Celery Salt and Nasturtium Pepper

Celery salt, nasturtium pepper and dried nasturtium seed pods. Photo by Suzanne Crocker.

Suzanne’s quest for a local salt option continues. And of course, Suzanne also has no pepper. In the meantime, she has found two good alternatives for seasoning the family’s food.

In the absence of table salt, Suzanne and family have started noticing that certain foods taste naturally salty — especially tomatoes and spinach.  And, saltiest of all, there is celery. So instead of salt, the family is using dried, ground celery leaves.

They have also come up with a pepper alternative — nasturtium seed pods, which are dried and ground.  If you still have nasturtiums in your garden, hunt for the seed pods and taste one fresh – it is like a burst of wasabi!  Nasturtium seed pods can also be pickled (maybe even in rhubarb juice for Suzanne) as a locally grown caper.  Of note, nasturtium flowers and leaves are also edible and have a mild wasabi-like bite to them.  Try tasting one!

nasturtium-flowering
nasturtium-seed-pods-picked

Nasturtium plant in blossom (left). Nasturtium pods after picking (right).  These are then dehydrated, ground and used as a pepper substitute. Photos by Suzanne Crocker.

Think You Could Eat Only Locally?
Take the First We Eat Local Dish Challenge

It is harvest season and, in Dawson City, the end of the Farmers’ Markets.  It is a good opportunity to get what’s left of the fresh veggies before the winter sets in.  It is also a good time to launch our #FirstWeEatChallenge, a fun way in which everyone can help Suzanne come up with ideas to add to her locally-sourced menu.

Suzanne has been eating only 100% local foods for 51 days now, and it has been a real eye-opening experience.

Think you could do it?  Perhaps you already do eat mostly local fare.  If you want to show your solidarity for Suzanne’s year, or just see for yourself how challenging or how easy it really is, we invite you to try preparing just one meal with only foods local to your community.  Alternatively, check out the list of local Dawson City ingredients and make a “Dawson Local” meal.

It would be ideal if you could stick to the same 100%-local-only standard as Suzanne for finding substitutes for salt, oil and spices, but we understand if that’s not feasible. Either way, we trust that everyone’s creativity will blow us away.

Come take the challenge, and share it with us on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook using the hashtag #FirstWeEatChallenge, or send it to us via email .  If you want, you can include the recipe for your dish so Suzanne can try it at home, with any necessary adjustments. We’ll then include it on our Recipes Page.

 

 

 

Mayonnaise: No Oil? No Lemon? No Problem!

by Miche Genest

Hollandaise sauce and sweet basil on top of smoked salmon on sourdough triticale.

One of Suzanne’s big challenges is going to be condiments. She’s nailed the ketchup, and maybe her mustard plants will yield enough seeds for homemade mustard. But what about mayonnaise? Fresh eggs she’ll have in abundance; oil is going to be a problem.

The solution is surprisingly easy. Hollandaise! The familiar, creamy, buttery sauce we love slathered over Eggs Benedict is very much like mayonnaise once it’s chilled. Same basic ingredients: egg yolks, acid, fat. But in the case of Hollandaise the eggs are cooked and the fat is melted butter.

There is another stumbling block though — one of the key ingredients in Hollandaise is lemon juice. Not to worry. The sharp, slightly-stringent flavour of crushed juniper berries, combined with a splash of homemade rhubarb vinegar or rhubarb juice, do a great job of brightening the sauce’s flavour and cutting through the butterfat.

> Click here to view recipe for Northern Hollandaise Sauce

 

Where Once a House Stood


Our house is a warehouse.  It is nothing more than a vessel of storage.  There are onions covering the downstairs floor, awaiting my construction of a commercial-grade drying rack of immense proportions.  Upstairs, there are green plant-like things looking tired, dry, and done, hanging upside down from every possible tie-off.

Upon close examination of the house, there are indicators of the original intent of a home.  A peek past a wall of canned tomatoes reveals what most likely was a perfectly functional kitchen.  A simple reshuffling of buckets of kale exposes a passageway, which in all likelihood, was explicitly intended to guide the weary to their sleeping quarters.  These were once called bedrooms because the rooms generally contained beds that were not hidden behind more buckets of fluffy white stuff that approximates some wistful northern attempt at cotton.  The dining room table hides beneath the “yield of the day.”  This could be bags or buckets or boxes of produce.  And we are talking serious quantity here, not one zucchini and a handful of carrots, fresh from the corner grocer.  No sir.  Our table is starting to buckle in the middle, and if it doesn’t implode soon, then it will be a miracle.  Do I need to mention that there is no room for eating at the table?

All through late winter and early spring, I tolerated our living room and comfortable seating area in the sun, being owned by wooden planks bearing none other than rows of seedlings and the ubiquitous watering can, so that I could make myself useful should I ever wander into the living room.  No room for humans (“what do you think this is, a house?”).  I felt that this imposition was a mere temporary inconvenience, hardly worth the bother in the greater scheme of things.  But looking at life now, I wonder how differently things might have transpired had I been more assertive, had I for instance, suggested boundaries as part of the bargaining process which pre-dated this project.  Would it have been unreasonable of me to expect to return to a recognizable home, after toiling away the day for a handful of berries so the children can have a “sweet” before bedtime?

And the worst is that it doesn’t end.  The other day, in a desperately furtive attempt to open up some living space, I started to pack the grow light up to the shed, when Suzanne caught me and stated without uncertainty that she needs the grow-light imminently to start the “Indoor Garden”!

The Bounty of the Harvest

Grant Dowdell (foreground) with Suzanne and family and their onion and pumpkin harvest. Photo by Karen Digby.

Here in Dawson City, it’s harvest season!

For Suzanne, this means it is ‘now or never’ for many of the veggies grown this summer.  Suzanne is trying to gather enough for her family for the year and to store them all away.

On Grant’s Island on the Yukon River, the harvest for Suzanne’s family included 148 pounds of onions and  226 pounds of pie pumpkins, along with 10 large seed pumpkins.

Fortunately for Suzanne, she will continue to be able to buy root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, turnip, beets and kohlrabi throughout the winter thanks to the amazing root cellar at Kokopelli Farm.

The pigs at Kokopelli Farm enjoying the end of harvest season, when they get an amazing buffet — being allowed to eat up the leftover kale and broccoli in the garden. Photo by Suzanne Crocker.

Saturday,  Sept 16th will be the last Dawson Farmers’ Market for Lucy for the year.  However, Kokopelli Farm will continue to sell for a few more Saturdays  in town and to sell root veggies from the farm gate in Sunnydale all fall and winter.  Lucy Vogt will continue to sell veggies at the gate at Henderson Corner into October.

The Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Teaching and Working Farm will be having their final public market on Wednesday 20 September at the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre.

If you are interested in which onions and pumpkins grow and store well in the North:  the onions that Grant grows are Expression onions, which store extremely well if they are well dried before storage. Grant’s pie pumpkins are of the Jack Sprat variety, and they store well in a cool room till May.

> See Grant’s Seed Guide

 

From the Land of the Giants

Despite the short growing season in Dawson City, Yukon (there were only 66 consecutive frost free days this summer), with almost 24 hours of daylight in June and July the growing season is intense. If you happen to be able to create rich soil to go along with the short, concentrated growing window, then Dawson can grow some mighty big vegetables.

Check out this romanesco grown by Paulette Michaud, weighing 7½ lbs!

Paulette Michaud shows off her giant romanesco. Photo by Suzanne Crocker.

Romanesco is a member of the cauliflower family.  It was originally introduced by Grant Dowdell to the Dawson community and its unique beauty still turns heads at the Saturday Farmers’ Markets.

Cabbages also thrive in the unfettered Dawson summer daylight despite the short grown season. Take  a look at this giant cabbage grown by Louise Piché.

Suzanne checks out the girth of Louise Piché’s prize-winning giant cabbage at Dawson’s Horticultural Fair during Discovery Days Weekend in mid-August. Photo by Cathie Archbould.

 

Where Have All the Mushrooms Gone?

By Aedes Scheer

Lactarius deliciousus (saffron milk cap) mshrooms in the wild. Photo by Aedes Scheer.

Each year I wait for the late summer to start hunting wild mushrooms. I have been an amateur mycologist (“fungiphile”) for about 30 years. The Dawson City region is generally abundant with many different species of mushrooms over the months of July to October, and occasionally November, if it is a warm fall.  What sets this region apart from much of Canada and even the lower portions of the Yukon Territory is that it escaped glaciation in the last ice age. Dawson City actually has topsoil, which holds not only fungal spores but also mammoth bones and all sorts of curiosities from the Pleistocene era.

I use the field guides for the Northwest Pacific American States as I find the mushrooms in our region key-out most closely — not exactly, but pretty darn close — to the winter species listed there. I use a combination of fruiting body appearance with spore prints and, because I geek out on this sort of thing, microscopic spore examination. The remnants of the mammoths have long since stopped adapting to the local environment but our mushrooms have continued their own path of adaptation over the intervening tens of thousands of years since those glaciers scraped off all the topsoil between the Tintina Trench and Spokane.

But this year has been a bust. I cannot recall a year so devoid of mushrooms in my time living up north. Not even the usually prolific, hardy and poisonous Cortinarius has appeared. Yesterday I found a portion of a deer mushroom (Pluteus cervinus) which a nervous squirrel dropped as I walked by on a trail. After a good rainfall over the last couple days a pathetic cluster of maggoty puffballs (Bovista plumbea) appeared beyond my doorstep. A week ago I found a couple mummified Lactarius deliciosus or delicious milk cap (not always delicious but always pretty). And that has been it.

My hunch is that it has been too dry this summer to promote decay of the substrates (dead wood, forest floor duff) along with the growth of the fungal mycelia which are the “roots” of a mushroom but actually the largest component of the organism that live for days to hundreds of years. Perhaps if we get more rain and some warm days, we could still see a decent crop of mushrooms. Fingers crossed!

Bowl full of Hydnum repandum (Hedgehog mushroom). Photo by Aedes Scheer.

References:

Arora, David. (1991) All that the Rain Promises and More… Berkley, California: Ten Speed Press

Ward, Brent & D. Bond, Jeffrey & Gosse, John. (2007). Evidence for a 55–50 ka (early Wisconsin) glaciation of the Cordilleran ice sheet, Yukon Territory, Canada. Quaternary Research. 68. 141-150. 10.1016/j.yqres.2007.04.002. (Specifically reference to the diagram)

“52 Buckets of Kale in the Hall”

Pile of kale awaiting processing. Photo by Suzanne Crocker.

Suzanne’s family has a weekly family movie night that traditionally was accompanied by a very large bowl of popcorn slathered in butter and nutritional yeast.  It still remains to be seen if popping corn will grow in the Klondike region, so Suzanne  has been thinking of an alternative — a bucket of kale chips. The snack is seasoned with ghee and birch syrup.

The recipe was tested last year and Suzanne discovered that the kale chips can retain their crispness for many months if they are stored in an ice cream bucket with at tight-fitting lid.

Yummy kale chips after baking. Photo by Suzanne Crocker.

So Suzanne’s plan is to create 52 bucket of kale chips before the kale disappears. She’s not convinced she will be successful; she has made the equivalent of 22 four-litre buckets to date.  But she will keep on trying!

Kale Chips Recipe

  1.  Break up the kale into large pieces (without the stem).
  2. Mix equal amounts of ghee and warm birch syrup in a bowl and pour some of mixture onto the kale pieces.
  3. Mix well until all the kale is covered in ghee/syrup combo.
  4. Spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet.
  5. Bake at 250F for 16-20 minutes until crisp.
  6. Cool and then store in an airtight container or zip lock bag.

 

Buckets of kale chips await future movie nights. Photo by Suzanne Crocker.

Gerard’s Blog: Savour Flavour


It’s happening.  I’m developing a taste for the subtle flavours.  I can eat a boiled vegetable with no seasoning.  I love the taste of a tomato off the vine. Try a kohlrabi today; peel it, slice thinly, eat slowly, savour the crispness and rush of liquid as it flows across your parched and desirous palate.  Meat and fish are great, as is, seeping in their own juices. Skip the gravy; save it for the nearly rotten meat, when you need to hide the rancid taste.  Use gravy in the way perfume was once used to disguise body odor.

Salt is a cover; it is there to disguise flavour, not enhance it.  Same for sweetness.  And pepper and curry and cinnamon and nutmeg and all the rest.  Rise up people and revolt!  No longer allow yourselves to be chained to culinary tradition, which encourages the bathing of food with herbs and spices, such that you will be indifferent to the plethora of food mediocrity.  Good food has its own good flavours.

Dogberry (Bunchberry) — A Natural Pectin

Dwarf dogwood berries are high in pectin and can be used in making preserves. Photo by Suzanne Crocker.

Dwarf dogwood is a common wild flower found around Dawson and throughout many parts of the North.  It is also known as bunchberry.  In the summer there is a single white flower in the middle of this low-laying plant.  Around mid-August the flower disappears and is replaced by a cluster of small orange berries.

The berries are not unpleasant, and have a small seed that is easily chewed, but the taste overall is rather bland. However, they are very high in pectin and can be used as a thickener if added to low-pectin fruits when making jam.  Suzanne is gathering the berries and freezing them, and will test them out in preserves this winter.

 

Gerard’s Blog: Unnatural Born Killer


Maybe I’m not cut out to live off the land.  I’m certainly not taking full advantage of the opportunities which are being presented to me.  This morning I swerved the truck to avoid a few young grouse, filling their gizzards with pebbles from the road.  And a couple of weeks ago I nearly sunk the boat in my effort to avoid a gaggle of darling ducklings that darted in every direction I steered.

Why is it that I am not searching out these circumstances as opportunities, as gifts to me, the purported self-provider?  Is it innately instinctual to exhibit this aversion to dietary road-kill?  How can it be that we are almost willing to die in avoiding a collision with an animal, only to go home and load the gun for a fruitful hunt?  How interestingly peculiar (note that I did not say, “hypocritical”?) that we might spend weeks nursing an injured rabbit back to life, only to spend another portion of our recreational time in the pursuit of snaring rabbits.

As a minimum, we might wave away this peculiarity with the suggestion that it is powerfully compelling, and certainly endearing, to nurture and love; on the other hand, for the omnivores and carnivores amongst us, there is apt justification for the phrase, “food for thought.”

Crackers? No Crackers.

by Miche Genest

Recently a friend told me she makes really good raw, dried crackers with the leftover pulp from juicing vegetables or fruit. Sounded like a great way for Suzanne to use up the pulp from all the rhubarb juice she’s making, and provide those quick snacks for the family she’s always on the lookout for.

I don’t have a mechanical juicer—mine is a steam juicer, a Finnish Mehu Lisa that leaves quite a moist pulp behind. So instead I grated vegetables, ground them in a food processor with some northern seasonings, added a bit of whey for bite, and spread them out on parchment paper laid over drying screens. I dried them at 135F for 9 hours. This is the result:

Not so good. Most recipes for raw crackers include some kind of binder like ground nuts or seeds to give the crackers heft. Not allowed in a Dawson-only diet. It’s back to the drawing board for me.

In the meantime, what to do with the failed crackers? Grind them into powder and use them as a salt substitute. Snatched from the jaws of failure! But still, it kind of hurts to see 3 beets, 2 carrots, 4 cloves garlic, 1 large onion, juniper berries and Labrador tea reduced to this:

Ouch.

 

Gerard’s Blog: Animal Kin-dom

I’ve got a sore forearm today.  Reflecting back, it’s the rhubarb to blame.  Or maybe the size of the knife.  My advice is that if you have to spend all morning chopping 5,000 times in rapid succession, then choose a small knife.  Better still, build a factory.

So, we need a ton of rhubarb.  This is washed, chopped, packaged, weighed, frozen.  Then, most is juiced into a vinegar-substitute so that we can have cheese.  Today, my arm is questioning the relevance of cheese.

In fact, this project is making me question eating.  Sometimes I feel as if more energy is utilized in the gathering and processing of food than what could ever be sequestered from the consumption of that produce.  As I shrivel away, with the gnawing background of unrequited hunger always lurking, I feel that this journey is going backwards from what nature intended.  Don’t bears just eat and get fat for winter?  You don’t see them chopping rhubarb, thinking this will be really delicious in January.  And moose just eat, get fat for winter, deal with whatever as it comes along, tolerate and expect the more lean diet of winter in trade for a delicious Fall of gorging and growing and whatever else moose do in the Fall.  It is a sad day to realize that, in life, we don’t so much emulate the great beasts of this planet, as we do this one pesky critter, as we “squirrel” away food for the winter.

The Challenge of School Lunches

iIt’s back to school time, which means another year of trying to figure out what to pack in school lunches for our hungry pupils.

For Suzanne’s family during their year of eating only local foods, school lunches are an even greater challenge — especially at this time of year, when no local grains are yet available, which means no bread for sandwiches.

Today, they headed off with potato pancakes, moose sausage and carrots – all local of course.

So Suzanne is looking for creative ideas and can certainly use your help. Take a look at the Dawson City list of local ingredients (keeping in mind that there are no grains yet, as they have yet to be harvested). Any suggestions are always welcome, just let us know.

 

Homemade Birch Creamsicles a Favourite for Suzanne’s Family

Tess and Kate enjoy homemade creamsicles on a hot, sunny day. Photo by Suzanne Crocker.

While the weather in the Dawson area is starting to cool off, there are still hopes of a summer reprise before fall kicks in.

Certainly, during the recent hot weather creamsicles were a favourite and refreshing treat for Suzanne’s family.  They’re easy to make, and for Suzanne’s kids were ideal for hot sunny days … or when you’re craving a sweet treat (and trying not to think about chocolate).

Recipe:
2 cups cream
3 tbsp birch syrup.

Mix together well and pour into popsicle molds.  Freeze.

Makes approximately 6 large popsicles.

A Good Year for Corn in Dawson

Corn growing in Louise Piché’s greenhouse. Photo by Suzanne Crocker.

Corn is a southern crop that has traditionally been quite difficult to grow in the North.  But this year, many of those who attempted to grow corn in Dawson City have been successful.  After a rocky start with late frost in June, the heat in Dawson in July and early August was beneficial for those who have been growing corn.

Some growers, like Sebastian Jones, Megan Waterman and Grant Dowdell, have had luck growing corn outdoors.  Others, like Louise Piché, have done well growing it in their greenhouses.

Sebastians-corn-wide-shot
Sebastians-corn-cu

Corn growing outside Sebastian Jones’s cabin. Photos by Suzanne Crocker.

As reported earlier, Grant Dowdell is growing a crop of popping corn for Suzanne’s family on Grant’s Island, and we’re pleased to report it is doing beautifully, despite some unwanted attention from a midnight marauding moose.  Grant also has good success growing sweet corn outdoors.

The Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Teaching and Working  Farm are also  experimenting with growing corn. It’s good news to know that with some special care and cooperation from Mother Nature corn can indeed be grown in Dawson!

Precious cobs of sweet corn from Grant Dowdell’s garden on Grant’s Island on the Yukon River.. Photo by Suzanne Crocker.

Gerard’s Blog: Road Rave

So, it’s official: Suzanne is the only member of the “100% club.”

These trips out of town are just not conducive to the local diet.  I lasted till the kids had wings and yam fries and pizza at Earl’s, when the combination of hunger and weakness of conviction overpowered me.  And the food was, well … delicious.  It was zesty, and the relative newness of the salt was notable enough to surprisingly create an evening’s worth of thirst.

And for breakfast, I tried to delude myself into thinking that the eggs and sausages could be local.  But again, the salt kept the truth not far from the surface.  And since the cat was out of the bag, I tried coffee.  It was surprisingly unrewarding and the taste rather alarming, so I soon reverted back to my cups of straight-up hot water, Zenning in the bestowed purification.

I thought there would be more guilt.  And likely, had I “cheated” while in Dawson, there might have been cause for reflection, personal evaluation of self-worth and the like.  But, travel presents a practical excuse for indulgences of this sort.  Thank goodness for travel.

The kids were quick to indicate to me that dietary guilt was an imperceptible emotion for them, nowhere on the radar.  And, of course, that is the way it should be.  This is not so much a challenge; it is really only an exercise in discipline, designed to inspire thought and conversation, designed to promote the healthy benefits of regionalization, but designed also to teach us appreciation for an infrastructure that allows such diverse dietary options.

Louise Piché Planted a Patch of Purple Peppers (and a White Pumpkin)

The Purple Star Hybrid peppers growing on the vine. Photo by Suzanne Crocker.

We have posted previously about some of the unique things Louise Piché has been able to grow in Rock Creek, Yukon, just outside of Dawson City. including ginger and tumeric, asparagus, and ground cherries.

This year, Louise experimented with growing purple peppers, and reports they grew really well.  These plants — a sweet pepper variety — are purple on the outside but white on the inside and very tasty.

The seed variety she used was the Purple Star Hybrid from William Dam Seeds (65 days to maturity).

Purple on the outside, these peppers are white and sweet on the inside. Photo by Suzanne Crocker.

But there were more interesting things growing in Louise Piché’s greenhouse this year. A white pumpkin! Despite its long days to maturity in a short growing season, the pumpkin is doing quite well in a Dawson greenhouse.

The plant is of the New Moon variety from Veseys Seeds. It takes 100 days to grow to a final size of  25 to 35 lbs.

To see the specific varieties of fruit and vegetables that one of Dawson’s  great home gardeners has had success with, download Louise Piché’s Seed Guide.

Have you had success re-growing a plant not typical in the north? Share it with us. 

The New Moon white pumpkin growing in a Dawson greenhouse. Photo by Suzanne Crocker.

Gerard’s Blog: Momentary Meltdown

Last evening presented an opportunity for us to explore our inner emotions.  And our motives.

It came on the heels of a heavy load of processing cauliflower into paste, to be used as a dough substitute.  And then a huge topping of dishes before bed.  This was all tempered with the message that was intended to be optimistic but proved catastrophic, that we would only need two more such evenings to provide us with enough “dough” to allow us the privilege of one pizza a week for the next year.

A notable benefit of childhood meltdowns is the necessity, eventually, for a rational conversation.  We actually experienced that benefit rather soon, perhaps too soon for the “rational” part.  But life, after all, is not scripted.

All kinds of cathartic comments were delivered during that evening of emotional venting.  Sam kept saying, “I didn’t sign up for this”, which was then followed up with, “it’s a good job that I have a summer job, so I can afford to eat now, but how am I going to keep from starving when I go back to school?”  Tess revealed that her recent walks to town were for the primary purpose of acquiring a cheeseburger, to dampen the craving fire in her belly. Kate was dreaming of chocolate.  All were feeling victimized and wanting escape from the extra chore burden.

As always, the morning presents a more encouraging future.  The promise of less mundane chores is acceptable.  The imminent trip to Whitehorse for myself and the girls will come with a welcomed reprieve from the diet.  And most importantly, everyone has been heard, and there is an understanding that despite the circumstances of the day, we are united in our efforts to sort this out together

Mineral Salt May Yet Shake Out

Recently we posted how Suzanne was looking into mineral licks as a possible source of salt.  Well, the lab results have returned and there is salt!

We should note that here are many different types of salt. Table salt is sodium chloride.  There are also other minerals that combine with chloride to form salts such as calcium, potassium and magnesium.

Here are the results from Suzanne’ s salt lick sample: sodium (Na) 331 mg/kg; calcium (Ca) 129 mg/kg; magnesium (Mg) 73 mg/kg; potassium (K) 46 mg/kg; Chloride (Cl) 489 mg/kg

Now the question is: can Suzanne distill the salt from the mud? She is waiting for a large mineral lick sample to experiment with and she will give it a try.

Gerard’s Blog: Moo-vers and Shakers

Don’t be surprised if you notice that our children have Popeye forearms.  It’s the cow that’s responsible.  And that’s even without the milking responsibility.

Once the milk enters the house, the action begins.  One sentry awaits the definition of the line, as the cream rises.  Then there is the careful skimming and separation of this precious, precious stuff.  Some of it will be destined for creamsicles, some for ice-cream, some for butter.

After appropriate warming, the jar of cream is shaken vigorously, for longer than you want, the contents first turning a tinge of yellow, then magically transforming into clumps of butter.  This needs separation from the buttermilk, washing and containment.

Meanwhile some of the skimmed milk is warmed, stirred continuously, and kefir is added.  The watchful waiter of the next few hours has first dibs on yogurt.

And then there are the frothers.  Milk is heated, stirred and frothed with vigor.  Everyone likes hot frothed milk.

So this house is comprised of skimmers, stirrers, shakers, frothers, and scrubbers.  Kudos to the cow.

Alchemy Café Concocts 100%-Local Smoothies

Thanks to the Alchemy Café’s 100%-local “alchesmoothie” Suzanne and her family had a rare — and welcome — chance to get out to a restaurant. Photo by Florian Boulais.

One thing that’s especially difficult about eating 100% locally is the difficulty socializing outside of one’s own home — like meeting someone for ‘coffee,’ or going out for lunch or supper.

Sophia Ashenhurst’s creativity at Dawson City’s Alchemy Café, on a busy Discovery Days weekend, allowed Suzanne and family to ‘go out’ for the first time since they started their completely-local diet.

Instead of going out for coffee (the Alchemy is famous for its delicious coffee), the family went out for smoothies — 100%-local “alchesmoothies”.

The 100%-local alchemsoothie consists of:  carrot juice, kale, steamed swiss chard, haskaps and rasperries. Yumm!  And for those who didn’t want a smoothie there’s a tall glass of carrot-celery juice — all from completely locally-grown Dawson City vegetables and berries.  Delicious!

Thanks to the creativity of the Alchemy Café, the possibility was opened up of going out — guilt free.  So if you see Suzanne or her family sipping on a tall glass at the Alchemy, they are not actually ‘cheating’ — they are drinking out 100% locally.

The Alchemy Café  supports sustainable living and farming practices. The café uses as many organic ingredients as possible.  In the summer, The Alchemy sources as much local, chemical free produce as possible from Dawson’s local farmers. The café also offers several gluten-free options, even in sweets and baked goods. They have a sizeable selection of smoothies, protein shakes, iced drinks, and fresh juice, but are perhaps best known for their cornucopia of coffee drinks — all fair-trade organic coffee from the local Yukon roaster Bean North Coffee Roasting Co.

Gerard’s Blog: Can’t Take It Out on the Diet

There’s a problem with this diet.  There is no capacity for fine restaurant dining, nor even for terrible take-out.  There can be no “just get yourself a snack at the bakery” comments … unless those words are truly meant to hurt and torture.

There can be no utterances of “we’ll pick up some highway food on the way out.”  There can be no energy drinks or Red Bull to help on those late-night, wintry returns from Whitehorse.  There can be no bag of grapes or chips or Doritos or Cheezies, just sitting on the passenger seat, awaiting the ultimate fulfillment of their anticipated destiny as you devour them.  Let’s make no mistake about it, there will be no devouring.

And what about travel?  Should I book an extra seat for the cow?  Are you allowed, even in the depths of thirst, to milk a cow on the plane?  How can I politely decline the warm Air North chocolate chip cookie with a smug demonstration of my bag of carrots?  No one will understand.  Not even me …

How Sweet It Is! A New Addition to the Menu

David McBurney and Suzanne with a bucket of locally-produced honey. Photo by Ren Causer.

Suzanne and her family were thrilled to have a new sweetener added to their list of locally-available ingredients — honey.  And they’re very grateful to David McBurney and his bees for sharing.

Birch syrup is delicious and the family is finding all kinds of ways to use it. However, it does have a distinctive flavour that can sometimes overshadow other more subtle flavours (for example, when used as a sweetener for things like fireweed jelly).  Honey has a much lighter and more delicate flavour.

Busy bees hard at work on their honeycomb. Each hive makes about 20 pounds of honey. Photo by Suzanne Crocker.

David McBurney’s bees, who successfully survived Dawson’s -40°C in winter, have been busy this summer collecting pollen from local fireweed and clover. and transforming it into delicious, delicate honey.  They produced about 20 pounds (9 kg.) of honey per hive!

Hopefully they will produce enough honey this summer to share with the humans while reserving enough to get them through a second Dawson winter.

The final product. A jar of honey ready for eating. Photo by Suzanne Crocker.

Gerard’s Blog: Confessions of a Serial Diluter

I’m on a dishwater diet.  Our fridge is a ready source of jars and containers, all of which get emptied, cleaned and refilled, on a regular basis.  So my new thing is to search out the nearly empty containers, add some hot water, stir or shake, then drink it.  Yum! And when that is emptied, I serially add more water, each time diluting the contents and virtually gifting myself with an altogether new flavor.  Then I move on to the next surprise jar.  The variety is endless and sometimes the experience can be downright exhilarating.  Everyone should be doing this!

Of course, I’m mostly (but not exclusively) referring to dairy products, since our fridge is now devoid of store-bought staples.  But, since I’m being so open, I’d best give full disclosure and right now admit that this dishwater diet is not entirely a newly acquired skill.  Even before Suzanne’s influence on me, I was known to indulge in the “serially diluted experience” (a.k.a. “SDE”) with the ketchup, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, jams, honey, blender contents and virtually anything in the mixing bowl.

Generally, and needless to say, this is a privilege of the dishwasher of the day, which means that once this secret is out, no family will ever again have that age-old struggle to find volunteers for that duty.  Problem solved!

So Long, Short Season!

An accumulation of ice following a recent 20-minute hail storm in Dawson City. The next day the region received the first nip of end-of-Summer frost. Photo by Suzanne Crocker.

As is often the case, the first frost in Dawson hit mid-August, on the Discovery Days Weekend.

On August 17th  there was a 20-minute hail-storm down the Yukon River. Although this bypassed the town, it caught Suzanne and family while they were out berry picking!

Then on the morning of August 18th, temperatures dropped to -1°C in town and went down to -4°C along parts of the Klondike River Valley and at Henderson Corner.  Some gardens froze hard, while others were frost touched. Most of the mature veggies, especially the brasicas, weathered the frost, but it is nature’s reminder that summer is over and Suzanne had better speed up her harvesting, as more frost filled-nights may be just around the corner.

Gerard’s Blog: The Body’s Hunger Games

There’s an emptiness in my belly.  Some might call it hunger, but I feel that the word “hunger,” is not quite complex enough to explain what I feel.

There is an abundance of food in the house and I seem to graze on carrots and broccoli all day long.  We’re going through the better part of a dozen eggs a day.  There’s moose and fish and even sheep.  Tomatoes, radishes and lettuce stalk me wherever I go.  My wife keeps suggesting that we have to eat more cabbage and that turnip greens are good too.  And she likes to remind me that while working in the yard, I can nourishingly nibble on the wild strawberry blite… which seems to be actually everywhere, once your eyes are trained.

So, I am experiencing a disconnect, a personal quagmire:  while gorging on food, I feel as though I am suffering from starvation.

I think it’s the salt.  Or the sugar.  Maybe it’s the bread, the pastry, the cereals, the grains, the bagels, the toast, the chips, the cookies, the muffins, the chocolate, the coffee, the nachos, the pizza.  Basically everything!  So, the only option is to embrace the subtle tastes, of which there are many, while ignoring the lure of the strong, flavorful tastes, familiar to me from a long life of culinary decadence.  That should be easy.

Elfie’s Tea is a Refreshing (and Local) Caffeine Alternative

Elfies tea is Suzanne’s new favourite hot beverage, and a great example of the variety of tea options available when eating locally. Photo by Suzanne Crocker.

As some of you may have gathered from Gerard’s posts, coffee was his main breakfast drink of choice before starting the 100% local diet.  For Suzanne, it was black tea. Hopefully soon they will recover from caffeine withdrawal (see Gerard’s blog post “Symptomatic Addict“).  In the meantime, creativity with tea abounds.

Elfie Lenzin recently came up with a wonderful tea combination that is currently Suzanne’s favourite and now referred to as “Elfie’s Tea” — labrador tea leaves with a few crushed wild blueberries.  It is very flavourful with a hint of sweet and a beautiful colour.

Other tea possibilities abound as well. They include combinations of nettle, yarrow, mint, lemon balm, chamomile, rose petal, fireweed petals … the list goes on.

Do you have favourite local tea combo you would like to share with us?

Elfie Lenzin  (right) poses with a grateful Suzanne. Photo by Tess Crocker.

Gerard’s Blog: Innovation Appreciation


I am learning so much. It is consoling to come to the realization that all is not lost; as my body shrinks, my mind expands.

I am increasingly appreciating the value of societal structure. Take farming, for example. We, as you know, have already spent some effort at berry picking, fighting the wilds and relentless foes, while never being certain of the profitability of the venture.

Most recently, though, we have been exposed to the greatest invention of all time: just bring the berries to your home and cultivate them there! These people have it all figured out. Bigger and better and more berries can be grown right on your doorstep. What could be wrong with awakening in the morning, stretching your arm out the window of your home, returning it with a handful of juicy berries, lovingly growing right outside your window?

And, of course, the same can be appreciated of chickens, goats, cows, pigs and all the garden vegetables. Clearly, people’s adaptations have been driven by need. I wonder what interesting adaptations this house will witness over the winter …

The Search for Salt: Coltsfoot Galloping to the Rescue?

Recently we wrote about Suzanne’s investigation of coltsfoot as an alternative source of salt, which Suzanne needs for flavouring and preserving over the next year. Well, Suzanne tried it. It was like magic!

If you taste a fresh or a dried coltsfoot leaf, it really doesn’t have much taste — perhaps a fine hint of celery flavour. But if you burn it, the resulting ash tastes salty! Admittedly it’s a smoked salt taste, but definitely salty.

It may look like the opposite of salt, but burnt coltsfoot ash has a definite salty flavour. Photo by Suzanne Crocker.

Suzanne tried mixing the burnt coltsfoot in with foods during preparation and unfortunately the salt taste didn’t really transfer, but when sprinkled on top it works – as long as the coltsfoot ash touches your tongue. So it looks like Suzanne’s family will be shaking on the coltsfoot ash this year!

The experiment with mineral salt licks is also in the works, so we’ll be reporting back on that soon as well.

Gerard’s Blog: Finding Out What’s In Store


What I’m learning is that stores were invented for good reason.  They were not invented singularly as a retail opportunity.  Like banks, they were invented with the needs of the community foremost.

Right now, I’m suffering from the lack of a store.  The problem is the sheer bulk of produce that is available at this time of year.  So the store’s purpose of “storage” is desperately needed at our house.  Our living quarters are being overrun by heads of cabbage.  I look for a pot and find it filled with forgotten string beans, well along in the process of ripening the very air I’m wanting to breathe.  In deep hunger, I open the fridge only to be confused by the unknown array of jars and containers, in some stage of experimentation.  I close the fridge and eat a carrot, which I happen to find on the stairs, or in a pocket of one of the starving children.  For thirst…well, there is always water.

The math is frightening.  Normally, stores protect the public from math, so without them, we must do our own calculations.  And what I’m learning from this preliminary research is that we simply do not have the room to do this.  We will need hundreds of pounds of fruit and vegetables.  We have three freezers.  Does that mean that we have to process and condense and dehydrate and generally desecrate every bit of texture and flavor in order to survive this trial?

Suddenly, this food experiment of Suzanne’s is taking on a whole new flavor.  Not only will the house become our store and warehouse, but the people in the house will become pickers and packers and washers and sorters and canners. But only if we want to eat …

Berries Abound … But Will There Be Enough?

Blueberry season is just beginning in the Dawson City area. Photo by Cathie Archboud. #ArchbouldPhotography

Here in Dawson City it’s the height of berry season!

This has even more significance for Suzanne and her family, as berries will be their main fruit supply for the next year, while they eat only local foods.

Suzanne recently did a calculation that has her rather nervous.  If she and her family each ate 1  cup of berries each per day (which seems reasonable considering it will be their main fruit source for the year), and since one cup of berries weighs about 1/4 lb., she would need 456 pounds of berries for the year!  This seems impossible.  Currently she has 170 pounds of berries in the freezer (which seemed like quite a lot until she did her fateful calculation). Regardless, she will continue to collect and purchase as much as she possibly can and the family will just have to ration them  accordingly.

Thankfully, Suzanne has help in her berry-gathering endeavour. Local producers Emu Farms and Tundarose Garden are helping her out tremendously.  (If it were all up to her family picking wild berries, they would be in serious trouble.)  Emu Farms supplies Dawson restaurants with delicious local berries.  Maryanne from Tundarose Garden sells her scrumptous local berry jam every other Saturday at the Dawson Farmers’ Market.

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A berry prolific bounty. Clockwise from upper left: high bush cranberries, low bush cranberries, saskatoon berries, soap berries, raspberries, haskaps. Photos by Suzanne Crocker.

Wild Berries
For Dawsonites, berries abound throughout the short summer.  Although the wacky weather this summer has, so far,  resulted in lower than average harvests of wild berries.   Wild strawberries started in mid-July and were over in early August.  Soapberries also started mid-July and are now falling off the bushes.  Wild raspberries began appearing towards the end of July.  Wild blueberries are in season now — if you are lucky enough to find any this year.  High bush cranberries are starting and low bush cranberries and rosehips will follow shortly.

Domestic Berries
Haskaps were the first domestic berries to appear,  back in early July. Saskatoons started late July and into August.  Black currents and domestic raspberries are ripe now.   Unfortunately domestic strawberries did not fare well this year in the Dawson area because of the weather.

Not technically a berry, rose hips can be foraged and used in a similar fashion. Photo by Suzanne Crocker.

Sister Island Growing Tradition Continues … With Some Twists

Lou of Sister Island is growing some crops not typically seen in the North, including “black” indigo rose tomatoes. Photo by Suzanne Crocker.

Sister Island is a private 42-acre island just downriver from Dawson City, and has a longstanding agricultural tradition. Given to the Sisters of St. Ann in 1898 during the Klondike Gold Rush, the nuns used the Island to grow vegetables famous for their quality, and raised cows, chickens and pigs to feed a hospital and orphanage in Dawson. Suzanne visited there recently to meet the current owners, Lou Tyacke and Gary Masters, who are now farming there.

Suzanne was thrilled to discover that Lou was growing fennel as it is hard to come by in Dawson this year.

Lou and Suzanne with some Sister Island fennel. Photo by Jennifer Hall.

Lou is also successfully growing some other unique produce, not usually found in the North. This includes Jerusalem artichokes (a type of sunflower), which is grown for its edible root/tuber), and is growing very well in the Sister island greenhouse. She is also raising a variety of colourful carrots, as well as “black” tomatoes, which are actually vine tomatoes of the indigo rose variety.

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Jerusalem artichokes growing in the Sister Island greenhouse (left) and some colourful carrots.  Photos by Suzanne Crocker.

For Suzanne, the timing of the visit to Sister Island was especially fortuitous, as she arrived the day before she started her 100-per-cent-local eating.  She was treated to one of Lou’s amazing cupcakes — a floral art form in itself  — and a cup of tea. … which turned out to be her last cup of orange pekoe tea (and cupcake) for a year.

If it’s going to be your last cupcakes for a year, might as well make it colourful. Photo by Suzanne Crocker.

Mama, Don’t Let Your Quinoa Grow Up to Be Turnips

Sebastian Jones with a prolific field of quinoa last fall. Photo by Suzanne Crocker.

Earlier, we posted how Suzanne was looking forward to having some quinoa in her diet, thanks to conservationist and local grower Sebastian Jones. Quinoa is not normally a northern crop, but Sebastian has been experimenting with growing it in previous years. He’s had good success with the plants, although he has just never gotten far enough during the short season to be able to harvest the quinoa seeds before the fall frost.

This year, he planted early, and Suzanne was excited about the prospect of quinoa in her local diet, as there will be no rice, and minimal grains. Unfortunately, the quinoa has grown up … and turned out to be turnips instead.  The culprit was a seed mislabeling issue, as quinoa seeds look similar in size and shape to those from turnips. Even after the plants had germinated, the power of positive thinking had convinced Sebastian for a while that he had a field of lovely baby quinoa seedlings — until the harsh reality, turnip root and all, could be denied no longer. “I don’t even like turnips,” Sebastian complained.

“Turnips!Why did it have to be turnips?” Sebastian holds up one of the quinoa-turned-turnips. Photo by Suzanne Crocker.

That may or may not be the end of the story. Suzanne has four struggling actual quinoa plants of her own in the ground, and her fingers are crossed in hopes that they take off. There are also some potential alternatives. She will be looking at the wild plant lambsquarter, also sometimes known as pigweed (which is a cousin to quinoa) to see if she can harvest and cook the seed this autumn in a similar manner.

Has anyone had any success processing  lambs quarter seeds, or have some other tips for Suzanne? Let us know!

Gerard’s Blog: I’se the B’y That Catches the Fish


I grew up in Newfoundland.  I ate fish every day.  When we had free time, we fished.  Alternatively, we would collect mussels or clams, or if we wanted something different to do, we would hike into the hills to go fishing for trout.  As young men, when we went camping, it was up the river to fish for salmon.

The beginning of summer vacation was always hallmarked by parties at Caplin Gulch, while we fished for … caplin.  If the caplin was in abundance (as it always was), we would use the surplus in our vegetable gardens as fertilizer.  Or we would add seaweed to the soil, which was a “byproduct” of our fishing.

Breakfast was most frequently fish. My mother loved to fish and we lived on the banks of a salmon river.  Throughout the summers she would often fish early in the morning, so we could awaken to the smell of frying trout.  Failing that, she would fry up cod’s heads. Or salmon.  Sometimes, there would be “fisherman’s bruise,” made from the leftovers of the previous evenings supper.  Since we ate fish every day, it always gave us a moment for reflection when others would specifically mention how they were having fish because it was Good Friday.  For us, every day was Good Friday.

So you can imagine the shock when I came to the realization that I don’t like to fish.  I’ve been thinking the thought for a few years now.  I’ve been reminiscing about my exploits of the past and I’ve been wondering whether it was the fish I was seeking, or just the food, or perhaps the camaraderie of my buddies.  Or was it just the expectation, the alternative of being a “non-fisherman” being too sacrilegious to even contemplate?

I’ve been trying out the words lately, saying things like, “I only like fishing when there are fish.”  In other words, I’ve been fishing for responses, testing the waters before coming out of the closet with the admission that I don’t like to fish.  So, that’s it then.  I don’t like to fish.  Can’t help it.  Ancestors, don’t roll in your graves, or haunt me tonight (or for all eternity for that matter!).

Because of this diet thing, there has been a certain amount of pressure for me to fish, since fish is local.  Tried a couple of times for whitefish.  None.  Tried for grayling, but could not disguise the fact that mostly I just want to drive the boat.  It’s hard to catch fish if the line doesn’t touch the water…

But last night, last night I caught two grayling!   And we fried them up and ate them and they were delicious and they brought back a flood of fond memories and now I think I’ve got grayling figured out and so am thinking about fishing, looking forward to it actually.  So now I am confused, my conviction is being tested.  Could I, in fact, enjoy fishing?

Rhubarb Juice to the Rescue

Pink gold. It’s hard work to extract it but super-sour rhubarb juice looks like it will make a passable vinegar substitute. Photo by Suzanne Crocker.

It looked like the problem was solved. Miche Genest did some experimenting and was able to produce homemade vinegar. Unfortunately, Suzanne has not had the same success.  Her first batch of vinegar was a dismal failure.  It was not sour, and not drinkable — she’s still not sure what she’s going to do with it.  She has another batch on the go, but is losing confidence in her fermenting abilities.

Hope remains, however, for some other possible sources. Suzanne also has an attempt at apple cider vinegar fermenting on the go thanks to some of John Lenart’s culled apples (small, sour and green) that he saved for her.  And, of course, the birch sap vinegar experiment  is also doing its thing until Fall.

But Suzanne needs a vinegar substitute now (in order to make ketchup, string cheese, mayonnaise, etc.) So it was perfect timing for an inspired idea  by Jen Sadlier of the Klondike Valley Creamery — rhubarb juice.

One bite of raw rhubarb and you know how sour it is. Rhubarb apparently contains malic acid,  which is the ingredient used commercially in flavouring salt-and-vinegar chips.

Suzanne tested the juice with pH strips and it is almost as acidic as white vinegar (pH 3). This makes it a great substitute for vinegar or lemon juice.

Unfortunately, rhubarb is not easy to juice.  The best way is to freeze it first and then let it thaw before putting it through a juicer or blender, and then squeezing out the juice.

So far, things are looking promising. Suzanne has successfully made string cheese and hollandaise and ketchup with it. Next, she is going to use the juice to try pickling cucumbers. We will keep you posted on Suzanne’s progress.

Rhubarb vinegar in the making. Unfortunately Suzanne’s attempts have so far been unsuccessful. Photo by Suzanne Crocker.

 

Gerard’s Blog: Berries Bite Back


I’m having renewed doubts today.

We spent a couple of hours yesterday, hunting for raspberries. And raspberry picking, as most of you will know, is not necessarily joyful picking. The raspberry’s preferred terrain is mostly upturned mounds, often around deadfall, stumps, and hidden ankle hazards. And then they immerse themselves amongst the nettle and the roses and other prickly deterrents. Oh, and as if that is not enough, they arm themselves with thorns, and guard their territory with a mass cooperative of thousands of stinging insects, all working in noisy unison to minimize my joy with the process. The whole thing feels conspiratorial, personal.

And afterwards, while soaking our feet in the healing river, we look in the pails, dreamily thinking of the jams and pies, when all this becomes ruined by the horror of the moment. Less than a liter apiece is our yield! And that is even before we remove the twigs and leaves and abundance of bugs and spiders. There are definitely going to be some desperate evenings come January…

Has Salt Got Suzanne Licked?

Illustration by Chris Healey.

Last week we wrote about how Suzanne is looking into coltsfoot as a possible source of salt for her year of eating only local foods. At the moment, salt for seasoning food and curing meats remains one of the unsolved problems on Suzanne’s journey.

Another possible natural source that has been proposed is salt from mineral licks.  These can be found all around the Yukon — places where moose and other wild animals go to get their salts.  Salt licks mostly look like dirt or mud, but could there be human-consumable salt in them?

Thanks to some hearty hiking friends, Suzanne recently obtained a sample from a mineral lick and has sent it out for testing.  Before it left, she had a taste, but it looked and tasted only like dirt. Stay tuned, and we’ll let you know whether Suzanne has found a saline solution.

Have any knowledge or this or any other subject related to Northern food security you’d like to share with us? We welcome your contributions.

 

Gerard’s Blog: Symptomatic Addict

I’m up early today.  While I’m sipping enviably on a sweet cup of steaming kohlrabi, it isn’t that which motivated my arising.  It was the myalgias; the pains in my hamstrings and low back were relentless, nagging and unrelievable.

No caffeine for one week.

Just to ensure that I wasn’t ignoring my body’s indication that I was in the last throes of the dying process, I googled the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal.  It’s all there.  The headache (which has now dissipated, thankfully).  The profound sleepiness.  The constipation (which we’ll just acknowledge and move on…) The lack of concentration (Ah-ha! So that’s why my boat hit that rock in the river yesterday.)

And the muscle pains and cramps.  There, in black and white for all to see.  The affirmation that the source of this pain, my pain, is identifiably harmless, and that all this will be temporary, is reassuring.  All I need now will be positive affirmations and indifference to taste, to make it through the next 51 weeks.

Gerard’s Blog: Everything in the Kitchen Sink


It’s the dishes that are the killer.  No one saw that coming.  Tubs for gathering, bowls for holding, cookie sheets for drying, pots for simmering, slow cooker for condensing.

But nothing compares to the dairy processing.  Jugs for milk, containers for cream, yogurt, kefir and whey.  There are containers to be shaken for butter and jugs to be skimmed for cream.  Then there are containers to store these things.  Not to mention containers for cheese of different varieties.  The cows own the fridge!

And everything needs to be washed.  That’s where the children and I come in (Yippee!). The only alternative is a kitchen without room, a kitchen with every conceivable counter space occupied by some reminder of food preparation.  A kitchen with splatterings of ketchup in the making, a kitchen of strainers and cheese cloth, a kitchen of pots and bowls and jugs. And all this is awaiting a miracle, a miracle that falls squarely on the shoulders of the kids and me!  (Did I mention that Suzanne refuses to own a dishwasher!)

Make Hay While the Sun Shines

Freshly cut and baled hay from Dan Reynolds’ farm outside Dawson City. Photo by Suzanne Crocker.

One of the challenges of raising livestock in the North is finding local feed for them.  Shipping costs to the north are very expensive, so acquiring feed from the South can be prohibitive.

Growing and cutting hay is very weather dependent and the North has challenging weather.  The farmer needs enough rain for the hay to grow and then a spell of dry days to cut and bale it.  This spring the weather was all over the map, especially in the Klondike region.  Luckily, however, July’s weather was somewhat more cooperative for both the growing and the cutting of hay.

Dan Reynolds of Dawson City grows hay at his fields off the Dempster Highway.  He cuts it in July, which is earlier than most hay farmers. Although this means less yield, it translates into twice the amount of nutrition per bale.

Not surprisingly, Dan’s hay is in high demand in Dawson for horses and livestock.

The Yukon is also fortunate to have the Yukon Grain Farm, just outside of Whitehorse, as a supplier of feed for livestock.  Yukon Grain Farm grows a variety of crops including grain, barley, oats, wheat, and root vegetables.

Gerard’s Blog: What’s Up, Doc?

I’m on my fourth cup this morning.  Not coffee.  Not tea.  With the nagging headache of caffeine withdrawal foremost on my mind, I have been searching for that ideal substitute.  I’ve learned that heat is important to my constitution, so the kettle is on.  And while hot water works, it is rather bland, with just a hint of sweetness in the boiled water. (Is that true, or is it possible that my taste buds are already adapting and searching for something … anything?)

My current cup is flavoured with a carrot.  Previously today, I’ve tried broccoli, spruce tips and cauliflower.  I am immensely reassured by the experimental power within my range.  I’ve learned that, while always surprising, the flavors are never distasteful, perhaps because of the familiarity to those foods.  And the flavors are dose dependent:  more carrot, more flavour.  Furthermore, the flavours continually change during the steeping stage, such that every sip offers a fresh surprise. In the mornings I need liquids, so the extent of this tasting extravaganza is limited because of my consumption haste.  But by afternoon, I will take the time to sip and steep.  Perhaps I will invent something and call it soup.

Worth Its Weight In Salt?

With no local source of salt for spicing up and preserving her food, Suzanne is looking for a natural, local substitute. One possible alternative that has surfaced is coltsfoot.

Suzanne will be trying out coltsfoot as a possible salt substitute.

Coltsfoot is a wild plant that is often found in boggy terrain and disturbed areas. Its flowers open on leafless stems in early spring before the leaves come out. The leaves, which resemble a colt’s foot in outline and have angular teeth along the edges, appear after the flowers die in the early summer.

According the The Boreal Herbal by Bev Gray, in the past, coltsfoot ash was used by indigenous people as a salt substitute. The large coltsfoot leaves and stems were rolled into balls, dried, and then placed on top of a small fire rock and burned. The ash was then used in cooking.

Suzanne has been gathering coltsfoot and drying it, and will test out this possible salt substitute. Stay tuned to see how it turns out.

 

Gerard’s Blog: I Found No Thrill On Blueberry Hill

I read a quote the other day, which fairly represents the current state of things in our house:

“She wanted a puppy.  But I didn’t want a puppy.  So we compromised and got a puppy.”

So, last night, after Suzanne prepared a delicious supper of local everything, we were instructed that there was no time to relax.  Why, ripe blueberries have been spotted in the hills!  All hands on deck!  Man your posts!

Fortunately, part of the preparation for this year involved gorging ourselves with “store-bought” ice-cream, so there are no shortage of plastic tubs in the house.  Empty tubs.  Tubs that are supposed to be filled.  By us.  Oh, joy upon joy!

So, off we go.  Lovely evening. Beautiful on the hill.  No wind, few mosquitos.  And there were berries, yes. Patchy. Small.  But, berries undeniably.  We set to work with dreams of bounty that would supplant any winter cravings for oranges or grapefruit or pineapple or grapes.  Why, we would imminently be rich in produce, capable of spending a winter of movie-watching with blueberries as our popcorn substitute.

The problem with gathering is the concept of value for time.  My time.  Is this a real problem or merely a personal misconception?  Or could it perhaps be familial?  After an hour I found one of the children sitting on the moss, dreamily listening to her audio-book while petting the dog.  I found another sprawled out on a sunny bank, the telltale sonorous breathing explaining all.  Meanwhile, I had taken a preference to looking for the mother-load of berries, hiking and exploring, being lured by the adventure, actually doing something.  As for berries?  Needless to say, we will be returning to the hills.

Listen to Suzanne Tomorrow on Yu-Kon Grow It

Suzanne will be appearing again on Yu-Kon Grow It, a regular feature of CBC Yukon’s A New Day radio show with host Sandi Coleman.

The episodes feature Yukoners involved in local food issues. After a summer holiday in July, Yu-Kon Grow It will again air every other Wednesday morning between 7 and 8 am.

Suzanne has been a regular guest on the show, appearing once a month to outline her findings and progress. Catch the next episode with Suzanne tomorrow, Wednesday 2 August.

You can listen to past interviews here, and stay tuned for more episodes every other Wednesday on CBC Yukon.

 

Gerard’s Blog: On Day One


I woke in a sweat this morning, feeling like I had missed the plane or like the phone was ringing in the middle of the night.  No plane.  No phone.  Just “Day One” of Suzanne’s year-long local diet commitment.  Just the beginning of sacrifice and hunger.  Just the beginning of caffeine withdrawal, bread dreams and sugar cravings.  This is just the beginning.  So, I sweat.

But it does make one wonder why anyone would commit to this and toss away a perfectly comfortable life.  And then drag the rest of the family into this nonsense with luring promises of renewed appreciation for quality food, and improved health, and all the meat you can eat.  And the unforgettable opportunity to browse in the forest for anything edible.

Are the rest of us committed to this?  Not really.  The kids mostly want to support Suzanne, and I mostly want to, well, support Suzanne.  But total adherence to this diet?  No salt?  No chocolate?  No cake or pie or bagels or pancakes or cereal or coffee or burgers or pepper or nuts?  This is nuts!  It was Bob Dylan who wrote that “people who suffer together have stronger connections than those who are most content.”  I guess we’ll see about that.

The Moose is Loose … and Looking for Popcorn!

In a previous post we wrote how Suzanne and family were looking forward to some popcorn in their local-only diet, with the help of growers Karen Digby and Grant Dowdell. Having had success with sweet corn in the past, they planted a field of Tom Thumb popping corn especially for Suzanne.

The plants survived the mid-June frosts that savaged so many other local crops, but now there’s another, much larger, hazard afoot.  It turns out a trio of moose have been hanging out  at Grant’s Island. Of all the vegetables growing in the fields, the moose seem to have a particular appetite for Suzanne’s Tom Thumb popcorn plants, even more so that Grant’s sweet corn.

1 a.m.  end of June –  cow moose looking wistfully across Grant and Karen’s fields towards Suzanne’s Tom Thumb popcorn! Take at Grant’s Island, Yukon River. Photo by Karen Digby

The family dog does his best to dissuade the marauding ungulates, but finds it harder to run off moose than bears.  A scarecrow is now on the job and we will just have to see if it can keep the moose at bay and protect Suzanne’s precious popcorn.  Grant’s Island is one of the rare microclimates in the Dawson area capable of growing corn outside, so Suzanne’s popcorn experiment is “all in one basket.”

Wild Strawberries Are Worth the Work

Suzanne shows off her hard-picked bucket of berries. Photo by Tess Crocker.

Wild strawberries are one of the first wild berries to ripen (followed closely by soap berries, which we’ll cover in a later post).  It’s best to “get low” when harvesting wild strawberries as they are located very close to the ground, often hiding underneath their foliage. You’ll typically find wild strawberries in meadows, young woodlands, sparse forest, woodland edges, and clearings.

It may take a while to cover the bottom of your bucket,  but your patience will be amply rewarded.  They are oh so sweet and bursting with strawberry flavour!  Best popped straight into your mouth, but if you have the willpower to save them. then they can be also be frozen for later and used for all things strawberry.

They’re small and often hiding under their leaves, but wild strawberries are definitely worth the effort it takes to fill your bucket. Photo by Tess Crocker.

Lambsquarter: Taste It Before You Toss It

Lambsquarter is now Suzanne’s favourite raw foraged leaf. Photo by Suzanne Crocker.

It may be time to start looking at lambsquarter in a different way.  Much like chickweed, this common garden weed (sometimes also known as pigweed) is another often-overlooked plant that has great potential as a wild food.

A prolific grower, lambsquarter is well-suited to Dawson gardens, and does well in many Northern regions.

Lambsquarter leaves are delicious raw and are not bitter like many other edible foraged leaves.  Suzanne reports that she loves the taste, and they are her new favourite foraged leaf to eat raw. Sometimes called “northern spinach,” the leaves can also be cooked and used as a spinach substitute in stir fries or baked dishes like lasagna.

The leaves keep well in the refrigerator for a couple of days, or for the long term can be dried or frozen and stored for later use in sauces, soups, or stews.  Lambsquarter is rich in Vitamins A and C, so the dried leaves can be a great source of these vitamins in wintertime.

One cautionary note: lambsquarter absorbs pollutants so avoid harvesting near roads or industrial areas.

Growing Northern Ginger and Tumeric

Here is a follow-up on Louise Piché’s ginger that she planted earlier in the winter from a piece of ginger root from the grocery store.

It is still alive and well and certainly growing — it is now 4 ft tall!

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Photos by Suzanne Crocker.

Louise’s success with growing ginger from ginger root in Dawson has inspired her to try the same thing with a piece of tumeric root. It successfully sprouted, and is now growing beautifully.  Will keep you posted how it does.

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Photos by Suzanne Crocker.

Have you had success re-growing a plant not typical in the north? Share it with us. 

 

Northern Farm Training Institute’s Founder Receives National Honour

Jackie Milne, NFTI Founder & President.

One of the leaders in Northern food sustainability, Jackie Milne, the Founder and President of the Northern Farm Training Institute, was in Ottawa last Friday to receive the Meritorious Service Decoration from the Governor General.

With global warming affecting traditional hunting grounds, Jackie saw a need to increase access to fresh produce in Canada’s northern communities. She established the NFTI in Hay River, NWT to teach the local population about sustainable, environmentally sound farming practices that would supplement traditional diets. Since 2013, the institute has trained nearly 100 farmers from across the north, with Indigenous students making up more than half of the program’s graduates.

The Meritorious Service Decorations were established by Queen Elizabeth II to recognize the extraordinary people who make Canada proud. Their acts are often innovative, set an example or model for others to follow, or respond to a particular challenge faced by a community. The best candidates are those who inspire others through their motivation to find solutions to specific and pressing needs or provide an important service to their community or country.

Troublesome Chickweed Is a Tasty Treasure

Chickweed is a prolific grower, but also edible. Photo by Suzanne Crocker.

Chickweed, another common garden invader, is also an edible wild plant. Before you pull it from your garden, take some scissors and harvest as much as you can. Cooked chickweed tastes just like swiss chard!

Suzanne learned the hard way that it is better to harvest it for eating by cutting it with scissors, so you don’t have to painstakingly wash out the garden soil that gets trapped in the roots. After you harvest it, then go ahead and pull the roots from your garden.

Cooked, chickweed can be eaten on its own or added to stews, soups, or pastas, or used as a replacement for spinach in other recipes. It can also be used to supplement basil in pesto.

Chickweed can also be eaten fresh as a salad green, or instead of sprouts in a sandwich or in dips. And it can be juiced (like nettle) and frozen in ice cube trays or it can be blanched and frozen (like nettle) for a shot of green vitamins in smoothies, soups, and stews during the winter.

Chickweed is rich in vitamins C and A as well as the minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, niacin, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. Not that you will, but apparently, if eaten in excess, it can lead to diarrhea, and pregnant women should avoid the juice and just eat small amounts.

> See a recipe for Chickweed and Herb Fritatas

Yum! Fresh Northern Asparagus

Louise Piché’s fresh northern asparagus. Photo by Suzanne Crocker.

Louise Piché, one of Dawson’s great home gardeners, has success growing asparagus in the north and she generously shared some of her first asparagus harvest with Suzanne. It was the freshest asparagus Suzanne has ever tasted  – delicious!

Asparagus growing in Louise Piché’s garden. Photo by Suzanne Crocker.

Louise’s secret?  Check out Louise Piché’s Seed Guide. In the case of asparagus, buy roots, not seeds. Plant the roots in spring in 1⁄2 dirt and 1⁄2 sand. The harvest will be in the second year. Harvest by cutting from June till mid July, and then stop cutting.

 

Wild Rhubarb – Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Elder gives Suzanne new eyes

Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in elder Victor Henry with a basket of wild rhubarb. Photo by Suzanne Crocker.

Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in elder Victor Henry has taught Suzanne to see with new eyes.

Victor generously agreed to show Suzanne and ethnobotanist Leigh Joseph how to harvest wild rhubarb around Dawson. It seems like Victor can spot wild rhubarb a mile away!  In the process, Suzanne also learned to look at her environment in a new way.  She can now spot these plants easily (maybe not quite a mile away) and since has noticed wild rhubarb in many of her foraging locations — even in her own yard!

Young wild rhubarb. Photo by Suzanne Crocker.
When Victor was a kid living at Moosehide (just down river from Dawson) he and his friends used to pick wild rhubarb and then sneak some sugar from the house to dip it in.
Victor suggests picking wild rhubarb before it flowers, when the stalks are young (late May to early June around Dawson), not hollow, and when they are juicy when cut and squeezed.  Peel back the leaves and eat wild rhubarb fresh, or chop it and freeze it for later.
You can use wild rhubarb the same way you use domestic rhubarb. Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in elder Angie Joseph-Rear, especially loves wild rhubarb relish with moose meat.  You can find some great recipes for rhubarb stalks (wild or domestic) at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks website.
Wild rhubarb all chopped up and ready for freezing., Photo by Suzanne Crocker.
The young leaves can be eaten as well, either raw or cooked.  (Note:  only wild rhubarb leaves should be eaten, as domestic rhubarb leaves contain too much oxalic acid and are not edible.) To store the leaves, blanche and freeze them using a similar technique as with stinging nettle.
Mähsi cho Victor Henry.

Farming Tradition Lives On at Pelly River Ranch

Pelly River Ranch is the the oldest, continuously working farm in the Yukon territory, located  10 kilometres up the Pelly River from its confluence with the Yukon River. Dale and Sue Bradley are the second generation of Bradleys to run the Pelly River Ranch, and the Bradley family are the fifth in a series of owners dating as far back as 1901, when Edward Menard bought 20 acres on the Pelly River and brought in farmer George Grenier as his partner. The farm changed owners through the years until 1954 when Dale Bradley’s uncles Hugh and Dick Bradley bought the place from the Wilkenson family.

Like their family before them, Dale and Sue and their son Ken run a mixed farm, which means they engage in several agricultural practices. They raise chickens and beef cattle, mostly Hereford and Angus, have a big vegetable garden, and they raise hay to feed their cattle. The Bradleys sell their eggs, chickens and beef to customers in Dawson, Faro and especially Whitehorse. In addition, they supply local markets with a range of root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, rutabaga and parsnips.

Pelly River Ranch mantains a herd of about 50 cattle, which they feed with their farm grown hay as well as fresh forage, from grasses to rose leaves to young fireweed, a feed that gives the beef a wild, natural flavour that Bradley appreciates.

In the year 2000, the Yukon Agriculture Branch presented the Bradley family with the “Farmer of the Century Award” for their nearly 50 years of agricultural work at the Pelly River Ranch.

Northern Popcorn?

Popping corn for Suzanne and her family growing on Grant’s Island. Photo by Suzanne Crocker.

One of the things Suzanne and her family really love eating is popcorn with butter and nutritional yeast. She’s hoping they’ll still be able to indulge their craving during the year of eating only local foods, thanks to Grant Dowdell and Karen Digby.

Grant’s Island is located on the Yukon River about 10 km upriver from Dawson. It has a microclimate unique to the Klondike area that has previously allowed Grant and Karen to grow sweet corn outdoors – something that is usually very difficult to do this far North. This year, they are experimenting growing Tom Thumb popcorn for Suzanne, since this variety takes only 60 days to reach maturity.

If it works out Suzanne may have some popcorn for the upcoming year after all.  She will certainly have butter.  Next she’ll have to look for local options for toppings as there will be no salt and no nutritional yeast available.  Any suggestions for locally available popcorn toppings for Suzanne and Family?  If so, let us know.

Tess (foreground, left) helping Grant Dowdell (right) with the planting. Photo by Suzanne Crocker.

Nature’s Candy

Wild Rose petals, lungwort flowers, dandelion flowers and spruce tips.  Photo by Suzanne Crocker

Wild rose flowers are out in abundance around Dawson City. Suzanne and Tess have been gently grazing as they walk through the forest. Two delicacies are wild rose petals and lungwort (blue bell) flowers, which are lightly perfumed with a touch of sweet. Spruce tips (late May) provided the citrus candy of the forest.

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Blue bells (lungwort flowers) and Wild Rose petals are two edible delicacies for foragers. Photos by Suzanne Crocker.

Wild rose petals can be eaten fresh, used as a garnish, steeped as a tea, or sun-steeped for rose-flavoured water. They can also be dried for storage through the year. Recently Suzanne has learned they can also be frozen. Remember to leave a few petals on each flower you pick so that they continue to attract bees.

Place rose petals in water to give it a refreshing rose flavouring. Photo by Suzanne Crocker.

If you know of any tips/recipes for eating rose petals that only include ingredients local to Dawson, let Suzanne know through firstweeatproject@gmail.com

Tess with a bucket of Nature’s Candy. Photo by Suzanne Crocker.

Listen in to Local Food Initiatives in Inuvik and Hay River, NWT – June 19th

Join the Northern Food Network for its third FREE webinar. This installment is on Growing Food and Community in the Northwest Territories. It takes place Monday 19 June from 10-11:30 a.m. PST (1-2:30 EST).  The webinar will feature presentations by:

During the webinar there will also be updates on the recently launched consultation process for a National Food Policy, and duscussion on opportunities to highlight northern perspectives in that process.

To register for the webinar, click here.

The Northern Food Network (NFN) is co-hosted by the Arctic Institute of Community-Based Research (AICBR) and Food Secure Canada (FSC) as a space for people working in and interested in northern food security to share, learn about best practices across the North and advance collective action on food security. 

AICBR and FSC are facilitating bi-monthly webinars and teleconferences with focused presentations and discussion around 4 core themes: environment, health, agriculture, and food security.

Surprise Dawson Cold Snap Takes Its Toll

Unusually cold temperatures struck the Dawson area bringing frost and crop damage. Ice on grass in Henderson Corner.  Photo by Suzanne Crocker.

Suzanne’s preparations for her year of eating local suffered a setback this week as the lowest  temperatures in 35 years descended on Dawson, bringing three days of frost . Microclimates abound in the Klondike, so depending on their location the severity of damage to gardens and farms varied, with the town only mildly affected, while outlying areas saw temperatures as low as -4.7°C.

Suzanne covers her garden in preparation for possible frost. Photo by Tess Crocker.

Where frost did occur, even some plants that were covered suffered — especially brassicas (plants like cauliflower and broccoli) and beans.  Many of those who suffered losses were veteran growers, who had taken precautions to try to mitigate the frost damage.

Brassicas (plants like cauliflower and broccoli) were especially hard hit by the frost. Photo by Suzanne Crocker.

Klondike Valley Nursery in Rock Creek,  where  they are adapting fruit tress to the north, was especially hard hit. They lost their haskap berry crop as well as their early apples, even those that were in shelters with kerosene heaters.  Only the apple trees that were in greenhouses heated with wood stoves made it through.

Lucy’s Plants and Vegetables in Henderson Corner has a sprinkler system that is thermostat controlled and turns on automatically when the temperature hits zero.  The sprinkler system and the row covers saved the day.  There was still some frost damage to early peas and early potatoes, but hopefully they will recover.  The rhubarb was frozen hard, but there’s still time in the season for them to bring out new shoots.

Kokopellie Farms in Sunnydale irrigated their plants and put them under row cover but still suffered frost damage to some of their cauliflower, broccoli, lettuce and early potatoes.  Fortunately for Suzanne’s hopes of getting some grains, their winter rye is doing well.

Kokopellie Farm’s crop of winter rye survived the frost. Photo by Suzanne Crocker.

Growers have always been at the mercy of the weather, but occurrences like this one underscore the challenges of gardening and farming in the north. Northern growers have developed techniques for weathering frost, including irrigating well before and during the frost, covering crops, and moving what one can into heated shelters and greenhouses.

Do you have other ways of dealing with frost or some lessons to share with us? Let us know.

 

 

Spritz or Candy Up Your Spruce Tips

Candided spruce tips in birch syrup will be a treat for Suzanne’s kids. Photo by Suzanne Crocker

Spruce tips will become one of Suzanne and family’s candy during their year of eating local. Miche Genest has a wonderful recipe for making Candied Spruce Tips using homemade Spruce Tip Syrup in The Boreal Feast, A Culinary Journey Through the North by Harbour Publishing. And Miche has generously allowed us to share her recipe.

However, Suzanne probably will not have access to sugar to make the syrup, so Suzanne has adapted Miche’s recipe and combined coniferous with deciduous trees to make Candied Spruce Tips in Birch Syrup. They are more ‘birchy’ than the original recipe, but still quite delicious. (And, according to 11-year-old Tess, addictive!) Before you worry about using precious birch syrup to candy spruce tips, remember, you can keep re-using the birch syrup for batch after batch. The birch syrup gradually takes on a more sprucey taste with every batch.

> See the original and modified recipes for Candied Spruce Tips

Leigh Joseph and Suzanne Crocker enjoy Spruce Tip Spritzers.

Spruce tips and birch syrup also go beautifully together in a harmony of coniferous with deciduous in a drink idea inspired by ethnobotanist, Leigh Joseph.  Check out Leigh Joseph’s recipe for Spruce Tip Spritzer.

Give tips, get lunch!

Spruce Tips ready to become a delicious syrup - Photo by The North Woods Cookshop
Spruce Tips ready to become a delicious syrup – Photo by The North Woods Cookshop

Your foraging adventures not only can help you stock your pantry with wild goodies, but they could also get you a delicious free lunch!

The North Woods Cookshop and Lunchbox, a Dawson City based catering company, is looking for generous foragers to share a bit of their spruce tip loot with them. For every four cups of spruce tips you bring them, they will treat you to a free lunch at their amazing new food truck, located in the lot next to the Westminster Hotel.

They have great plans for those spruce tips, including delicious syrups for their homemade sodas, as well as the spice mixes, rubs and gourmet salts they are known for.

Hurry up before the picking season ends, and remember to spread your harvest out over many trees to keep them healthy and strong. Georgia and Allie will thank you!

Vertical Agriculture Coming to Carcross

A vertical agriculture facility is in the planning stages with the goal of having it built in Carcross this fall. This innovative project will be the first  of its kind in the Yukon.

Tami Grantham, Natural Resources Coordinator with the Carcross-Tagish First Nation, says:  “What attracted us to this technology is the ability to grow greens year-round. It’s a goal and a mission for the government of Carcross-Tagish First Nation to become food-secure.”

Construction would be managed through a new corporation created as a partnership between the Carcross-Tagish First Nation and Northstar Agriculture of which the First Nation will be 51 per cent owner.

The system will recirculate water from a fish tank through a vegetable grow bed. Nutrients from the fish waste feed the plants, and the plants filter the water to keep the fish healthy. In normal aquaculture, excretions from the animals being raised can accumulate in the water, increasing toxicity. In an aquaponic system, water from an aquaculture system is fed to a hydroponic system where the by-products are broken down by bacteria into nitrates, which are utilized by the plants as nutrients, and the water is then recirculated back to the aquaculture system.

The vertical part of this type of farming will be in the form of stacked layers that could be up to 10 meters high, in order to maximize production, contained in a warehouse-style space.

Not only would this mean a possibility for fresh local produce and lower food prices in the community, but also the promise of food security, as this system allows year-round growing of vegetables in a sustainable way.

The fish raised would be Tilapia, which is common in farming systems. Vegetables grown would include kale, spinach, and perhaps even strawberries and other vine crops.

 

Plant. Water. Worry.

Bolted Spinach
There’s a frost warning in Dawson, and baby plants will be especially vulnerable. Photo by Suzanne Crocker

According to Environment Canada, the next three days will see the chance of frost in the Dawson City area. This is much later in the month than even the most pessimistic of local planting advice that Suzanne had to consider when planting her garden.

While this particular frost warning is a local issue — and even in Dawson, temperatures and exposure to frost will vary based on altitude, terrain. and proximity to water — it highlights a point about sub-arctic/arctic growing, and the quest for Food Security North of 60.  Our colder climate brings its own set of challenges and risks.

Suzanne will be busy the next few nights trying to protect the plants in her garden by covering them with row cover and sheets.  John Lenart at the Klondike Valley Nursery will be putting kerosene heaters in his greenhouses to keep the precious Dawson apple trees with sensitive blossoms warm during the next few nights.  Lucy Vogt at Lucy’s Plants and Veggies will be irrigating her fields to help keep the frost away from her growing produce.  Lucy has a sprinkler system attached to a thermostat.  The sprinkler system automatically turns on when temperatures drop below freezing.  Fingers crossed that Dawson gardens and farms will make it through the next three nights unscathed!

Versatile, Edible Nettle

Some advice and a recipe for cooking nettle from Leigh Joseph.

Nettle is one of the most versatile edible plants that can be foraged, but it stings if you touch it with bare skin, so pick it and handle it fresh with gloves and tongs.

Cut it at the base, as both the stem and leaves are edible. Choose plants that are not yet starting to flower – plants between 6 inches and one foot tall.

The good news is that once nettle is dried, cooked, frozen or juiced, the stinging properties disappear.

Leigh Joseph and Suzanne Crocker enjoy a refreshing glass of nettle juice.
Photo by Lee Glazier.

 

 

 

Nettle Juice

Recipe by Leigh Joseph

  1. Wash off the stems and leaves (tongs help with this).
  2. Fill a high powered blender (i.e. a vitamix) with the nettle (stems and leaves).
  3. Add water till the water reaches approximately 3/4 of the blender.
  4. Blend at top speed for a few minutes.
  5. Let sit and watch the nettle juice settle into layers of beautiful green juice and froth.
  6. Strain through a jelly straining cloth into a clean container.
  7. Discard the nettle pulp from the straining cloth.

You can drink the juice straight up or freeze it in ice cube trays to pop its vitamin richness into smoothies, stews, soups all year long.

Nettle juice is rich in vitamins A and C as well as in minerals including calcium, potassium, magnesium and iron.

 

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The ‘Lion in Summer

Often considered a weed by lawn owners, dandelions are in fact a flower, and an edible one.

While dandelions are the bane of gardeners who are cultivating a lawn, the flowers from this plant — one of nature’s most prolific growers — are a blessing for those foraging for wild food.

The flower is a sun-lover, opening when the sun is out and closing up when it gets dark or cloudy. The flowers should be picked when they’re in full blossom, and the petals should be removed immediately after gathering before the flower heads start to close up.

Dandelion flowers can be used in variety of ways, including the well-known dandelion wine. They can be eaten raw in salads, or used for stir-fries, baking, or sauces.

Suzanne’s Sad, Sad Sunflowers

Some rookie mistakes have cast a cloud on Suzanne’s plans to add sunflower seeds to her local diet.
Photo by Tess Crocker.

Right now Suzanne is feeling more like a “green horn” than a “green thumb.” Normally, sunflower seeds from the Mammoth Russian Sunflower are know for growing huge 8- to 14-inch heads, packed with seeds.  Suzanne was hopeful that she could get them to grow in Dawson with enough time to go to seed.  Facing a year without nuts, sunflower seeds were her hope for a local seed.  And, in theory, if one grew enough perhaps some oil?

 

Continue reading “Suzanne’s Sad, Sad Sunflowers”

Homemade Rhubarb Vinegar Update

It looks like rhubarb can be used to make a homemade vinegar. Things are looking good for Suzanne having a local-ingredients salad dressing.

Miche Genest here. A reminder: This winter I experimented with making homemade rhubarb vinegar using only products available in the Yukon — that is, wild low bush cranberries, frozen rhubarb from my back yard in downtown Whitehorse, tap water and Yukon Birch Syrup made by Berwyn Larsen and Sylvia Frisch on the banks of the McQuesten River.

The catalyst for the experiment was to provide a home-grown vinegar for Suzanne, who is about to embark on her year of eating only the foods she can source in or around Dawson. What to do about salad dressing? (The oil is a whole other topic.) No balsamic for her!

Apple cider vinegar is the obvious solution, but Suzanne’s supply of apples from horticulturist John Lenart will be limited, and their primary role to provide fresh fruit for the family. So I turned to locally-available fruit, starting with rhubarb and low bush cranberries.

The first attempt failed but the second time appears to have succeeded. Now that the fresh rhubarb is coming, I’ll continue to experiment and see if it makes a difference. Suzanne is experimenting too. Watch for updates, and in the meantime, click here for the recipe.

I tested the vinegar with a pH strip and it had a PH of 3.

In taste comparisons with commercial apple cider vinegar the apple cider won in terms of both flavour and sharpness. However, I’m delighted with the rhubarb vinegar in salad dressings. It provides the necessary acid. It does its job.

Recipe for Homemade Rhubarb Vinegar

by Miche Genest

Homemade Rhubarb Vinegar–Good colour, good flavour.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (250 mL) rhubarb, washed and chopped, at room temperature (I used frozen, but the fresh stuff is coming up now)
  • 3 or 4 juniper berries (for the yeast on their skin)
  • ¼ cup (60 mL) Uncle Berwyn’s Pure Yukon Birch Syrup, at room temperature
  • 4 cups (1L) water at room temperature – if tap water, let stand for a couple of hours in order for the chlorine to evaporate

Preparation
Place the rhubarb in a bowl deep enough to allow vigorous stirring and wide enough to give maximum exposure to air. A 2L mixing bowl will do the trick.

Dissolve the birch syrup in the water and pour over the rhubarb. Stir vigorously and cover with cheesecloth secured by an elastic or string.

For the next week stir vigorously every 2 to 3 hours. After a few days, the mixture should start to bubble in small, fizzy bubbles that gather around the rim of the bowl. You might see white yeast gathering on the surface. Don’t worry about the yeast, it’s not a bad thing, however more vigorous stirring may be called for. If mould starts to form, spoon it off.

(I tasted the vinegar every second day. At first it tasted like birch syrup. After three days or so it took on a sharpness that eventually became both sharp and sour.)

After a week to 10 days, strain the mixture and discard the rhubarb. Return the strained liquid to the cleaned bowl or a screw top jar. Cover with cheesecloth.

Continue to stir or shake vigorously (put the lid on the jar before shaking, and take it off again afterwards) for three or four days. Taste your vinegar. If you are happy with the sharpness and sourness, stop the show! Cover the jar and put the vinegar in the fridge. I was happy with mine after 2 weeks, though in Wild Fermentation Sandor Katz says fermentation generally takes 3 to 4.

Here’s a Tip to Spruce Up Your Meals

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Spruce tips are a versatile ingredient in a variety of dishes and can be frozen for use throughout the year.
Photos by Cathie Archbould.

At this time of year throughout the North the spruce trees are starting to put on their new growth. The dark green of the existing branches is highlighted by the bright green of new tips. These emerging spruce tips are a delicious and versatile wild food.

Spruce tips have a distinct taste. It’s light and citrusy and with slight resin-like flavour. You can just eat them as they are or add them to smoothies and salads. Dried tips can be used for a soothing tea, or add chopped tips to drinking water and let it sit for an hour or so while the water absorbs all the goodness. They’re also great for seasoning dishes like soups or stews, and work well with both sweet and savoury recipes. They can be pickled, candied, turned into oils, vinegars, jellies and syrups, and used as a herb.  Craft brewers also often use spruce tips for flavour in their beers.

Dry them off and store them in the freezer for use throughout the year.  Spruce tips are high in Vitamin C — another reason to store them for use during wintertime. They also contain carotenoids, and are rich in minerals such as potassium and magnesium.

You’ll know the spruce tips are ready to pick when they are bright green with a small brown husk at the end. Knock off the husk before using. Remember that this is the tree’s new growth, so pick sparingly from any single tree before moving on. It’s a good idea to pick a good distance from any roadway to make sure they’re free of airborne toxins.

Make Stinging Nettle a Perennial Favourite

Stinging nettles are found in abundance throughout the north and are a perennial that could become a staple for your spring foraging.
Photo by Leigh Joseph,

Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is a nutritious spring green that has many uses, and once identified, may become a staple for your spring foraging. This plant is a perennial and grows as tall as 5-8 feet at maturity. The stem is usually less than 1 cm in diameter and the coarsely saw-toothed leaves are lance shaped to oval and have a pointed tip and a heart shaped base. The leaves are found growing in opposite pairs along the stalk.  Stinging nettle is found growing in rich, moist soil along streams, rivers, meadows and open forest. This plant thrives in disturbed habitats such as village sites, roadsides and barnyards.

The leaves and stem have hairs that contain formic acid and can cause a stinging reaction when they come in contact with the skin — hence its name; many people opt to wear gloves when harvesting. Cooking or drying destroys the stinging properties, including drying nettles for tea, sautéeing, steaming, or baking.

Rich in Vitamins C and A plus several minerals, stinging nettle is a delicious alternative in any recipe that calls for spinach, among others.
Photo by Leigh Joseph.

Stinging nettles are best harvested for eating when the young shoots are less than a foot tall and still have a purple tinge to the leaves. They are at their most tender then. They can continue to be harvested beyond this height but they do get more fibrous as they grow and eventually will be too tough to eat. Do not harvest nettles after they have flowered as they develop gritty particles that irritate the urinary tract.

These nettles are rich in vitamins A and C as well as in minerals including calcium, potassium, magnesium and iron. They are a delicious alternative to any recipe that calls for spinach and can be added to soups and stir-fry’s for added nutrition and vibrant color. The leaves can also be dried and used to make a healthy and hearty tea. Stinging nettle can be used as a bath to help with rheumatism and the mature plant can be processed to make strong cordage. Many coastal First Nations, including Squamish, used this cordage to make strong fish nets and fishing line.

-Post by Leigh Joseph

Edible Lungwort

Lungwort (blue bell). Photo by Suzanne Crocker

Lungwort (commonly known as blue bell) appears around Dawson City in mid-May.  The young leaves and flower buds can be eaten raw or added to salad or even steamed or added to soups and stews.  The buds are quite tasty (although Suzanne always feels a bit guilty eating them before they have a chance to flower).

Important rule of thumb: In general, blue and purple flowering plants are NOT edible. Lungwort is the exception.  Don’t eat lupine or delphinium or Jacob’s ladder which are also starting to appear around the same time (but the leaves look very different from lupin).

These plants are NON-EDIBLE. Left to right: Delphinium, Jacob’s Ladder, and
Lupin. Lungwort is the only blue-flowering plant you should eat.Photos by Suzanne Crocker.

Yu-Kon Grow It: A Look at the TH Working Farm

On a recent episode of Yu-Kon Grow It on CBC Yukon’s A New Day with Sandi Coleman, she looked at the newest happenings at the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Teaching Farm near Dawson City. The First Nation’s teaching farm is expanding this year. Dexter MacRae, TH’s Dir. of Human Resources, Education, and Training gave an update on what’s planned this season, including the farm’s first livestock, a new greenhouse, berries, apples, and expanded enrolment.

It’s Dandelion Season

Young dandelions are popping up everywhere

Those of us craving fresh local greens at the end of the long winter need look no further than our own backyards. The dandelions are coming up, folks! They’re fresh and tender now, before the flowers come into bloom; a good time to enjoy them in salads. Later the leaves increase in bitterness, and are best in cooked dishes—try sautéing dandelion leaves with morel mushrooms and garlic scapes. Throw in a few flowers as well!

Dandelions are legendary for their health benefits–the leaves are packed with Vitamins K and A, contain substantial amounts of C and B6, as well as thiamine, riboflavin, calcium and iron, among other nutrients, and are high in fibre. Current research suggests that extract of dandelion root may be helpful in the treatment of leukemia.

Some tips for picking: grasp the leaves where they meet in a crown near the root, pull slightly and cut just underneath the crown, keeping the plant in one piece. Sometimes several plants are packed tightly together; then you’ll need to dig with your fingers to discover where each crown emerges from the root. Sometimes you can free a number of plants with one cut.

Do the first cleaning outside, removing grass and other leaves. Use your knife to scrape away the sticky, dark skin at the base of the stem. Cut the stems off at the ends.

Dandelion hands

Remember old recipes that direct you to wash something “in several waters”? This is very important with dandelions. A gritty salad is no fun. Wash and wash again, lifting the leaves from the water into the strainer each time, leaving the dirt behind. When the water is clear, you’re good to go.

Wash and wash again

Remember to pick only in those places you know haven’t been sprayed, and avoid roadside ditches. Now, get out there with your trusty knife and have fun!

For a dandelion salad recipe, click here.

Wilted Dandelion Salad with Crispy Onions and Garlic

by Michele Genest, The Boreal Gourmet

Wilted Dandelion Salad with Crispy Onions and Garlic

I’ve kept this salad as simple as possible, reflecting the scantiness of the spring pantry, but the basic recipe can serve as the starting point for several variations. Feel free to add whatever else you’ve got on hand from last year’s bounty–grated carrots or beets, sautéed potatoes, toasted sunflower seeds. I used new dandelions from my backyard, last year’s onion from my sister’s garden on Vancouver Island, and last year’s garlic from a farmer in Atlin, BC.

Suzanne isn’t going to have a lot of oil in her pantry come May 2018, so here I’ve opted to use ghee instead, because she will have access to a cow. Ghee is a great substitute for olive oil. And, a bonus: somehow this salad needed no added salt.

Wilted Dandelion Salad with Crispy Onions and Garlic

4 cups (1L) of washed dandelion leaves, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 small red onion
3 Tbsp (45 mL) ghee, divided
6 Tbsp (90 mL) rhubarb vinegar
1 tsp (5 mL) Uncle Berwyn’s Pure Yukon Birch Syrup

Have the dandelions ready in a salad bowl. Cut garlic in half lengthwise and slice into thin lengths. Do the same with the onion. Melt 2 tablespoons of ghee in a frying pan over medium heat. Add onions and cook until brown and crispy, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain on paper towel and reserve.

Reduce heat to medium low and add garlic to the pan. Watching carefully that it doesn’t burn, cook garlic until golden brown and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain on paper towel and reserve.

Melt the third tablespoon of ghee in the pan. Once it has melted, whisk in the vinegar all at once (stand back, it could spatter a bit), followed by the birch syrup. Allow to bubble for about one minute, remove from heat and pour over the dandelions greens.

Toss in onions and garlic and serve at once.

Makes 4 servings.

Fireweed Shoots – The First Vegetable of Spring!

Fireweed shoots are poking out in Yukon yards!
Fireweed shoots are poking out in Yukon yards!  Photo by Suzanne Crocker

Up North, we love it when patches of fireweed take over our landscape, after all, it is The Yukon’s official flower. But did you know you can eat it too? Suzanne is enjoying having this first fresh vegetables of the season in her diet.

Continue reading “Fireweed Shoots – The First Vegetable of Spring!”

Easy Tip for Re-Growing Celery

Regrowing celery - photo by Claus Vogel
Regrowing celery – photo by Claus Vogel

Claus Vogel is growing celery from celery!
This is a great way to get more veggie from the bottom of a veggie that you would usually cut off anyway. Take the base from a stalk of celery, rinse it off, and put it in a shallow cup of warm water on a window sill. Change the water daily and keep an eye on it to see if any regrowth begins. You’ll see remarkable results in days and if you want, you can transplant the celery outdoors and have a great harvest at the end of the growing season.

Apparently this also works with romaine lettuce and green onions, and veggies similar to celery like fennel and celeriac.  Louise Piché was successful at re-growing ginger from a piece of store bought ginger root, and some adventurous people have even re-grown pineapples from the tops!
Anyone else had any success with re-growing veggies?

To Market, To Market: Let the Season Begin!

The Market is Open

The first Fireweed Market of the season opened Thursday at Shipyards Park in Whitehorse on a beautiful sunny day—let’s hope Thursdays stay sunny for the rest of the summer!

A small but mighty crowd of farmers, vendors and enthusiastic customers were there, reconnecting after the long winter, sharing gardening tales, buying bedding plants, and snacking on kettle popcorn or samosas. Buskers busked, little kids chased each other through the stalls and the occasional dog was spied eyeing up  the snackers and hoping for a dropped pakora.

Katie Young and her trusty assistant with stacks kettle corn, a market favourite

Supplies of produce were limited, as always at the beginning of the season, but Bart Bounds and Kate Mechan of Elemental Farms had swaths of starts for sale. (Bart said recently, “My ultimate dream is to get everyone in the Yukon growing their own vegetables and I grow the seeds.”)

Bart Bounds with his and Kate Mechan’s starts

Local cook and author Michele Genest came home with starts of beets, cabbage and kale from Elemental Farms, (she’s not a gardener, but this year, in solidarity with Suzanne, she’s determined to succeed) a dozen eggs (the blue ones are so beautiful) from Michael Ballon, and an order for two chickens and two turkeys from Grizzly Valley Farms. All in all, she reports, a most satisfying day.

Allan and Joan Norberg of Grizzly Valley Farms

It won’t be long before markets open in Dawson, Mayo and Haines Junction. Here’s to a great growing and eating season!

Market bounty: blue eggs and starts

Refreshing and Versatile Birch Sap

Birch sap makes a delicious drink fresh from the trees – refreshing water taste with only a hint of sweetness – but packed full of minerals. Birch sap contains natural carbohydrates, organic acids, fruit acids, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, zinc, sodium, iron and copper, vitamins B (group) and vitamin C.  It is said to have diuretic and detoxifying effects on the body, and it has been used as a folk remedy for many ailments in Europe and Asia for hundreds of years.

But birch sap needs to be consumed right away – it doesn’t last more than 24 hours even in the fridge.  Sylvia Frisch, however, tried pressure canning the birch sap and storing it in her root cellar and it preserved very well and tastes great!

Photo by Suzanne Crocker

Also, Sylvia Frisch took advantage of the natural yeasts in birch sap to try and make vinegar.  She bottled fresh birch sap last year and added a few raisins or black currents in each bottle and stored them in her root cellar.  Suzanne and Sylvia cracked one open last week at Birch Camp and it was a delicious light white vinegar. They have bottled some fresh birch sap with local low bush cranberries this year and will see if they have equal success.

Will keep you posted!

Suzanne talked about her search for locally-sourced vinegar on a recent episode of Yu-Kon Grow It on CBC North’s A New Day with host Sandi Coleman.

Photo by Suzanne Crocker

See the Bees, Eh? Dawson Hive Successfully Overwinters

The bees look healthy despite of the challenges for beekeeping in the North
The bees look healthy despite of the challenges for Apiculture in the North
Photo by Suzanne Crocker

David McBurney’s honey bees have survived the winter!

Bees have been successfully overwintered in southern Yukon, but it has been trickier to achieve in the Dawson area due to big temperature fluctuations in March/April,  when it can be +20C in the afternoon heat of the sun and -20C at night.  David and the bee’s success this winter means Suzanne should be able to add a bit of honey to her local diet for this upcoming year.

Suzanne recently talked about sweeteners, as well as her search for vinegar, on a recent episode of Yu-Kon Grow It on CBC North’s A New Day with host Sandi Coleman.

Are you aware of other honey bees that have been successfully overwintered in Dawson or in areas further North? Let us know.
Suzanne visited David McBurney’s honey bees
Suzanne visited David McBurney’s honey bees – Photo by Suzanne Crocker
David McBurney’s honey bees
David McBurney’s honey bees – Photo by Suzanne Crocker
David McBurney’s honey bees
David McBurney’s honey bees – Photo by Suzanne Crocker

Sweeeeeeet! A Bucket of Birch Syrup

Suzanne’s main sweetener for her year of eating local will be birch syrup from Berwyn Larson and Sylvia Frisch’s birch camp not far from Dawson. The sap has been running well and Suzanne is starting her year with a 12-litre bucket of delicious Uncle Berwyn’s Yukon Birch Syrup .

Photo by Scott Buchanan

Suzanne recently talked about her experience at the camp on Yu-Kon Grow It on CBC North‘s A New Day with host Sandi Coleman.

Home-Grown Dawson Onions Still Looking Good in May

Louise Piché, home gardener in Rock Creek, has great success growing onions.  She stores them in a cardboard box in a cool corner of her house and they last all winter.  Here are what remains in May – still firm and looking good.  Her secret to storage is to let them dry very well on newspaper in the greenhouse before boxing them up for the winter.

Photo by Suzanne Crocker

Download Louise Piché’s Seed Guide. Louise is well-known as a wonderful gardener in Dawson, and a frequent prize winner at the Discovery Days Horticultural Fair in Dawson City, Yukon.

Download Louise Piché’s Seed Guide

Inuvik Turns Old Arena Into North America’s Most Northerly Greenhouse

Located 200 km north of the Arctic Circle in the Mackenzie Delta, Inuvik is at the end of the Dempster Highway that runs from Dawson City. It is also home to the Inuvik Community Greenhouse, which bills itself as North America’s most northerly greenhouse.

The project has come a long way since its germination almost twenty years ago. Today it has grown to a marvelous maturity, and according to the Community Garden Society of Inuvik (CGSI), which runs the facility, it is the only Community Greenhouse of its kind in the world.

CGSI is a not-for-profit organization formed in November of 1998. With the help and support of Aurora College, they began by converting a decommissioned building (the former Grollier Hall Arena), into a community greenhouse as a focal point for community development. The objective was to utilize the space to allow for the production of a variety of crops in an area where fresh, economical produce is often unavailable. Based upon the success to date, they believe the Inuvik Community Greenhouse can serve as an effective model for other northern communities.

The greenhouse consists of two major areas: raised community garden plots on the main floor and a commercial greenhouse on the second floor. Garden plots are available to residents of Inuvik, and are also sponsored for elders, group homes, children’s groups, the mentally disabled, and other local charities. A 4000 square foot commercial greenhouse produces bedding plants and hydroponic vegetables to cover operation and management costs.

Today, the greenhouse holds 174 full-size plots. Each full plot is approximately 8 ft. by 4 ft. The rental fee per full plot is $50 per plot. Each member pays a $25 membership fee per year and completes 15 volunteer hours. The greenhouse is naturally heated through the summer by the 24 hour sunlight. The typical greenhouse season lasts from late May to the end of September.

Members are able to grow anything they like, and with the 24hour sunlight, anything is possible! Greens such as spinach, chard, and lettuce grow very well, and many members get multiple crops each year. Tomatoes, carrots, peas, herbs, strawberries, rhubarb, zucchini, and squash are among the common crops. Flowers abound, and rarer crops include flax, cucumbers, raspberries, Asian greens, roses, kohlrabi, and watermelons!

Know of an innovative northern greenhouse project?

Tell us about it!

 

A Spring Treat: Atlin Lake Whitefish

One of the great treats of spring in the Southern Yukon is fresh whitefish from the Yukon end of Atlin Lake. The local fisherman lays a net underneath the ice anytime from late March to early May, and sells his catch under the name Great Northern Fish Company. The season is short and the yield small, but on a good day he can take out 75 fish, each one about weighing about two kilos.

This year, on a blazing, blue-sky morning, Michelle Genest’s husband went out to Atlin Lake to help with the harvest. He came home in the late afternoon with 10 kilos of beautiful pinky-white filets wrapped in 10 500-gram packages. (The harvesting, fileting and packaging all happen on the same day, and the guts feed the eagles and the ravens.)

Michelle and her husband cooked a batch that night, in the simplest way imaginable: dipped in egg and flour and fried in butter. Glorious. Atlin Lake whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis) cooks up firm and tender and is so delicate in flavour you have to pay attention. The reward for that attention is the flavour of lake, sky, and a sparkling spring day on the Yukon end of Atlin Lake in late April or early May. It doesn’t get much better.

There’s nothing better than fresh-caught whitefish cooked in butter.

Our local fisherman already has a full roster of customers, but for information on how and where to catch your own whitefish in the Yukon, visit http://www.env.gov.yk.ca/hunting-fishing-trapping/wherefish.php.

Pemmican – Wild Kitchen Style

Another great pemmican recipe!

This “Traditional Raspberry Pemmican” recipe comes from the show and blog “Wild Kitchen”.  Wild Kitchen is a project based in the Canadian sub-arctic about people who harvest wild food. 100% of the cast and crew are from the Northwest Territories and they work with what is available on the land to prepare nutritious recipes with a distinct wild flavor.

You can watch Wild Kitchen episodes here and on their website you can find their awesome recipes.

Traditional Raspberry Pemmican recipe by Wild Kitchen
Traditional Raspberry Pemmican recipe by Wild Kitchen

 

Suzanne’s Greenhouse Looking Good

Suzanne’s greenhouse is planted and the tomatoes and cucumbers are growing well — along with an early crop of radishes and baby spinach, which were seeded in the greenhouse in mid-April, when the greenhouse was still unheated. They are ready for harvest!

The tomatoes were started indoors on Feb. 25th and transplanted to the greenhouse on May 8th, where they were heated at night with the wood stove.  The cucumbers were started too early on Mar. 15th and transplanted to the greenhouse on May 8th,  but they appear to be adjusting well.

Things are looking good in Suzanne’s greenhouse as planting season nears. Photo by Tess Crocker.

Pemmi-can-do with Ch’itsuh

Ch’itsuh or pemmican - photo by Mary Jane Moses from Old Crow
Ch’itsuh or pemmican made by Mary Jane Moses from Old Crow

Suzanne is looking for ways to keep her ever-hungry 17-year-old son, Sam, full next year.  Sam suggested that pemmican might be a reasonable locally-sourced snack food that will help him get through the year, especially since he spends lots of time doing physical activity.  After all, Canada was practically built on pemmican. Trading posts would seek this high-protein and high-energy food from the natives, and it was used to sustain the voyageurs, especially in winter,  as they traveled long distances.

Mary Jane Moses of Old Crow shared some of her ch’itsuh (pemmican) with Suzanne.  Click here for a couple of classic pemmican recipes:

Have a recipe for pemmican for Suzanne to try?  Please share here.

 

 

 

 

“Le Refuge” – France Benoit’s charming farm in Yellowknife

France Benoit in Le Refuge - Photo by Up Here Magazine
France Benoit in Le Refuge – Photo by Up Here Magazine

In a beautiful article by Up Here Magazine, France Benoit opens the gate to her home and farm “Le Refuge“, which she has lovingly built and tended to for the past 25 years. On this property, by the shores of Madeline Lake in Yellowknife, France grows a variety of vegetables to feed herself as well as to sell in the local farmer’s market, of which she is a founding member.

France has been kind enough to share many growing and homesteading tips with Suzanne, which we have featured on FWE, and her creative and smart solutions for northern greenhouses keep us inspired.

Thanks, France!

Vadzaih: Cooking Caribou from Antler to Hoof

The Caribou cookbook has arrived!  Learn how to use all parts of the caribou. Traditional recipes such as ch’itsuh (pemmican), head cheese, and Caribou Bone Broth combined with new recipes such as Caribou Wonton Soup and Mushroom and Caribou Brain Ravioli.

Vadzaih: Cooking Caribou from Antler to Hoof" published by The Prcupine Caribou Management Board
“Vadzaih: Cooking Caribou from Antler to Hoof” published by The Porcupine Caribou Management Board

Continue reading “Vadzaih: Cooking Caribou from Antler to Hoof”

Celebrating the Porcupine Caribou Herd

On April 21 and 22 Vuntut Gwich’in citizens, conservationists, scientists, members of the public and families got together to celebrate the Porcupine Caribou Herd with two days of presentations, films, panel discussions, kids’ activities, and caribou tastings at the Beringia Centre in Whitehorse. The event was hosted by Yukon Conservation Society (YCS), Vuntut Gwich’in First Nation (VGFN) and the Porcupine Caribou Management Board (PCMB), all of whom have a keen interest in the health of the herd.

There was lots to celebrate. The herd is robust and growing in size. The relationship between northern indigenous peoples and the caribou that sustains them is respectful and strong. Harvest management strategies and hunter education programs are helping to ensure the herd continues to thrive.

But there’s bad news, too. Of 15 barren ground caribou herds the Porcupine herd is one of only two that are known to be increasing. The others have decreased alarmingly in recent years. Barren ground caribou have been listed as threatened in Canada. And the Porcupine herd’s calving grounds in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge are once again under threat from oil and gas exploration. VGFN and their First Nations and Inuvialuit neighbours, conservationists, scientists and concerned citizens are working together to ensure protection of the herd, and Porcupine Caribou: Celebrate and learn about the herd was part of that effort.

To watch the proceedings from the Porcupine Herd celebration event, visit yukonconservation.org.

Author/Environmentalist J.B.MacKinnon Does Yukon Tour

J.B. MacKinnon, the award-winning independent journalist and author whose works include The 100-Mile Diet, a bestseller that helped catalyze the local foods movement, will be speaking and showing slides this week in the territory as part of the 2017 Yukon Writers’ Festival. The Festival is produced by Yukon Public Libraries in partnership with the Canada Council for the Arts.

All events are free and open to the public. MacKinnon’s Yukon schedule is as follows:

Monday 1 May
7 p.m. – 8 p.m. Dawson Library

Tuesday 2 May
1:30 – 2:30 p.m. Pelly Crossing School (students only)
7:30 – 8:30 p.m. Faro Library

Wednesday 3 May
7:00 – 9:00 p.m. Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre, Whitehorse
15-minute reading along with other Festival authors plus reception

Thursday 4 May
7:00 – 8:00 p.m.Teslin Library

From vanished bison herds to collapsing fish stocks, the natural world as we know it is a shadow of what it used to be. In his talk and slideshow, bestselling author J.B. MacKinnon revisits a time when grizzlies roamed the Canadian prairies, wolves howled in England, and ten times more whales swam in the sea. He calls for an “age of rewilding,” in which we rebuild a wilder world everywhere—from the city to the backcountry, and also in ourselves.


J.B. MacKinnon’s latest book, The Once and Future World, was a national bestseller and won the international Green Prize for Sustainable Literature. Other works include the seminal local-food book The 100-Mile Diet (with Alisa Smith), and Dead Man in Paradise, which won the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Nonfiction. J.B. also writes in the field of interactive documentaries, most notably for the NFB’s Bear 71, which premiered at Sundance. As a journalist, he appears in both major outlets such as The New Yorker and National Geographic and vanguard publications like Adbusters. J.B. is a rock climber, mountain biker, snowboarder, and—yes—a birdwatcher. He lives in Vancouver.

Yu-kon Grow It – Brian Lendrum: Goat farming pioneer


In this episode of Yu-kon Grow It,  Sandi Coleman interviews Brian Lendrum and Susan Ross, who have been goat farming outside of Whitehorse for decades and producing delicious goat cheese.

Pioneers in the dairy business around Whitehorse, Lendrum and his wife found that their area around Lake Laberge had perfect conditions for raising goats, with rolling hills and lots of different vegetation for the goats to enjoy. On a regular basis, they would produce about 30 litres of milk a day, which translates to around 3 to 4 kg of cheese. Every week, they would take around 10 kg of their freshly made goat cheese to the local market, and sometimes sell out within the hour. They also experimented with goat milk yoghurt and sold bottled goat milk.

Continue readingYu-kon Grow It – Brian Lendrum: Goat farming pioneer”

Celery Flavor All Year Round

One way to have celery year round from the garden is to grow celeriac root. Weird looking but quite flavorful, celeriac root is edible raw or cooked, and tastes similar to the stalks of common celery. 

It grows well in the North, keeps well in cold storage all winter, and apparently can have a shelf life of approximately six to eight months if stored properly. You can serve it roasted, stewed, blanched, or mashed, or added to your favorite stews or casseroles.  Peel it and chop it and use it in place of fresh celery in cooking.  Excellent combined with potatoes when cooking mashed potatoes! 

Celeriac Root - Wikimedia Commons
Celeriac Root – Wikimedia Commons

 

Our Baby Spinach is Growing Up

You may remember an earlier post  where we mentioned Riley Brennan’s success growing an early crop of spinach in an unheated greenhouse in Dawson and France Benoit’s similar success  with an early crop of Asian greens.  Suzanne tried planting spinach seeds this year in mid-April in her unheated greenhouse and they have sprouted.  Hopefully they’ll provide a crop of baby spinach by the beginning of June!

Photo by Suzanne Crocker

Traditional Plants Community Info Session in Dawson City

On April 18th, Dawson City based ethnobotanist Leigh Joseph hosted a community information session at the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre .  It was a great chance for Dawsonites to learn about the area’s traditional plant foods and medicines, as well as an opportunity to take part in the conversation.
Ethnobotanist Leigh Joseph
Ethnobotanist Leigh Joseph working with Devils club, an important medicine plant in Squamish.

Tickled Pink – How April’s Full Moon is special for growing


Tonight, April 11th, is the date of this year’s Pink Moon, and everyone is talking about it on social media. But what makes the Moon pink on this particular date?

Sorry to disappoint you, but turns out the Pink Moon isn’t actually of a rosy hue. The title “Pink Moon” is credited to Native American tribes, many of them practiced the custom of naming every Full Moon according to the cycles of the year (like Cold Moon in December or Harvest Moon in September). In the case of this moon, the “pink” comes from the wild ground phlox that rapidly blooms in the springtime. The different full moons were a way of tracking the seasons ahead, and you can still find this knowledge in the Farmer’s Almanac.

Continue reading “Tickled Pink – How April’s Full Moon is special for growing”

Low Bush Cranberry Vinegar Becomes Low Bush Cranberry Refresher

 

Suzanne samples and approves

Miche here. About five days into this second round of vinegar experiments, a thought occurred to me—low bush cranberries keep forever in the fridge. That’s because–oh yeah—I remember this–they are high in benzoic acid, a naturally occurring preservative. Are low bush cranberries, then, a good choice for making vinegar? Well, maybe not.

I called Sheila Alexandrovitch, who has a homestead far down the Annie Lake Road 30 kilometres southwest of Whitehorse and asked if she’d ever fermented low bush cranberries. (Sheila is a locally famous for her fermentation knowledge. Her caveat: “I don’t know the science, I just know what works.”) She said, “Oh no. Low bush cranberries actually stop the fermentation process.” Aha!

Continue reading “Low Bush Cranberry Vinegar Becomes Low Bush Cranberry Refresher”

Don’t Judge a Vegetable By Its Cover!

Another tasty, although not so pretty vegetable that grows well in the Yukon is the root called salsify.  Don’t let the hairy dark exterior intimidate you. Peel it, and it tastes similar to a very sweet parsnip, and you can eat it raw or you can cook it as you would cook most root vegetables.

Salsify, peeled and unpeeled - photo by Suzanne Crocker
Salsify, peeled and unpeeled – photo by Suzanne Crocker

Salsify might not be easily found in the average grocery store, but it actually grows wild in many places in the world, especially the Americas.

Purple Salsify flower- Wikimedia Commons
Purple Salsify flower- Wikimedia Commons

But not everything is under the ground: the flowers from the salsify root are gorgeous to look at, and also edible! The shoots can be used like asparagus, either raw or cooked, and the flowers can be added to salads.

 

 

Kohlrabi Crackers!

by Suzanne Crocker

Kohlrabi is not a vegetable you will often find in the grocery store.  However, it is a root vegetable that grows well in the Yukon.

Green Kohlrabi- Wikimedia Commons
Green Kohlrabi- Wikimedia Commons

It doesn’t look so inviting from the outside, but slice into it and it is tender and delicious – raw or cooked.  Suzanne’s husband, Gerard, discovered that it slices into crunchy and fresh tasting crackers quite easily!

Kohlrabi Crackers with cream cheese, chum salmon caviar and fresh local dill- photo by Suzanne Crocker
Kohlrabi Crackers with cream cheese, chum salmon caviar and fresh local dill- photo by Suzanne Crocker

Suzanne tried some sliced fresh local kohlrabi crackers with a delicious cream cheese and chum salmon caviar topping,  with a sprinkling of dill – all ingredients local to Dawson City, Yukon!

Not only tasty and healthy, but also a beautiful looking snack!

Ginger in the North?

Louise Piché is experimenting growing ginger this year – by planting a piece of ginger root from the grocery store.  So far it’s doing well!

Louise Piché's ginger is looking great! Photo by Louise Piché
Louise Piché’s ginger is looking great! Photo by Louise Piché

Did you know you can re-grow other vegetables from what you buy in the grocery store? Apparently, you can re-grow celery, romaine lettuce and even herbs like mint and basil. All it takes is a little patience!

Have you re-grown any store bought veggies at home? How did it go?

Early Leafy Greens in a Cold April Greenhouse?

Asian Greens - Photo by Wikimedia Commons
Asian Greens – Photo by Wikimedia Commons

Take advantage of your greenhouse in April and May,  before you plant your tomatoes and cucumbers, to give you an early crop of spinach or Asian greens!

Riley Brennan, of Dawson City, direct seeds spinach in her greenhouse as soon as the soil thaws in April.  She leaves the greenhouse unheated and the seedlings don’t require any covering.   By the time she goes to plant her greenhouse proper in late May, she has a crop of baby spinach to harvest.

Continue reading “Early Leafy Greens in a Cold April Greenhouse?”

Seedy Saturdays and Birch Syrup workshops in Dawson

Next weekend, Dawsonites will have a chance to participate in two amazing workshops!
Seedy Saturdays will be held on Saturday March 25th at the Recreation Centre, and it will include presentations by Karen Digby and Grant Dowdell about northern gardening and by Scott Henderson about mushroom cultivation.
The following day on Sunday the 26th, there will be a Birch Syrup workshop in which participants will meet at the Rec Centre and then go hunting for Birch sap.

There are limited spaces on both, so make sure you sign up soon!

Peanuts and Ground Cherries Growing in the North!

Ground cherries in their husk - wikimedia commons
Ground cherries in their husk – ph. Wikimedia commons

If there is something exotic you wish to grow in the North, ask Louise Piché of Rock Creek, Dawson City, Yukon.  Louise is a well known gardener in Dawson and a frequent ribbon winner at Dawson’s annual Discovery Days Horticultural Fair.  She loves experimenting with new and colorful varieties.  She has successfully grown peanuts and ground cherries (aka golden berries) as well as asparagus, giant pumpkins and buckwheat.

Louise has generously shared her ‘tried and true’ cultivars that grow well in Rock Creek, which you can view on our seed page.   This year she is experimenting with ginger, turmeric, artichokes and pink potatoes.

We will keep you posted!

Continue reading “Peanuts and Ground Cherries Growing in the North!”

Recipes for Suzanne! Sunflower Seed Soup, New Potatoes with Pumpkin Seed Pesto

Suzanne Crocker loves nuts. She really loves them. So how is she going to get by without nuts for a whole year?

Easy–She’ll eat seeds instead! Sunflower seeds, Styrian pumpkin seeds. She’s recruited a couple of farmers to grow the pumpkins, and she’s ordered up some Russian sunflower seeds to plant in her own garden. Both varieties are high-yield; in fact Styrian pumpkins are grown for their seeds, not their flesh. The question is, will the Dawson growing season be long enough for the seeds to mature? We don’t know. But here are a couple of recipes Suzanne might use, should she be successful. Call them aspirational. Oh. But the olive oil might be a problem…not so many olive trees in Dawson…

Here are two delicious recipes containing seeds, Sunflower Seed Soup and New Potatoes in Wild Onion and Pumpkin Seed Pesto from The Boreal Feast.

Enjoy!

Toasted sunflower seeds and roasted garlic work magic together in this fabulous fall soup

 

Pumpkin seeds and wild onions=northern pesto!

 

Hear it on the radio: CBC Yukon’s “A New Day” catches up with Suzanne

Great news!

The CBC morning radio show “A New Day” hosted by Sandi Coleman on CBC Yukon, has started a  new regular column called “Yu-kon Grow It”, which will air every other Wednesday morning between 7 and 7:30 am. On this segment,  Sandi will check in with Suzanne about her “First we Eat: Food Security North of 60” project, as well as featuring other Yukoners involved in local food issues such as Miche Genest and other guests.

Sandi Coleman will next check in with Suzanne on Wednesday March 8th, between 7.00 and 7.30 am on CBC Radio Yukon.

Don’t forget to tune in!

You can listen to the first interview with Suzanne and Elyn Jones here,

 

Northern Food Network’s 1st Webinar – Dawson’s TH Working Farm School and Shirley Tagalik from Arviat, Nunavut

If you are interested in issues of Northern Food Security, consider signing up for webinars with the Northern Food Network.

Their First Webinar is taking place Monday, Feb 27 from 10-11 am. It will feature Dexter MacRae & Darren Bullen,  from Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Teaching and Working Farm and Shirley Tagalik and team, from Arviat Wellness and Arviat Greenhouse.

The Northern Food Network (NFN) is co-hosted by the Arctic Institute of Community-Based Research (AICBR) and Food Secure Canada (FSC) as a space for people working in and interested in northern food security to share, learn about best practices across the North and advance collective action on food security.

Sign up here for this great opportunity.

Local Fertilizer in Arviat, Nunavut


When you live in a fly-in community in the North, shipping by plane can be very expensive, especially for heavy items such as soil and fertilizer.

The people behind the community greenhouse  in Arviat, Nunavut, have taken on the very important issue of food security by devising a strategy to grow their own produce.

And one of the biggest obstacles they have found is that the local soil lacks nutrients. Commercial soil works fine, but it is costly and it needs to be flown in, which impacts the sustainability of the project.

Arviat's Greenhouse, Photo by Arviat Goes Green
Arviat’s Greenhouse, Photo by Arviat Goes Green

Continue reading “Local Fertilizer in Arviat, Nunavut”

Arviat goes green

Many northern Canadian communities do not have the luxury of the rich soil found in southern Yukon.  This is the case for the fly-in community of Arviat, (population 2,800) – the second largest community in  Nunavut.

Arviat Map, Nunavut, Canada
Arviat Map, Nunavut, Canada

In 2014 Arviat built a greenhouse beside the school to see if they could grow their own vegetables with local soil and local fertilizer. And they have been very successful!

Continue reading “Arviat goes green”

More Baby Animals!

It is a wonderful thing that our farmers have the ability to overwinter and breed livestock in the North!

Red and black piglets from Aurora Mountain Farm - Whitehorse Yukon
Piglets on Aurora Mountain Farm, Whitehorse – Photo submitted by Simone Rudge

Piglets, Calves, Kids and Chicks are a Spring ritual at Aurora Mountain Farm  in Whitehorse. Aurora Mountain produces certified organic chicken, eggs, hay and vegetables (including garlic, yum!) available seasonally from their farm. They also offer delectable wild crafted preserves, jams & mustard, and even handmade goat milk soap!

Continue reading “More Baby Animals!”

Sweet and Crunchy Local Carrots in January in Dawson?

Klondike carrots
Klondike Carrots! – Photo by Suzanne Crocker

Yup!  Suzanne has been munching on sweet & crunchy carrots from Kokopellie Farm all January.  “They taste like they are freshly picked only even sweeter!” offers Suzanne.

Otto Muehlbach, whose farm is in Sunnydale (Dawson), has designed a large root cellar to store carrots, potatoes, cabbage, beets, and other root veggies all winter long.  The trick seems to be 2-4 degrees C and keeping the humidity and condensation low.   If you can find a way to get to Sunnydale, Otto’s fresh root vegetables are sold from his house on Saturdays between 2 and 5 pm as long as it is warmer than -30C.

It is definitely worth the trek!

New Life on the Sadlier’s Farm!

Newborn calf and two kids
Newborn Klondike calf and two kids

Introducing Lily’s calf and Cleo’s kids – born today, Feb 9th, at the Sadlier’s Klondike Valley Creamery in Rock Creek, Dawson, Yukon. Successful overwintering and breeding of livestock in the Klondike!

Thank you Jen and Becky for welcoming Suzanne and Tess to witness the births.

Stay tuned Dawson – Jen’s delicious local cheeses will be coming to you later this year or next!

Grant Dowdell Shares His Best Seed Varieties

After close to 40 years of supplying fresh local produce to Dawson City, Yukon, Grant Dowdell, a legend in local growing, is retiring.

Grant Dowdell
Photo by Suzanne Crocker

As his retirement gift to the community, Grant is generously sharing some of his tremendous farming knowledge accumulated over 40 years of growing vegetables in the Klondike: Grant and Karen’s ‘tried and true’ seed varieties as well as their planting and harvesting schedule

Grant Dowell and Karen Digby's Seed Guide
photo by Suzanne Crocker

Let us know your ‘tried and true’ produce seed varieties that grow well in your area.

Continue reading “Grant Dowdell Shares His Best Seed Varieties”

Suzanne has challenged herself to spend one year eating only food local to Dawson City, Yukon – to create a public conversation about food self-sufficiency with communities across the North.

Welcome Northerners!

Suzanne will use her one-year challenge to start a public conversation  about food self-sufficiency with communities across the North.

Through social media and this website, First We Eat wants to collaborate with people and organizations that can help Suzanne’s journey by sharing knowledge, both traditional and innovative, on eating local North of 60 – not just in Dawson, but all across the North.

Continue reading “Suzanne has challenged herself to spend one year eating only food local to Dawson City, Yukon – to create a public conversation about food self-sufficiency with communities across the North.”