• St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm hosts Saturday and Wednesday work parties throughout the summer

St. Peter's Fellowship Farm sign

St. Peter's Fellowship Farm sign

There will be St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm work parties from 4:30-6 p.m. every Wednesday afternoon and from 3-5 p.m. every Saturday afternoon throughout the summer (when there aren’t Sitka Farmers Markets scheduled).

While most of the garden has been planted and veggies are growing, there is a lot of maintenance work needed to keep the gardens working at full capacity. Tasks include watering the plants (when needed), weeding, thinning out some crops so the remaining ones have more room to grow, and even making some early harvests of food and replanting some of the faster-growing veggies. Even though it was raining heavily on Saturday, June 26, a crew of 4-5 people showed up to do a few chores.

Food grown at the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden is sold at the Sitka Farmers Markets. This summer the Sitka Farmers Markets take place on five alternate Saturdays starting on July 17 and running through Sept. 11. The St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden is located by the See House behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church on Lincoln Street.

For more information on the work parties, contact Lisa Sadleir-Hart at 747-5985 or 3akharts@acsalaska.net, or contact Doug Osborne at 747-3752 or doug_las@live.com.

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• Sitka Seafood Festival to hold picnic with Monday’s steering committee meeting

The next meeting of the Sitka Seafood Festival steering committee will feature a picnic in addition to the business part of the meeting. The picnic should help spice up the planning process and boost attendance.

The next steering committee meeting takes place at 7 p.m. on Monday, June 28, at Halibut Point Recreation Area’s main shelter. Participants should bring their own drinks and side dishes. Hamburgers and sausage will be provided.

“We have a few important things to cover, but would just like to get everyone together and get excited about this event that is soon approaching again,” Sitka Seafood Festival steering committee chairperson Alicia Peavey said. “Thanks for everyone’s hard work, I really appreciate it and I do think the festival is going to be amazing thanks to all of you!”

The inaugural Sitka Seafood Festival takes place Friday and Saturday, Aug. 6-7, at Harrigan Centennial Hall and various other places around Sitka. The guest chef is Robert Kinneen of Orso Ristorante in Anchorage, with entertainment provided by the bluegrass band Trampled By Turtles and the four-man juggling, acrobatic, martial arts and comedy troupe “NANDA: Acrobaticalist Ninja Action Heroes.” The basic format of the event features a special dinner on Friday night with a variety of educational events, seafood booths and entertainment all day Saturday.

To learn more about the Sitka Seafood Festival or to volunteer to help on one of the committees, e-mail sitkaseafoodfestival@gmail.com. You also can contact Alicia Peavey at alaska_al33@hotmail.com or 1-928-607-4845. The minutes from the June 22 Sitka Seafood Festival steering committee meeting are posted below. The steering committee also will meet at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, July 7, at Harrigan Centennial Hall.

Sitka Seafood Festival minutes from the June 22, 2010, steering committee meeting

• Paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) warning issued for Southeast Alaska

The enclosed copy is courtesy of the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) website.

A cockle has deep ridges similar to a Ruffles potato chip (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

A cockle has deep ridges similar to a Ruffles potato chip (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

This past week has seen five cases of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) in Alaska, including two cases in Southeast Alaska that resulted in the June 17 death of a Juneau woman who ate a cockle and the June 22 death of a Haines man who ate a Dungeness crab. The other three cases were in Kodiak and they resulted in illness from eating butter clams.

The two Southeast deaths, if confirmed by autopsy, will be the first paralytic shellfish poisoning deaths in Alaska since 1997. In 2009 there was just one reported case of PSP in Alaska, and there were no cases of PSP in 2008 and one in 2007. There have been periodic outbreaks of PSP over the years, with the most deadly instance coming when clams and mussels gathered from Peril Straits near Sitka killed more than 100 Russians and Aleuts in 1799.

According to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, the 57-year-old Juneau woman reportedly ate cockles she gathered on June 14 from the Point Louisa end of Auke Bay. She died June 17 after being hospitalized at Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation tested cockles from Auke Bay after the woman was hospitalized and DEC found the Auke Bay cockles had much higher levels of PSP than acceptable (they should not have more than 80 parts per million, and the cockles had 2,044 parts per million).

The 57-year-old Haines man reportedly ate Dungeness crab on June 18 that he caught off Jenkins Rock near the Chilkat Inlet of Lynn Canal. He was hospitalized at Bartlett Regional Hospital on June 18 and released from the hospital on June 21. He died in his Haines home early on June 22. Dungeness crab meat does not contain PSP, but the viscera (guts) can have the toxin, health officials said. People should not eat crab viscera. The Department of Environmental Conservation plans to test crabs from Southeast for PSP.

What is paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP)?

Paralytic shellfish poisoning, or PSP, is a potentially lethal toxin that can lead to fatal respiratory paralysis, according to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. The toxin comes from algae, which is a food source for clams, mussels, crabs and other shellfish found across Alaska. This toxin can be found in shellfish every month of the year, and butter clams have been known to store the toxin for up to two years. The toxin cannot be seen with the naked eye, and there is no simple test a person can do before they harvest. One of the highest concentrations of PSP in the world was reported in shellfish from Southeast Alaska.

The butter clam has one set of rings that go one direction only, around the same center point (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

The butter clam has one set of rings that go one direction only, around the same center point (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

Symptoms of PSP can begin almost immediately, or they can take several hours after eating the affected shellfish before they appear. Symptoms include shortness of breath, tingling, dizziness and numbness. If you suspect someone has symptoms of PSP, get that person to a medical facility fast (an Alaska Sea Grant link below has first aid for PSP). Death is rare from PSP, but some people have died after eating just one clam or mussel with the PSP toxin, while in other cases it took eating many clams or mussels to get enough of the poison to cause death.

Are Southeast beaches safe for subsistence or recreational shellfish harvesting?

The Department of Environmental Conservation recommends harvesting of shellfish only from DEC-certified beaches, and the only certified beaches in the state are located in the Cook Inlet and Kachemak Bay areas of Southcentral Alaska. According to DEC, there are no certified beaches in populated areas of Southeast Alaska, Kodiak or the Aleutian Islands. The only beaches DEC can certify as safe for shellfish collecting are those where state-certified testing of clams and mussels is done regularly.

The littleneck clam has two sets of rings that cross each other at 90 degree angles (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

The littleneck clam has two sets of rings that cross each other at 90 degree angles (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

“Do not eat shellfish from uncertified beaches,” DEC Program Specialist George Scanlan said. “Anyone who eats PSP-contaminated shellfish is at risk for illness or death.”

The DEC warning does not apply to commercially grown and harvested shellfish available in grocery stores and restaurants. Commercially grown and harvested shellfish goes through a regular testing program before it goes to market.

Paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) resources

DEC page about paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) and how it works, http://www.dec.state.ak.us/eh/fss/seafood/psp/psp.htm

DEC links page with more info about PSP,
http://www.dec.state.ak.us/eh/fss/seafood/psphome.htm

DEC page about identifying butter clams, littleneck clams and cockles (has photos),
http://www.dec.state.ak.us/eh/fss/seafood/psp/shellfish.htm

Current DEC warning about PSP in Alaska (dated June 16, 2010),
http://dec.alaska.gov/press_releases/2010/2010_06_16_psp%20final.pdf

Joint DH&SS/DEC press release about Haines case of PSP (dated June 21, 2010),
http://www.hss.state.ak.us/press/2010/Additional_case_of_PSP_reported_062110.pdf

DH&SS  fact sheet about paralytic shellfish poisoning, http://www.hss.state.ak.us/pdf/201006_shellfish.pdf

Twitter feed for the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services,
http://twitter.com/alaska_DHSS

Alaska Sea Grant page with links about paralytic shellfish poisoning,
http://seagrant.uaf.edu/features/PSP/psp_page.html

Alaska Sea Grant page with first aid for PSP victims (get victim to medical facility fast),
http://seagrant.uaf.edu/features/PSP/PSP_aid.html

Centers of Disease Control and Prevention page on marine toxins (including PSP),
http://www.cdc.gov/nczved/divisions/dfbmd/diseases/marine_toxins/

• Down To Earth u-pick garden opens for its second summer of providing fresh produce in Sitka

Sitka resident Lori Adams said the Down To Earth u-pick garden is open for its second summer of producing locally grown vegetables that Sitka residents can pick themselves.

Lori said she has lettuce and spinach available now, as well as rhubarb, white and red radishes, herbs, Egyptian walking onions, and a few plant starts. She also makes gift baskets. Lori is posting updates to the Sitka Local Foods Marketplace page about what in-season produce is available. (This page is available for other Sitka gardeners, commercial fishermen and other local food producers to use to let residents know what food is available.)

The Down To Earth u-pick garden is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays through Saturdays for the rest of the summer, and people can reach Lori at 738-2241 to see what produce is available and what’s about to come into season. The garden is located at 2103 Sawmill Creek Road (across from the Mormon church, look for the sign in the photo). Click here to learn more about the Down to Earth u-pick garden.

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• Palmer-based CSA looks into distributing produce boxes to Southeast customers

Baby carrots from the Glacier Valley Farm CSA photostream by South Anchorage Farmers Market Reporter Alison Arians

Baby carrots from the Glacier Valley Farm CSA photostream by South Anchorage Farmers Market Reporter Alison Arians

Glacier Valley Farm CSA, which is based in the Palmer area, is considering expanding its distribution network to include some Southeast communities, including Sitka.

Glacier Valley currently distributes its produce in the Anchorage, Mat-Su Valley and Kenai Peninsula areas. However, a customer service rep named Nelli said the CSA has been receiving a lot of interest from Southeast Alaska. For those not familiar with a CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture, small farms sell subscriptions or memberships to local residents, who share in the produce of that farm through weekly boxes of fruits and veggies (and sometimes fresh bread). Glacier Valley Farm CSA is owned by Arthur and Michelle Keyes, who also own A & M Farms.

Red cabbage from the Glacier Valley Farm CSA photostream by South Anchorage Farmers Market Reporter Alison Arians

Red cabbage from the Glacier Valley Farm CSA photostream by South Anchorage Farmers Market Reporter Alison Arians

“We are getting a growing list of interested people together, so that when we officially launch our Southeast service we can let folks know,” Nelli wrote in an e-mail.

She encourages people to go to the Glacier Valley Farm CSA website and learn more about the services it provides. On its site, Glacier Valley advertises itself as, “The only year-round CSA produce box program featuring Alaskan vegetables.” When it can, the program uses Alaska Grown produce from some of the better-known Mat-Su Valley farms. But sometimes Lower 48 fruits and veggies do make it into the boxes, especially in the winter when storage veggies may look a bit sketchy.

The CSA’s site lists produce box contents from previous weeks, community pick-up locations, recipes, and how to order information.This link features photos of some of the fruits and veggies Glacier Valley Farm CSA sells at the South Anchorage Farmers Market.

Nelli said if people are interested in regularly ordering a produce box or have any questions, they should e-mail her at customerservice@glaciervalleycsa.com to let her know. She said people also should let her know their home community (Sitka, Juneau, etc.) so she can let people know when there are enough people in that community to start service.

While the Glacier Valley Farm CSA program is not based in Southeast Alaska, there are some people in town who prefer to eat Alaska Grown produce, even if it travels nearly the same distance from Anchorage and the Mat-Su Valley as produce from Washington-based Full Circle Farm CSA, Chelan Produce and other organizations that serve Sitka. The Sitka Local Foods Network encourages Sitka residents to buy produce grown by Sitka gardeners first, then look within the region before buying produce grown elsewhere.

• Sitka Seafood Festival steering committee to meet June 22

The Sitka Seafood Festival steering committee’s next meeting will be at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 22, at Harrigan Centennial Hall.

Each of the steering committee’s smaller committees should have held meetings since the large group met in May, and those updates will be discussed at this meeting. The Sitka Seafood Festival takes place on Aug. 6-7 at Harrigan Centennial Hall and other locations around Sitka.

Chef Robert Kinneen of Orso Ristorante in Anchorage shows off an entrée featuring fresh Alaska yelloweye rockfish (Alaska Journal of Commerce photo by Rob Stapleton)

Chef Robert Kinneen of Orso Ristorante in Anchorage shows off an entrée featuring fresh Alaska yelloweye rockfish (Alaska Journal of Commerce photo by Rob Stapleton)

In other news, the Sitka Seafood Festival has chosen a guest chef — Robert Kinneen of Orso Ristorante in Anchorage, who has been featured in the Alaska Journal of Commerce for his extensive use of local foods at the restaurant. During the festival, Robert will be the featured chef for Friday night’s banquet and he will have a booth set up during Saturday’s festivities. Robert is currently filming a “Web-A-Thon” and has a professional camera crew that he would like to bring here to cover some of the festival. The Sitka Seafood Festival is in need of Alaska Airline miles to help bring the chef, his family and the filming crew to Sitka for the festival. While in Sitka, the camera crew may be available to film other projects related to fishing or tourism. If you can help the Sitka Seafood Festival out with air miles, send an e-mail to sitkaseafoodfestival@gmail.com or contact Alicia Peavey at 1-928-607-4845.

Sitka Seafood Festival steering committee minutes from May 20, 2010

• Wealth of resources available to learn about traditional foods

A selection of traditional plant books that are in popular use in Southeast Alaska

A selection of traditional plant books that are in popular use in Southeast Alaska

Living in Southeast Alaska, Sitka residents are exposed to a wealth of traditional foods that grow in our forests or can be found along our beaches. But many Sitka residents aren’t familiar with which plants are safe to eat, and which plants they should avoid. They also aren’t familiar with when are the prime times to gather certain plants.

In recent years, several books have been published to help teach people more about traditional plants and how they can be used. There also have been other groups, such as the Sitka Tribe of Alaska’s Kayaaní Commission, the Sealaska Heritage Institute and the Alaska Native Knowledge Network, that have posted traditional plant information online, including complete curriculum outlines for teachers to use in their classrooms.

Some of the more popular books used in Sitka (many of these can be found at Old Harbor Books) include:

  • Wild Edible & Medicinal Plants: Alaska, Canada & Pacific Northwest Rainforest: An Introductory Pocket Trail Guide (Volumes 1 and 2) by Carol R. Biggs
  • Wild Edible and Poisonous Plants of Alaska by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service (FNH-00028)
  • Collecting and Using Alaska’s Wild Berries and Other Wild Products by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service (FNH-00120)

In addition to these books, the Sealaska Heritage Institute has created curriculum resources using the Tlingít and Haida languages that are built around using traditional foods (links on language names go to Grades K-2 versions, but upper-lever courses available on main curriculum link). Examples of the Tlingít and Haida Grade K-2 courses for Plants are linked below as PDF documents, but there also are separate courses for beach greens, berries, cedar trees, hemlock trees, spruce trees, herring, hooligan, salmon, sea mammals, as well as for other cultural knowledge such as canoes, totem poles and Elizabeth Peratrovich.

The Alaska Native Knowledge Network also some curriculum resources posted online for Tlingít, Haida and Tsimshian culture, including some by Sitka teacher Pauline Duncan. The Alaska Native Plant Society has some information on traditional plant use, but the group is geared more toward the Anchorage area. The Alaska Natural History Program publishes an online Alaska Rare Plant Field Guide. The University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service has online and printed guides available on plant identification, berries and berry use, and even has online tutorials about how to home can jams and jellies.

On a related note, the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Diabetes Program will be turning its focus to traditional living classes for 2011. The program will focus on traditional foods and activities to teach its Native patients and other community members how to prevent and manage their diabetes (the SEARHC Diabetes Program operates throughout Southeast Alaska, not just in Sitka). The SEARHC Diabetes Program is looking for resident experts in traditional living (fishing, hunting, gathering, preparation, storage, gardening, etc.) who can help teach these skills to others. The program also wants to learn what types of classes people want to see offered in their communities. For more information, contact SEARHC Health Educator Renae Mathson at 966-8797 or renae.mathson@searhc.org.

Sealaska Heritage Institute Tlingít plant curriculum (Grades K-2)

Sealaska Heritage Institute Haida plant curriculum (Grades K-2)

UAF Cooperative Extension Service Native Plants of Alaska page on devil’s club

Nellie’s Recipes: An ANTHC (Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium) Traditional Food Cookbook for Assisted Living Homes

Alaska Traditional Food Resources (list from Eat Smart Alaska program run by Alaska Division of Public Health)