Forest Service, Sitka Tribe to harvest Tlingit potato garden for community on Oct. 19

 

The U.S. Forest Service-Sitka Ranger District and Sitka Tribe of Alaska will harvest the Tlingít community potato garden — and present scientific and cultural information about the unique crop — at 12:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 19, at the Sitka Ranger District office, 2108 Halibut Point Road. Participants from the community will receive information on how to grow Tlingít potatoes, as well as their biology, history, and cultural aspects.

Michelle Putz stands in the Tlingít potato garden at the U.S. Forest Service-Sitka Ranger District office.

The Sitka Ranger District provides the sunny plot of land to serve as the shared potato garden and tends the garden over the summer. Volunteers from the Sitka Tribe’s Traditional Foods Program, the gardening class from Pacific High School, and others from the community planted the potatoes in April. School and tribe volunteers are expected to assist in the harvest, but community involvement is also needed. Attendees are asked to wear boots and gardening gloves, and bring hand trowels or shovels. Five-gallon buckets of kelp to incorporate into the soil after harvesting also would be beneficial.

All of the potatoes will need to be dried and prepared for storage. Many of the potatoes harvested will be saved as next year’s seed potatoes. Depending on the size of the harvest, the group will share the harvest among the volunteers and through the Sitka Tribe’s Traditional Foods Program and Social Services Department.

(Photo courtesy of Klas Stolpe/Juneau Empire) Bill Ehlers, assistant gardener at the Jensen-Olson Arboretum in Juneau, holds a Tlingít potato next to some of the potato plant’s flowers.

The potato garden was started in 2017, partially, to support food security in Sitka.

“We’re excited about this year’s harvest because of the size and vigor of this year’s potato plants. The plants are more than three times the size of last year’s plants, so we are hopeful that we’ll have a really good harvest,” said Perry Edwards, Sitka District Ranger. “We also look forward to learning more about the genetic make-up of our harvest from the scientists who have studied them over the last year.”

Tlingit potatoes (sometimes called Maria’s potatoes) have been present in Tlingit gardens for over 200 years. The potatoes originate from Mexico or Chile* and were a trade item in Southeast Alaska in the early 1800’s.

This work day and educational opportunity will be at the Sitka Ranger District office, located at 2108 Halibut Point Road. Participants should come prepared for the weather as all activities will occur outdoors. For more information, contact Michelle Putz at 907-747-2708 or mputz@fs.fed.us.

*Zhang, Linhai with Charles R. Brown, David Culley, Barbara Baker, Elizabeth Kunibe, Hazel Denney, Cassandra Smith, Neuee Ward, Tia Beavert, Julie Coburn, J. J. Pavek, Nora Dauenhauer and Richard Dauenhauer. Inferred origin of several Native American potatoes from the Pacific Northwest and Southeast Alaska using SSR markers. Euphytica 174:15-29

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UAS-Sitka Campus to host annual class on how to identify Southeast Alaska mushrooms

The University of Alaska Southeast-Sitka Campus Office of Continuing Education will host the class “Southeast Mushrooms: With Kitty LaBounty” this weekend.

This three-day class takes place from 7-8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 6, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 8, and from 1-4 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 9, at the UAS-Sitka Campus (with field trips). The course fee is $50 and students should dress for the outdoors, bring waxed paper and a bucket for gathering.

Click on image to enlarge

This course is designed to introduce students to the mushroom flora of Southeast Alaska. The focus will be on the use of taxonomic keys for identification of fungi and recognition of both edible and poisonous mushrooms. Cooking and preservation of mushrooms will be discussed. Field trips are followed by in-class identification of collected mushrooms.

There is a maximum of 18 students allowed in this class. Please contact the Office of Continuing Education at (907) 747-7700 for further information.

In addition to the Southeast Mushrooms class, the next Natural History Seminar presents “Mushroom Poisoning and Mycotoxins: The bad side of eating mushrooms and moldy food.” This presentation with Sam David starts at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 13, in Room 229 on the UAS Sitka Campus.

Fish to Schools program launches coho salmon and rockfish donation drive for commercial fishermen

The Fish to Schools program needs help from Sitka’s commercial fishermen. The program needs a few hundred pounds of coho salmon and rockfish to help make Fish to Schools meals for Sitka students during the upcoming 2018-19 school year. The program also is seeking photos of commercial fishermen at work, which can be used to teach the students more about how the fish got to their plates.

The coho salmon donation period is Monday. Aug. 20, through Sunday, Sept. 2. To donate, commercial fishermen can sign up and indicate how many pounds they want to donate when they offload at Seafood Producers Cooperative or Sitka Sound Seafoods during the donation period. The program can only accept commercially caught fish (no sport or subsistence fish). The hope is to get enough coho salmon and rockfish donated that locally caught fish can be offered to students at least once a week. Sign-up sheets will be posted at the scale shacks and in the main offices. Only coho salmon and rockfish will be accepted.

Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School student Naomi Capp, age 9, talks with fisherman Steve Lawrie Wednesday (April 25, 2018) during lunch at the school. The elementary school was hosting fishermen who donated part of their catch to the Fish to Schools program. The program is managed by the Sitka Conservation Society and provides fish dishes as part of the lunch programs at Baranof Elementary School, Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School, Blatchley Middle School, Sitka High School, Pacific High School, the SEER School, and Mount Edgecumbe High School. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

The Sitka Fish To Schools project (click here to see short video) got its start as a community wellness project at the 2010 Sitka Health Summit, and now is managed by the Sitka Conservation Society. It started by providing a monthly fish dish as part of the school lunch as Blatchley Middle School, and since then has grown to feature regular fish dishes as part of the lunch programs at Baranof Elementary SchoolKeet Gooshi Heen Elementary SchoolBlatchley Middle SchoolSitka High SchoolPacific High School (where the alternative high school students cook the meals themselves), the SEER School, and Mount Edgecumbe High School.

In addition to serving locally caught fish meals as part of the school lunch program, the Fish To Schools program also brings local fishermen, fisheries biologists and chefs to the classroom to teach the kids about the importance of locally caught fish in Sitka. The program received an innovation award from the Alaska Farm To Schools program during a community celebration dinner in May 2012, and now serves as a model for other school districts from coastal fishing communities. In May 2014, the Fish to Schools program released a guidebook so other school districts in Alaska could create similar programs.

For more information, contact Chandler O’Connell of the Sitka Conservation Society at 747-7509 or email chandler@sitkawild.org. If you would like to donate FAS (frozen at sea) fish, please call or text Lexi Fish Hackett at 738-5684.

SEARHC Health Promotion hosts regional Our Way Of Life traditional foods challenge in July

Please join SEARHC Health Promotion in engaging with local foods during the bountiful summer season. The event begins July 2, 2018, and runs through July 31, 2018.

To register, you may download and print a registration form and activity logs below.

Eating local, nutrient-dense foods available in Southeast Alaska is one of the most important things you can do for your health. It has nutritional benefits as well as physical, mental, and cultural significance. Benefits may include:

  • Local foods can be fresher.
  • Local foods reduce your carbon footprint.
  • Locally grown food is full of flavor.
  • Local foods available in Southeast Alaska are full of nutrients.
  • Harvesting and sharing foods can help create community.
  • Getting outside and engaging with your environment can help improve your mental health & mood.

Program Guidelines:

You may register at our Health Educators’ local office sites.

Fill out and turn local foods log(s) in to your designated site by noon each Monday in person, by phone, or email. (To email, scan or photograph your log or type your weekly activity into the body of the email).

Participants who turn logs in on time will be automatically entered to win a weekly prize.

Participants must be 18 or older to register, but we encourage families to harvest, process, eat, and share traditional or local foods together!

Suggested Activities:

  • Gathering local / traditional foods
  • Processing local / traditional foods
  • Eating local / traditional foods
  • Sharing local / traditional foods with elders, family, and friends
  • Gardening activities

If you have questions, please contact the Health Educator in your community.

  • Haines: Kate Fossman, 907 766-6303, katef@searhc.org
  • Hoonah: Kenya Skaflestad, 907 945-2761, kenyas@searhc.org
  • Juneau: Hannah Schlosstein, 907 364-4404, hschlosstein@searhc.org
  • Kake: Health Educator, 907 364-4404, hschlosstein@searhc.org
  • Klawock: June May, 907 755-4959, junem@searhc.org
  • Klukwan: Joanne Spud, 907 766-6319, joannes@searhc.org
  • Sitka: Heleena vanVeen, 907 966-8914, heleenav@searhc.org

Forms:

Sitka Tribe, U.S. Forest Service plant Tlingít potato garden for community

(Photo courtesy of Klas Stolpe/Juneau Empire) Bill Ehlers, assistant gardener at the Jensen-Olson Arboretum in Juneau, holds a Tlingít potato next to some of the potato plant’s flowers.

The U.S. Forest Service-Sitka Ranger District and Sitka Tribe of Alaska will join forces again on Friday, April 20, to create an educational opportunity and traditional food source for community members. Forest Service staff and the tribe will share how to grow Tlingít (sometimes called Maria’s) potatoes, and share the biology, history, and cultural aspects of these interesting potatoes.

Since 2017, the Sitka Ranger District has provided a sunny plot of land to serve as the shared potato garden and provided the seed potatoes to plant the garden. The Sitka Tribe’s Traditional Foods Program and the gardening class from Pacific High School assisted on the project, and will again this year. But community involvement is also needed. Volunteers are asked to bring boots, gardening gloves, and shovels. Five gallon buckets of kelp to incorporate into the soil would be beneficial as well. Members of the community who help tend the shared garden may receive more than gratitude as their reward.

“Last fall we shared the harvest among those helping out and through the Sitka Tribe’s Traditional Foods Program. We’ve been growing and naturally enhancing our soil this spring, so this year we hope the crop is even larger,” District Ranger Perry Edwards said. “This project teaches people how to grow and sustain a traditional food, while supporting the need for food security among Sitka families. It’s also a fun and very sustainable way to celebrate Earth Day.”

Tlingit potatoes have been present in Tlingit gardens for over 200 years. The potatoes originate from Mexico or Chile* and were a trade item in Southeast Alaska in the early 1800’s.

The first work day and educational opportunity will be from 9:30-11:30 a.m. on Friday, April 20, at the Sitka Ranger District office, located at 2108 Halibut Point Road. For more information, contact Michelle Putz at 907-747-2708 or mputz@fs.fed.us.

*Zhang, Linhai with Charles R. Brown, David Culley, Barbara Baker, Elizabeth Kunibe, Hazel Denney, Cassandra Smith, Neuee Ward, Tia Beavert, Julie Coburn, J. J. Pavek, Nora Dauenhauer and Richard Dauenhauer. Inferred origin of several Native American potatoes from the Pacific Northwest and Southeast Alaska using SSR markers. Euphytica 174:15-29

SEARHC Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital patients now have traditional food options

A bowl from venison stew served at the Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital cafeteria (Photos courtesy of SEARHC)

As part of the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital’s (MEH) overarching goal to provide the best care possible to individuals receiving medical care at MEH, the Hospital Nutrition staff, in partnership with food service contractor NMS, recently began making traditional food options available to inpatients.

NMS Chef Manager Lexie Smith holds deer hind quarters before preparing them for Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital patients as part of the hospital’s new traditional food options

Providing care means more than traditional medicine, it means comforting those that are not feeling well. One way Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital Nutrition staff thought they could provide additional comfort that was to add traditional foods such as local game, seafood, plants, and berries to the inpatient menu that feel like comfort food. However, adding traditional foods to the hospital’s menu required coordination with more than one Alaska State agency, including the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Department of Fish and Game.

Undaunted by the task and motivated by the inevitable outcome, the MEH Nutrition team set out to develop a policy that would satisfy the state and SEARHC. The Traditional Foods Policy they created took quite a while to finalize, but resulted in a system that now allows Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital to accept donations of locally harvested meat, seafood, vegetables, and berries to be used exclusively for inpatient meals.

“As a team, we truly believe that the food we serve, and the hospitality we provide aid in the healing process. NMS is proud to prepare traditional foods that bring comfort to Mt. Edgecumbe patients, and we are committed to doing so,” said Lexie Smith, NMS Chef Manager at Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital. “The menu is meant to engage our guests, honor tradition, and respect the land. The venison stew, in particular, is a recipe calling for fresh vegetables, herbs, and Sitka venison (as supplies are available). The stew is a popular menu option that many guests relate to and feel comforted by. Our Traditional Foods Policy allows the public to make donations of indigenous foods as long as it has been properly handled,” she added.

“This program is a win-win, great for the health of patients and great for community members who want to donate and be part of systems that emphasize living sustainably off the land and sea,” SEARHC Health Promotion Director Martha Pearson said.

For now, every Friday the MEH “Chef Special” for patients is venison stew. Ideally, however, if MEH were to receive donations of other items like fish, herring eggs, beach asparagus, fiddleheads, berries, reindeer, moose, etc. the Nutrition staff could incorporate those into the menu as well. They could also employ traditional methods of preserving. The hospital nutrition staff would very much like to see items such as local jams and pickles, herring egg salad, bone broths, and smoked fish on the patient menu in the future.

“Patient-centered medical care is a critical component of the way we deliver healthcare at SEARHC. Our Traditional Foods policy is an example of that and an enhancement to our vision of promoting a healthy balance of mind, body, and spirit,” SEARHC President/CEO Charles Clement said. “We are excited to explore ways to demonstrate our appreciation of the area and the local flavor in these offerings and are of course proud to be part of the future of healthcare delivery in the region.”

Additional information regarding traditional foods that may be donated and which are prohibited can be found online at http://dec.alaska.gov/eh/fss/Food/Traditional_Foods.html and reviewing the links under the “Requirements” section near the top of the page.

Individuals that have questions about donating traditional foods to Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital can contact NMS Food Service and Catering General Manager David Alexander at (907) 966-8325 or david.alexander@nmsusa.com, or NMS Chef Manager Lexie Smith at (907) 966-8470 or lexie.smith@nmsusa.com.

UAS Sitka Campus offers ‘Flora of Southeast Alaska’ course as a hybrid class

Salmonberries await picking near the entrance to Sitka National Historical Park

Flora of Southeastern Alaska, a biology class taught by University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus associate professor Kitty LaBounty, is back for its fourth year.

The DNA of most traditional botany classes is to gather students around a table of samples and look at them in a face-to-face classroom setting. By offering Flora of Southeast Alaska as both a hybrid local and distance-delivery (eLearning) class, students from anywhere can get up to speed on how to identify the common native trees, shrubs and herbs of southeast and south central Alaska. Local students can participate in the lectures on campus, while students across Alaska can see the imagery online and hear the lectures either live or via digital recording.

Flora of Southeast Alaska is a one-credit, 11-week workshop. The focus will be on identification of common species and attaining an understanding of their place in the ecosystem of Southeast Alaska. Students will discover how these plants interact with other plants and animals, and how humans use these plants for food, fuel, medicine, or simply enjoyment.

In addition to illustrated weekly lectures, there will be written exercises and “check for understanding” activities. The class is available to any student without prerequisites. It does not count as credit toward a biology major or as a science elective at UAS.

Professor LaBounty brings her lifelong passion as a gardener and scientist to this topic, along with more than 25 years experience working on plant identification for state, federal and nonprofit agencies in Alaska.

The class will meet from 5:30-7 p.m. on Thursdays from Feb. 15 to May 5 — with time off for spring break. The cost is $202 for the class, plus $32 in registration fees. Students will need to buy a copy of Native Plants of Southeast Alaska, by Judy Kathryn Hall, or a copy of Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast, by Jim Pojar and Andy MacKinnon, or both.

For more information, contact Kitty LaBounty at UAS Sitka Campus. 747-9432. To register, call 747-7700. or toll-free, 800-478-6653.