• Photo album from the 2010 ‘Let’s Grow Sitka!’ available

Lori Adams of Down To Earth U-Pick Gardens shows off a basket of produce she was giving away

Lori Adams of Down To Earth U-Pick Gardens shows off a basket of produce she was giving away

The Sitka Local Foods Network extends a big thank you to the more than 200 people who stopped by Sunday, March 14, for the “Let’s Grow Sitka!” garden show at Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall.

If you stopped by, you were able to check out booths from local gardeners who sell their surplus veggies, learn about Sitka’s first CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) venture, buy a new Sitka gardening handbook from Florence Welsh, pet some baby chicks, get your pressure canner gauge checked, start some seeds for the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, eat some Sisterhood Stew sold by the Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp No. 4, register for a master gardener certification course, learn about composting and slug control, and buy seeds for your own garden. Over the next few weeks, more details will be posted about some of the individual projects.

For now, click here to see a photo gallery from Let’s Grow Sitka! (look for the album with the Let’s Grow Sitka name). Keep an eye open, because there may be video links posted later, depending on how things turned out.

Sonja Koukel of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service's Juneau office checks pressure gauges for Perry Edwards of Sitka

Sonja Koukel of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service's Juneau office checks pressure gauges for Perry Edwards of Sitka

Let's Grow Sitka booths are still busy after closing time

Let's Grow Sitka booths are still busy after closing time

Lina and her mom hold one of several baby chicks owned by Andrew Thoms

Lina and her mom hold one of several baby chicks owned by Andrew Thoms

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• Sonja Koukel of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service writes about discovering treasures from the CES catalog

Dr. Sonja Koukel, PhD, of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service

Dr. Sonja Koukel, PhD, of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service

Discover Treasures from the UAF Cooperative Extension Service

By Dr. Sonja Koukel, PhD
Health, Home & Family Development Program
UAF Cooperative Extension Service, Juneau Office

_____

When was the last time you visited the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service (UAF CES) website? Perhaps it’s been awhile, or perhaps you’ve never taken the time to surf the site and take stock of all the treasures available in hard copy, electronic media, and on the Internet.

Every year the CES Communications Department provides a “Publications & Media” catalog listing research-based publications in the major program areas: Agriculture & Horticulture; Community Resource & Economic Development; Energy Education & Housing; and Health, Home & Family Development. Some publications are free and may be downloaded from the website. Those with a small fee can be ordered using the online form (http://www.uaf.edu/ces/pubs/), calling the toll-free number (1-877-520-5211), or contacting the local district office.

Let’s take a look at the treasure trove of information available through the Health, Home & Family Development (HHFD) program. For instance, there are a number of publications listed in the “Food, Nutrition and Health” category. Here, you will find information on storing vegetables and fruits, freezing vegetables, making fruit leather, making jerky, facts on botulism, and a variety of recipes including sourdough, rhubarb, zucchini, and wild berries. Several vegetable fact sheets provide nutrition and health guidelines (such as vitamin, mineral, and fiber content), harvesting, storage, and preparation with sample recipes included. Selected vegetables include beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, squash, herbs, and chard. Bonus — all these fact sheets are free!

In my view, the most exciting new developments are the educational modules made possible through a USDA grant. Titled, “Preserving Alaska’s Bounty,” the web-based modules and DVDs were created and developed as a team effort involving HHFD faculty, program assistants, and the communications staff. The series focuses on home preservation of Alaska Native foods. Client feedback on the media, gathered from an online satisfaction survey, has been very positive.

The primary purpose for developing the modules was to provide research-based information for rural communities and areas that do not have extension faculty members on-site. The web modules are developed in a sequential manner so that each step is clearly defined and explained. There are hyperlinks within the modules that link the user to additional information. Topics are grouped into three main categories: Canning Basics, Canning Products & Methods (i.e., canning fish, meat, jams/jellies), and Meat Products & Methods (i.e., sausage, jerky). These modules are free. Locate them at (http://www.uaf.edu/ces/preservingalaskasbounty/index.html)

For those who learn best by watching demonstrations, the DVDs bring the extension experts into your home. Health, Home & Family Development program area faculty from all seven Alaska districts serve as the educators. To date, seven DVDs have been released on the following topics: Canning Basics, Canning Meat and Fish in Jars, Canning Meat and Fish in Cans, Pickling, Drying Foods, Sausage and Jerky, and the just-released, Jams and Jellies. More titles will be available in the very near future, these include: Root Cellars, Fireweed, Processing Reindeer (game meats), and Harvesting Alaska Seaweeds. The DVDs are available at a nominal fee of $5.

The Alaska Native foods preservation series is the culmination of a five-year process. It is a topic that figures into all the HHFD program areas: nutrition, food budgeting, eating locally, and energy conservation. Recently, the CES HHFD team received recognition for their work, “A Multimedia Approach to Preserving Alaska’s Bounty,” from the National Extension Honorary Society of Epsilon Sigma Phi.

In the new year, take a moment to visit the UAF Cooperative Extension Service website and discover all the treasures that await you. Contact: sdkoukel@alaska.edu or 907-796-6221.

Julie Cascio of UAF Cooperative Extension Service's Health, Home and Family Development program in the Palmer/Mat-Su district demonstrates how to dry apples

Julie Cascio of UAF Cooperative Extension Service's Health, Home and Family Development program in the Palmer/Mat-Su district demonstrates how to dry apples

• Sonja Koukel of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service writes about storing potatoes

SKoukel

Dr. Sonja Koukel of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service

Photo courtesy of USDA Agricultural Research Service Image Gallery / Photo by Scott Bauer -- The average American eats 142 pounds of potatoes a year, making the tubers the vegetable of choice in this country

Photo courtesy of USDA Agricultural Research Service Image Gallery / Photo by Scott Bauer -- The average American eats 142 pounds of potatoes a year, making the tubers the vegetable of choice in this country

Storing Potatoes

By Dr. Sonja Koukel, PhD
Health, Home & Family Development Program
UAF Cooperative Extension Service, Juneau Office

—————

They live. They breathe. And because they’re 80 percent water, potato tubers thrive in humid locations. In moist Southeast Alaska, where are the best spots in your home to store your potatoes?

Research by University of Idaho Cooperative Extension Service scientists and College of Southern Idaho students has confirmed that the optimum sites for home-stored potatoes are cool, dark and ventilated rooms, closets, cabinets and garages. In studies conducted in their own residences, the agricultural science students also found that the perforated plastic bags used in many groceries offer the best environment for extending shelf life.

Potatoes stored inside these bags in unheated areas of the students’ homes benefited from a relatively cool average temperature of 57 degrees Fahrenheit and a relatively high average humidity of 67 percent. They shrank just 0.9 percent — only slightly more than the 0.6 percent weight loss measured in commercially stored potatoes. Potatoes on counter tops, in refrigerators and under the sink fared considerably worse.

If you only buy enough potatoes to eat within a few days, you can store them almost anywhere in your home as long as you keep them out of the light. But if you buy or harvest several pounds, your choice of location can clearly affect the potatoes’ long-term usability. Warm temperatures encourage sprouting and tuber disease, cold temperatures cause spuds to turn brown when fried, exposure to light prompts greening, sealed plastic containers starve tubers of oxygen and dry environments are downright withering.

The researchers recommend storing potatoes in an unheated entrance, spare room, attic, basement or garage insulated to protect against freezing, or in an extra refrigerator whose temperature can be set a few degrees higher than normal.

Whether you harvested potatoes from your garden or cashed in on a special sale, following these storage guidelines will help maintain a fresh product. And, a note of interest, the UAF Cooperative Extension Service has developed a new DVD on root cellars that will be available soon. You can access UAF Cooperative Extension Service publications at http://www.uaf.edu/ces/pubs/.

Article resource: University of Idaho Cooperative Extension Service, http://info.ag.uidaho.edu/pdf/CIS/CIS1153.pdf (article opens as PDF file).

• Capital City Weekly features Sitka Farmers Market, and other local food stories in the news

Screenshot of Capital City Weekly site with the Table of the Day Winners from the third Sitka Farmers Market

Screenshot of Capital City Weekly site with the Table of the Day Winners from the third Sitka Farmers Market

Click here to see a photo in this week’s issue of Capital City Weekly that shows Table of the Day Award-winners Hope Merritt and Judy Johnstone of Gimbal Botanicals and Sprucecot Gardens receiving their award from Ellen Frankenstein at the third Sitka Farmers Market of the season on Aug. 15. We host the fourth Sitka Farmers Market of the summer from 10 a.m. to 20 p.m. this Saturday (Aug. 29) at Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall, 235 Katlian St.

In addition to the Sitka Farmers Market photo, there were several other local foods stories in statewide news the last few days.

Click here to read a Capital City Weekly story about the second annual Juneau Farmers Market and Local Foods Fair that takes place on Saturday, Aug. 29, at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center.

Click here to read a Capital City Weekly story about using and preserving healthy, delicious rose hips (by Dr. Sonja Koukel of the Juneau office of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service, article includes a recipe).

Click here to read a story from Thursday’s Juneau Empire previewing this Saturday’s second annual Juneau Farmers Market and Local Foods Festival.

Click here to read a Fairbanks Daily News-Miner story about the history of sourdough bread in Alaska (article includes a couple of recipes).

Click here to read a roundup from the Anchorage Daily News about what’s available this week in local farmers markets.

Finally, click here to read an article from the Canadian magazine “Up Here” about a Yukon Territory resident’s attempt to eat a 100-mile diet (eg, a locavore diet).