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Fruit of Labor – In a Land of Abundance

By Xiao

After staying in Alaska for the whole summer, I came to realize that “frontier” is not just about the gold rush, the prospectors, or the untamed nature. It is also about the old way of living, where people and the land could still co-exist in balance, where the life style could still be sustainable, where people could still live with what nature provides, the subsistence living.

The summer is short here in Alaska, yet nature blooms with full force. Flowers, berries, mushrooms, they are in big patches if you know where to find them and what to pick. There are salmon, halibut, and all kinds of fresh water fish wherever you go. Fisherman, young and old, patiently test their skill and luck. For huntsman, there are games, big and small.

Spent the whole summer in Alaska, we got the chance to experience a slice of that harmony. How can we not to? When we hiked along the mountain passes, the berries with colors of the rainbow dotted the bushes like jewels, right there by your side, right there in your face. We got a booklet from University of Alaska Cooperative Extension Service for berry identification, which was quite useful. In addition, with advice from the local people, we picked wild black berries (crow berry), blue berries, raspberries, salmon berries, red currants, cranberries, watermelon berries (wild cucumber). We had them fresh, we made them into drink, jam, and pie. I have to say, the flavor from the farmed berries is nothing like the wild ones. My favorite is the watermelon berry, it is not too sweet, but it is very refreshing. To me, it has just the right balance between my favorite fruit and vegetable. Pity that there are not a lot of them. We also picked lots of fireweed flowers and made garnet colored fireweed jelly. We saw lots of wild mushrooms in the woods, but we decided to leave them alone since it is trickier to identify them. Maybe next time.

It was one of the coldest summer in Alaska this year. The harvest was poorer by local standard. Yet, to us, it was not just rich in experience, it was beyond our expectation, our fruit of labor.

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