Wild And Edible Plants: Alaskan Treasures



This video is about our study of wild and edible plants, some of Alaska’s treasures.

My 20 years in the village of Ouzinkie taught me a great deal about myself.

It also taught me valuable lessons that I would use later to teach me the attitudes I needed to create a successful online business.

I surrounded myself with a circle of friends with similar interests and together we learned a great deal about our Spruce Island world and about each other. We gained a wealth of knowledge that helped us grow.

One of my most rewarding experiences while teaching adults in the village of Ouzinkie, Alaska, was the establishment and development of my study group on wild and edible plants. We soon added medicinal plants to the mix as well.

We started with four members: Angeline Anderson, Georgia Smith, Sasha Smith and me, Fran Kelso. The group soon grew, as we found more people interested. From the lofty name of the “Ouzinkie Botanical Society,” our group soon degenerated into “Plants Class.”

We met once a week, usually at Sasha’s house. We shared what we knew, studied reference materials, and occasionally were treated to a guest teacher flown in by our sponsor, Kodiak Community College.

When possible, we foraged every weekend, and once a month we had a pot luck at Sasha’s, preparing our meal from wild plants supplemented with wild fish or game main dishes.

Our gathering trips became historic enactments of such trips made by earlier people. We learned the natural growing cycle of the plants and harvested at the peak of their growth and development.

We had so many good adventures that it is hard to choose which ones to share in this video. Rest assured — there will be others.

In early spring, we often walked to Garden Point on the end of Spruce Island. Here, behind the long beach lay a lush meadow, abundant with long grass and containing dark, rich soil, great for planting.

Here one found the original village garden spots, little-used by now. A couple of families still planted potatoes there, but for the most part, the garden land lay fallow.

However, it still bore a rich crop. From the dark soil grew a garden-full of stinging nettles (Urtica genus), still small enough in the spring to make very tender eating. They are excellent if you harvest them when they are only a few inches high. Later in the year, the plant grows tall and tough, and only the top few leaves can be gathered.

We picked the nettles with gloves on, as the formic acid in the plants would sting the hands. Once the greens were cooked, the acid disappeared.

Nettles are rich in protein and vitamins C and A. They also contain iron and some other minerals. Nettles are good cooked alone, or included in other dishes. One of my favorite recipes is a very tasty casserole dish. Here is the recipe:

Nettle Casserole

  • Enough nettles to pack a 3-cup measure when cooked
  • 1 package dry onion soup mix
  • 1 pint sour cream
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Boil nettles five minutes or until tender; drain well, and chop into small pieces. Pack tightly to make three cups. Mix with soup mix, sour cream, and cheese. Saute slivered almonds in butter until golden brown and sprinkle over the top of the casserole. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Later in the spring or in early summer we’d go back to the rocky point to pick goosetongue (Plantago maritima). This tasty green grew in large clumps among the rocks on the point.

We just picked the greens, not the tall seed-stalk, which looks much like that of its relative, common plantain, or Plantago major. The leaves themselves are long, slender, and somewhat succulent, with little “thorns” along their edges, offering easy identification.

Goosetongue can be cut into green-bean-sized pieces, steamed, and seasoned with a little butter, or vinegar, if you prefer. You can add a handful to a pan of peeled and boiling potatoes, minutes before serving.

One time a group of 14 of us (pretty good in a village with a population of 240) hiked across the island to the back side of Big Lagoon. Only Sasha knew the trail. We came out right on target, to a sand flat filled with goosetongue.

We brought garbage bags for that harvest, then took our greens home and froze them. What a treat on a cold winter day — spring preserved in a jar.

Another harvest we did later in the summer was for wild rose petals. Again, Sasha knew the way.

She had taught me her tradition of keeping a kettle of tea concentrate on the back of the wood stove. When she wanted a cup, she’d throw a handful of dried rose petals in the bottom of her cup, add tea “stock” and fill with hot water. The petals gave the tea a faint rose-like taste that was delightful.

Sasha showed us a hillside completely covered with Rosa Nutkana bushes, so we all could gather plenty. One year when we went for petals, we’d had a lot of rain and the Katmai River was higher than usual. To get to our hillside, we had to cross the stream.

Three of us made it across. Sasha stood on the bank. “My boots aren’t high enough. I don’t want to come across,” she complained. Just then Rosemary swooped up alongside her, picked up our stocky little friend, and waded into the water.

Sasha was not pleased. She kept yelling, “Put me down,” and some things in Russian we didn’t want to ask her to translate.

Rosemary put her down next to us, where we stood staring in amazement, not daring to laugh. “Okay, I’ll put you down,” said Rosemary. For obvious reasons, we went home a different way that day.

From the information we gathered, we eventually put together a book that was published by Alaska Northwest Publishing in 1980. It was titled, “Plant Lore of an Alaskan Island,”

Since its publication, I have put out a second edition, with more drawings and more plants. It took me five years to complete that edition.

How do these experiences relate to online business? They point out many things. For one, if we are part of a group that is united by a desire to learn, we can all help each other. That is exactly what happens in our Wealthy Affiliate community. We are all working for the common goal of online success, and we help each other whenever possible.

The value of our product, the plant book, is great. With the book, we can pass on what we have learned to those who follow. And, once the book is written it helps us remember what we learned.

By detailing our lessons in this way, we are preserving valuable knowledge as well as a glimpse of the early culture of the island. Our satisfaction with our project is amplified by our role in saving valuable information.

In my Wealthy Affiliate business, I have learned so much and met so many fine companions on the journey. If you, too, are still searching for the right opportunity for building an online business, please visit my website, https://build2winaffiliates.com and click on any Wealthy Affiliate banner. You will be taken to a place where you can learn the full details on this remarkable company. I, for one, feel I’ve found a home.



Fran Kelso
In reply to KC.So glad you enjoyed the video, KC. Be sure to watch the one on berries, too. Another is coming up soon.

I originally wrote the book to preserve the information we had learned. I, too, feel it is important to know as much as you can about your environment. You never know when that knowledge may be the most important information you can have.

Thanks for commenting — do watch more videos. I think you will enjoy them.

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I’ve had an interest in edible indigenous plants for a long time. Each geographic area has its own variety to choose from. There’s a lot to eat if you know where to look and it’s not a bad skill to have because you never know when it could mean the difference between going hungry or not.

Recent events have shown just how vulnerable the food supply system can be and learning even basic foraging skills could prove invaluable. Florida offers many foraging opportunities virtually year around where the northern states can be a bit more seasonal.

It’s all about getting familiar with your environment, then formulate an actionable plan that provides the greatest opportunity for success. Your site https://build2winaffiliates.com provides the resources to optimize the chances of success for anyone wishing to start an online business

Great informative video, Fan.

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Fran Kelso
In reply to Riley.Alaska is a magnificent place.  I do hope you get to come soon.  And, like you, I hope the lockdown ends very soon.  It is not fun.

Glad you enjoyed the post.

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Fran Kelso
In reply to Benson.Nettles grow in many places, not just Alaska.  In fact, some species of our plants can be found in many varied locations.  It might not be the same species, but it will be a relative.

Nettles like to grow in disturbed soil, like around a garden, because they like nice, rich, dark earth.  The formic acid is a good identifier.  If you ever brush through a bunch of nettles, they will sting you.  The Native kids here call them “burners.”  Ask gardeners in your area, as they might very well know where the nettles are growing.

You’d be amazed at how good that recipe is.  I love creating gourmet dishes from wild plants!  One time I gave a class to a school in Old Harbor.  We went hiking first, to identify and gather.  Then we went back to the school kitchen and made a meal for the whole school.  It was a remarkable experience.  I had kids from first-graders to teenagers, all in the kitchen together.  I assigned everyone tasks, and you’d have thought we were a professional team, we worked so well together.  When the meal was finished, we invited in the school, and they ate everything!

What a treat for me…and for all of us…

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This is a very good post about some of the will and also edible alaskan  plants. I have never been to Alaska before but I have always wanted to be in the state. I hope this lockdown ends so that I can be there very soon. Great post you have written about this good adventure

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Fran Kelso
In reply to evans.I really enjoyed learning about the plants that grew around me.  Amazing, how many of them were useful in some way…in fact, most of them had a good use.  There’s a saying I like:  “A weed is a plant for which we haven’t yet found a use.”  So many of our “invasive plants” are very valuable…like the dandelion.  You can eat it; you can use it as a coffee substitute; it’s also medicinal.  Drink dandelion tea to help with the production of bile.  Dandelion is the liver plant, and can be quite useful if you have liver problems.

I love learning about plants!  It’s so wonderful how many useful green things grow around us.

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Hello Fran, thanks for being thoughtful to share this great idea with everyone. Some similar ideas have died with those who discovered it because they never thought of sharing the knowledge of writing it down, so I appreciate your effort on this. Naturally made food is best for the body system because there isn’t any form of chemical that can harm the individual. I have never been to Alaska so this is my first time learning about everything in this article and I love your Nettle recipe and what you make it into, i believe would be great. What are the chances of seeing this plant in other places?

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There are yet a lot of unknown facts to be discovered in plants. Plants are naturally made artifacts created by God and to be utilized by man but we are yet to  fully utilized it. It gladdens my heart when I see people with passion to go into nature to get a cause of actions and their efforts are usually rewarded handsomely.

Wild and edible are not just everyday plant we see around us, they are most treasured plant in nature that has a lot of hidden treasure in them one just needs to bring it out scientifically

2 thoughts on “Wild And Edible Plants: Alaskan Treasures”

  1. Your article and video about your group learning about the wild and edible plants that you rightly call Alaska’s treasures were most informative and enjoyable as well.  The romance of living in Alaska is always present for me in any adventure about life in this part of the world.  The fact that there is so much that grows naturally that would add to our diets to supply some of the things that seem to be missing in the foods we eat makes me more interested in what grows naturally.

    You and your band of friends who are taking the initiative to learn and share with all of us who don’t live where you do is such a good thing.  I read with a snicker your statement about your book helping you guys remember all the things you have learned.  You would think that once learned the information would be there.  However, that isn’t always true.  Your video contained some interesting and delightful images.  Was a fun share.  

    As you have lived in Alaska so long, have you fully rigged your living quarters to make things as easy to live there as possible?  I have a friend who left Alaska after she reached about 70 years old, as she was tired of the cold winters.  Do you plan to leave at any point?

    • Thanks for your fine comment.  No, I will never leave here.  Winters are hard, sometimes, but I have a good heater and a wood stove for colder nights.  Now that I am 81 (82 in one month!) I have a house that is all on one floor, so that makes things easier.  

      I do agree about the value of adding wild plants to our diets.  Wild edibles are higher in vitamin content than their garden-grown cousins, so they are very valuable as meal additions.  Now that I’ve moved to Gustavus in Southeast Alaska, I rely more on the store.  When I lived on Spruce Island, I knew where everything grew, so it was comparitively easy to find what I wanted.  Lots of berries here, though — and the wild strawberries will be ready very soon.


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