Scenes from the Sitka Kitch cooking with seaweed class held in conjunction with the Sitka Mermaid Festival

Students made a no-bake mini-cheesecake with agar agar (a red seaweed derivitive) and tried some wheat and seaweed pasta during the Sitka Kitch’s cooking with seaweed class held Tuesday, Aug. 14, as part of the inaugural Sitka Mermaid Festival.

One of the focus areas of the Sitka Mermaid Festival is how to cultivate, harvest and use seaweed, kelp and other sea veggies as a food source and as a commercial enterprise.

This class was team-taught by Sitka Mermaid Festival organizer Amelia Mosher and Hope Merritt of Gimbal Botanicals, with assistance from Roby Littlefield.

Amelia grew up in Sitka and recently returned to town after living in the Lower 48. She has worked as a health educator and also in commercial kitchens in Hawai’i. She taught the cooking portion of the class.

Hope is the owner of Gimbal Botanicals, which sells a variety of seaweed, beach asparagus, sea veggies, teas and other products around town. Hope and Roby taught students about harvesting seaweed, including traditional harvest methods, while also providing samples of various types of seaweed for the students to try.

A slideshow of scenes from the class is posted below.

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Scenes from the Sitka Kitch class on how to fillet a salmon held Aug. 7 with the Sitka Seafood Festival

Students learned how to fillet a salmon during a Sitka Kitch class held Tuesday, Aug. 7, in conjunction with the Sitka Seafood Festival. The class took place at the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen (505 Sawmill Creek Road, inside First Presbyterian Church).

Renée Jakaitis Trafton, owner/chef at Beak Restaurant, taught the class. Not only did she show students how to get more meat in their fillets, but she also showed them how to pick pinbones and skin the fillet (for those wanting salmon skins to use for arts and crafts.

The salmon used in the class were hatchery kings donated from the Northern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association’s (NSRAA’s) Medvejie Hatchery, and each student in this class received a fillet knife to take home.

The next Sitka Kitch class is a cooking with seaweed class held from 6-8 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 14, as part of the Sitka Mermaid Festival. This class will be taught by Sitka Mermaid Festival coordinator Amelia Mosher and Hope Merritt of Gimbal Botanicals. They are still finalizing their plans for the class, but they plan to make something using agar agar (a red seaweed derivative used for jellies and other products). They also could teach a no-bake cheesecake using seaweed and seaweed smoothies.

The cooking with seaweed class costs $27.50, plus a supply/food fee split among the students. The class size is limited, so register early to guarantee your spot in the class. The registration deadline is 11:55 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 11. Register online at http://sitkakitch.eventsmart.com (click on class title) using a debit or credit card or PayPal account, or call Claire, Chandler or Clarice at Sitka Conservation Society (747-7509) to arrange the drop-off of a cash or check payment. For more information, contact Amelia Mosher at (707) 672-2909, Jasmine Shaw at 747-9440, Claire Sanchez at 747-7509 or email sitkakitch@sitkawild.org.

A slideshow of scenes from the how to fillet a salmon class is posted below.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Check out the August 2018 edition of the Sitka Local Foods Network newsletter

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the August 2018 edition of its monthly newsletter. Feel free to click this link to get a copy.

This month’s newsletter includes short stories about National Farmers Market Week, Aug. 31 being the last day to make Pick.Click.Give. donations, an invitation to join our board of directors, and info about our sponsorship program. Each story has links to our website for more information.

You can sign up for future editions of our newsletter by clicking on the newsletter image in the right column of our website and filling in the information. If you received a copy but didn’t want one, there is a link at the bottom of the newsletter so you can unsubscribe. Our intention is to get the word out about upcoming events and not to spam people. We will protect your privacy by not sharing our email list with others. Don’t forget to like us on Facebooklike our new Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter (@SitkaLocalFoods).

Sitka Kitch to host ‘cooking with seaweed’ class Aug. 14 as part of Sitka Mermaid Festival

As part of the inaugural Sitka Mermaid Festival, learn how to cook with edible seaweed products and local favorites from 6-8 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 14, at the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen (505 Sawmill Creek Road, inside First Presbyterian Church). One of the focus areas of the Sitka Mermaid Festival is how to cultivate, harvest and use seaweed, kelp and other sea veggies as a food source and as a commercial enterprise.

This class will be team taught by Sitka Mermaid Festival organizer Amelia Mosher and Hope Merritt of Gimbal Botanicals. They are still finalizing their plans for the class, but they plan to make something using agar agar (a red seaweed derivative used for jellies and other products). They also could teach a no-bake cheesecake using seaweed and seaweed smoothies.

Amelia grew up in Sitka and recently returned to town after living in the Lower 48. She has worked as a health educator and also in commercial kitchens in Hawai’i. Hope is the owner of Gimbal Botanicals, which sells a variety of seaweed, beach asparagus, sea veggies, teas and other products around town.

This class costs $27.50 per student, plus a food/supply fee that will be split among all the registered students. The class size is limited, so register early to guarantee your spot in the class.

The registration deadline is 11:55 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 11. Register online at http://sitkakitch.eventsmart.com (click on class title) using a debit or credit card or PayPal account, or call Claire, Chandler or Clarice at Sitka Conservation Society (747-7509) to arrange the drop-off of a cash or check payment. For more information, contact Amelia Mosher at (707) 672-2909, Jasmine Shaw at 747-9440, Claire Sanchez at 747-7509 or email sitkakitch@sitkawild.org.

Check out the July 2018 edition of the Sitka Local Foods Network newsletter

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the July 2018 edition of its monthly newsletter. Feel free to click this link to get a copy.

This month’s newsletter includes short stories about the first Sitka Farmers Market taking place on Saturday, a a community discussion about our food with food policy expert Mark Winne, an invitation to join our board of directors, and an item about our sponsorship program.. Each story has links to our website for more information.

You can sign up for future editions of our newsletter by clicking on the newsletter image in the right column of our website and filling in the information. If you received a copy but didn’t want one, there is a link at the bottom of the newsletter so you can unsubscribe. Our intention is to get the word out about upcoming events and not to spam people. We will protect your privacy by not sharing our email list with others. Don’t forget to like us on Facebooklike our new Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter (@SitkaLocalFoods).

Check out the June 2018 edition of the Sitka Local Foods Network newsletter

The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the June 2018 edition of its monthly newsletter. Feel free to click this link to get a copy.

This month’s newsletter has short articles about Gimbal Botanicals winning the Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest, Sitka Farmers Market vendor registration information being available, an invitation for people to join the Sitka Local Foods Network board of directors, information about a variety of food classes at the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen, and information about the Sitka Local Foods Network sponsorship program. Each story has links to our website for more information.

You can sign up for future editions of our newsletter by clicking on the newsletter image in the right column of our website and filling in the information. If you received a copy but didn’t want one, there is a link at the bottom of the newsletter so you can unsubscribe. Our intention is to get the word out about upcoming events and not to spam people. We will protect your privacy by not sharing our email list with others. Don’t forget to like us on Facebooklike our new Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter (@SitkaLocalFoods).

Gimbal Botanicals wins $1,500 prize in Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest

Gimbal Botanicals owner Hope Merritt, right, poses with her new interns, Nora Skeele, left, and Kassandra Eubank-Littlefield, during a recent trip to harvest seaweed. Gimbal Botanicals recently won $1,500 in the Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest hosted by the Sitka Local Foods Network, and Hope used the prize to hire interns to help her harvest, process and market her local wild food products. (Photo courtesy of Gimbal Botanicals)

Hope Merritt of Gimbal Botanicals makes a sale during a 2014 Sitka Farmers Market (Photo by Charles Bingham, Sitka Local Foods Network)

With a young child eating into her time and a need to expand her business, Hope Merritt of Gimbal Botanicals wanted to hire a couple of interns to help harvest and process her beach asparagus, seaweed, kelp and other local wild foods. This month, Hope received a check for $1,500 after winning the established business category in the Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest sponsored by the Sitka Local Foods Network.

The contest was for Sitka food businesses looking to start or grow their operations and was to provide two $1,500 prizes — one for established businesses and one for start-up businesses (younger than 2 years old) — but there were no entries in the start-up business category so no prize was awarded in that category.

“The Sitka Local Foods Network has had a long relationship with Hope and Gimbal Botanicals at the Sitka Farmers Market, so we’re excited to be able to help Hope grow her business,” Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham said. “One of the reasons we launched this contest this year was to try and encourage new local food businesses or the expansion of existing businesses so we have more local food available for Sitka residents. With her local wild foods business, Hope and Gimbal Botanicals provide a true taste of Sitka.”

Gimbal Botanicals has been in business for about a decade, and Hope has been selling a variety of local wild foods such as tea blends, beach asparagus, etc., at the Sitka Farmers Market, Sitka Food Cooperative, to local restaurants and caterers, at Sitka businesses such as Wintersong Soaps and Evergreen Foods, on Allen Marine cruises, and in Juneau, Hoonah and other communities. She also sells her local wild food products on her website, http://www.gimbalbotanicals.com.

“I will use this award to increase my womanpower and in so there should be more products available,” Hope said. “I have already hired two women and because harvesting is still slow we are starting on marketing. We are working with Salt and Soil Marketplace (a regional food hub based in Juneau) right now to get products on their website. I would like to expand my availability with the Sitka Food Co-op. I have also considered a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture, where farmers sell shares in their crops), or a CSH, Community Sustained Harvesting, as I might call it. In this model, customers would order in advanced from me for the whole season. Every time I harvest (about once every two weeks) customers would get their amount of fresh beach asparagus. It’s like pre-marketing.”

From left, Nora Skeele, Kassandra Eubank-Littlefield and Hope Merritt of Gimbal Botanicals harvest seaweed. (Photo courtesy of Gimbal Botanicals)

With the prize money, Hope hired interns Nora Skeele and Kassandra Eubank-Littlefield, who already have been helping out with harvests and will help out with processing and sales. In addition, Hope is helped by her partner, Dan Littlefield, and her mother-in-law, Roby Littlefield.

“This money will help me continue to bring local sea veggies to local markets, beach asparagus and seaweeds as well as my teas,” Hope said, who added that she plans to continue to sell her products at the Sitka Farmers Market. “I am hoping for a bigger presence at the Sitka Food-Co-op this year, making nutritious foods more available for those who value them. All of my products are 100-percent organic. Bringing wild-harvested beach asparagus to the local markets brings a super nutritious food that would otherwise be unavailable to the consumer here in Sitka and Juneau.”

Hope said she takes pride in being able to ethically harvest her sea veggies, which keeps the products sustainable.

“It’s not good enough for me to try to be ethical and sustainable with our fragile eco-systems,” Hope said. “I take great care to ensure sustainable harvesting. The resources I harvest from are healthy and abundant enough to handle the effects of commercial harvesting. If that changes, then we will no longer have those products available.”

Hope also is working with Sitka Tribe of Alaska Social Services to develop an agreement, which hasn’t started yet, where she harvests for those tribal members who can’t get out to harvest themselves.

This was the first year of the Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest, and the Sitka Local Foods Network hoped there would be more entries. “In addition to providing more local food here in Sitka, we want the contest to encourage Sitka food businesses to enter some of the larger innovation contests, such as Path to Prosperity or the Symphony of Seafood,” Bingham said. “But we’re happy for Hope and Gimbal Botanicals, because this business is a good example of how a Sitka foods business can be innovative while sharing the taste of Sitka.”

“I’d like to express my gratitude for this award and the work that Sitka Local Foods Network does in this community,” Hope said. “By promoting local food we are taking valuable steps forward as a community to be more healthy and food secure. This is a passion of mine and why I continue to operate Gimbal Botanicals. I could not operate without the help of friends and family. Gimbal Botanicals is sustained through all the hours that family and friends have donated to the cause working often for tea and beach asparagus. Thanks to my family for supporting and understanding the importance of local, not just for its nutrition but as a way of life. With the expansion of my family, time has shifted and I am unable to produce what I could before motherhood. I will use the money to hire help with harvesting, processing, marketing and at the farmers market.”