Foraging is an important part of my aspiring local diet. The cold climate of Alaska makes growing food year-round challenging. That, coupled with the lack of growing space at my small apartment, means I have to turn elsewhere for much of my local food.
Luckily for me, Alaska has abundant opportunities for hunting, fishing, and foraging!
I started my spring foraging with fiddle-heads. In Southcentral Alaska, many spring forgeable aren't readily available until mid-May.
I spent a couple lovely evenings strolling and snipping the unfurled heads of edible ferns. There is something very appealing about the barely-there leaves and the thin brown coverings. Maybe it's the fleeting nature of fiddle-heads that makes them irresistible. They have a small harvest window and require identification skills. For further information regarding which fiddle-heads are edible and how to identify them, you can check out this article.
I had big plans to blanch and freeze a stock of fiddle-heads, but I ended up eating them all fresh! My favorite way is boiled, then sautéed in butter and garlic. Fair warning...fiddle-heads should not be eaten raw!
Spring is also a great time to forage spruce tips and devil's club buds. I look forward to giving these a try in the future and can't wait to try my hand at making spruce tip syrup!
Early summer sees Morels, and mid-summer through first frost brings various berries and mushrooms. The star of the show for me has to be blueberries. No offense to all the other phenomenal Alaska forgeables, but it blows my mind that I can harvest wild, nutrient-dense blueberries less than 20 minutes from my apartment.
This year I harvested a couple gallons of blueberries and flash froze many of them before storing. I highly encouraging bringing a stash of Packaroons on your berry picking adventures, that way you can snack on those rather than your entire blueberry stash!
My current favorite flavor is Black Espresso. I enjoy eating blueberries right off the bush, but there is something extra fulfilling about storing food for the winter.
For me, it's an act of self-reliance and resilience. I also find comfort in harvesting them for hours. It takes me back to harvesting cherry tomatoes for extended periods of time back home in Michigan. My brain finds a settled space, almost like a meditation, where everyday worries slip away.
One of the best parts of foraging is sharing the bounty with others! Blueberry season may be long gone, but, if you're anything like me, you have a hefty stash in the freezer. Wild blueberries can make an intriguing (and local!) addition to your holiday tables this year.
Blueberry Bourbon Smash
Many blueberry cocktails focus on the summer season, but I love this one for fall or winter. The bourbon adds a warming element and it's a great way to incorporate your harvested blueberries into your holiday meal. It's the perfect welcome drink for your guests!
- 1/2 a lemon, cut into wedges
- 1/4 cup blueberries (hopefully from your fall harvest!)
- 8-10 mint leaves
- 2 ounces bourbon
- 1 ounces simple syrup
- club soda (optional)
- mint for garnish
Muddle lemon wedges, thawed blueberries, and mint leaves in a shaker. Add bourbon, simple syrup, and ice, then shake until cold. Strain into ice-filled glasses and top with club soda (if preferred) and mint garnish.
Recipe from Burrata and Bubbles
Berry and Cream Cheese Croissant French Toast Bake
If you have overnight guests this holiday season, or just brunch visitors, I highly recommend this French Toast Bake. It can be made ahead and is a real crowd-pleaser.
- 6 eggs, beaten
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 2 tablespoons real maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 12 cups torn, day old croissants (12-16 croissants)
- 10 ounces blueberry preserves
- 8 ounces cream cheese, cut into cubes
- 6 tablespoons cold salted butter, thinly sliced
- 1 cup fresh blueberries (thawed if from your frozen stash)
- 1 cup heavy cream
- powdered sugar and maple syrup
Whisk eggs, milk, maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt. Toss half of the croissants in half of the egg mixture, then arrange in a greased 9x13 inch baking dish. Dab the jam and cream cheese on top of the croissants. Place remaining half of the croissants overtop and pour the rest of the egg mixture over them.
Cover and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. When ready to bake, layer the thiny sliced butter on top. Bake for 45-50 minutes at 375 degrees F.
Finally, whip the cream until stiffened and stir in powdered sugar or maple syrup. Serve warm, with whipped cream, fresh blueberries, and maple syrup.
Makes eight servings.
Recipe from Half-Baked Harvest
Quick Spruce Tip Syrup
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups spruce tips
- 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice (optional)
Combine water and sugar, then bring to a boil and dissolve sugar. Then, turn off the heat and stir in the spruce tips. Cover the pot and leave to steep. Steeping time depends on personal preference. Finally, strain and add lemon juice, if desired.
Recipe from Hunt Gather Cook.
Abby is the Heather’s Choice Customer Service Expert and provides sales support. She made the long drive from Michigan (twice) back in 2022 to make Alaska her new home. She has a strong love for food and a background in organic vegetable farming. Outside of the office you can find her climbing or doing yoga at the local rock gym, hiking in Alaska’s wilderness, or reading.