few kings. The price has been good or it wouldn't have been worth going out. It will be interesting to see what the rest of the season brings.

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    2. sorry about that dad, its me Camille

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  2. Very interesting,Tom. I've heard of salmonberries but had never seen or tasted them. And I'm smacking my lips in remembrance of your wonderful halibut! Yum!!

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  3. Hi Jill, The salmon berries are pretty good. They're bigger than raspberries,but have more water in them. Some of the yellow ones can develop a bitter taste, but for the most part they're pretty good. We had halibut the other night.As always, it was delicious.

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