A Kid's Taste of Alaska
Eat your way through the summer
The arrival of summer means a glorious entrance into Alaska’s most productive season. For children, the famous “midnight sun” unleashes a sense of curiosity and heightened awareness. For parents, summer opens wide the doors of opportunity to nurture our offspring with activities we enjoyed as children, handing down traditions that connect everyone to Alaska’s wild spaces.
But summer, like childhood, is fleeting. That short stretch of time between June and August means cramming in as many family-friendly activities as possible. Caregivers often work outside the home, so capturing a precious moment together, whenever and wherever we can, means balancing spontaneity with planning, and flexibility with rules.
Thankfully, kids are great doers. Their sense of delight at ordinary activities is matched only by the satisfaction of sharing it with an adult.
The following activities are suggested to encourage the growth of the ever-shifting relationship between adults, kids, and Alaska during the brief summer months. Put on your blue jeans and rubber boots. Kick a can. Pick a berry or some seaweed. Pop a carrot into your mouth and crunch loudly. The kids won’t care. All that matters to them is having delicious fun in Alaska’s outdoor places–with you.
AT THE MARKET
Make the most of shopping with kids
Alaska is home to more than 40 farmers’ markets in just about every section of the state, which means that whether you’re home or on the road, your family should be able to find enough ingredients for this healthy, fresh, totally kid-pleasing green salad. A bonus? Use our list to send youngsters on a food-centric version of an Alaska Grown scavenger hunt—they’ll have fun and be more interested in making dinner.
SUPER SALAD SCAVENGER HUNT
Make sure kids know their allowable boundaries within the farm or market area, and that they shouldn’t handle produce without asking first. Most of the vegetables on this list are available late May through September. Encourage children to work together to collect every item on the list, and make sure everyone is carrying a reusable bag to carry their bounty (and some moola to pay for their finds). Here's a list of seasonal items to search for:
CARROTS Carrots come in a variety of colors, so it’s a bonus if you can find white, yellow, or purple in addition to the traditional orange.
CHARD Look for the reddish-pink stalks and dark green leaves.
LETTUCE Bibb lettuce is soft and mild in flavor; green or red leaf lettuce is crunchier and a darker green. Grab what you think your family will like most, or mix and match.
CUCUMBERS Look for dark green skin with a firm texture– no mushy ends.
RADISHES These sometimes spicy veggies can be red or white, and should be firm to the touch.
SPINACH Did you know that many kids will eat raw spinach but not cooked, preferring the fresh, bright green leaves to anything else? Now’s your chance to test this theory.
TOMATOES Tomatoes can be tough to grow in Alaska, but some farms grow these tasty fruits in greenhouses. Try smaller tomatoes cut in half and topping a salad; yellow tomatoes are a fun switch from red, and look like little slices of sunshine on your plate.
ONIONS Try fresh, new, green onions in your salad. It only takes a few small pieces to add a spicy crunch. Taste some first to see how much you want to add.
CAULIFLOWER Another vegetable kids often prefer raw, cauliflower is also very high in vitamin C, making it a perfect salad partner or healthy snack.
GARLIC The garlic will go into your homemade dressing. Look for firm bulbs still in their papery wrapping.
HONEY Alaska-produced honey has many different flavors. Take time to chat with a local beekeeper.
Now that you've got a basket full of salad ingredients, here's an easy dressing recipe the kids can make.
ALASKA’S BERRY BONANZA
Picking, packing, and savoring
Healthy, tasty, and fun to pick, Alaska berries come in all shapes and sizes, and ripen fast thanks to long summer days. Once they understand the varieties and techniques, kids are perfect berry pickers. Plus, it’s an easy way to get the whole family outdoors.
Berries are also one of the healthiest foods on the planet, with antioxidant-rich flavonoids that help keep your brain running sharp (and may even prevent some forms of memory loss). Many berries are high in vitamin C and fiber, so nutritionists recommend we eat 1 cup daily—easy to do during the summer months.
The Cooperative Extension Service at the University of Alaska Fairbanks publishes an excellent guide titled “Alaska’s Wild Berries.” The easy-to-read directions help kids discover just how many things can be made with berries.
Try this crowberry (mossberry) syrup the next time you make pancakes or waffles. It also makes a delicious topping for homemade ice cream.
Tips for successful family berry picking
- Remind kids to only pick berries they know are safe to eat—and with a grown up’s verification.
- Always pick berries in groups, and make lots of noise to alert wildlife that may be nearby.
- For best (and safest) results, wash berries in cold, clear water before eating.
- During the cooking process warn children that berry syrup and preserves are very hot and can burn skin, tongue, or lips if tasted before cooling.
Visit University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service website for tips to identify edible berries.
CREATE A TREAT THIS SUMMER
Alaska’s long summer days mean a season for all things fun, and the delicious process of making homemade ice cream can be part of it with this action-packed method. Great for campgrounds, picnics, or family parties at home, make a batch of ice cream, and then introduce the kids to this version of an old favorite:
KICK THE CAN-THE GAME
After all that ice cream, you may need to run around a bit.
Requires: At least five people, but more players mean more fun. Find a large space; a campground field or local park are excellent places to play.
Rules: One person is "It" (or a team of people if the group is large). Place an empty can in an open space or playing field. With eyes closed, "It" counts to an agreed-upon number while the other players run and hide. "It" then tries to find and tag each player, always keeping an eye on the can. Any player who is tagged is sent to “jail,” usually in sight of the can. The rest of the free players attempt to kick the can away before being tagged out. If they kick the can before being caught, they can set all the captured players free.
GOOD FOOD ON THE GO
Keeping kids full while on the move can be challenging, but this healthy snack option is guaranteed to make the whole crew happy and satisfied. At least until dinner.
GORP is a somewhat mysterious acronym, but most believe it stands for “Good Old Raisins and Peanuts” from early days of hiker lore. Families today know GORP as trail mix; the jumble of crunchy, salty, or sweet nuggets in our backpacks and picnic baskets. Over the years, this popular combination has changed by geographic location and taste preferences.
GORP is a win for traveling families, thanks to its long lasting freshness and blend of protein and carbohydrates. Of course, the addition of sweetness makes it even more appealing to kids, but whatever ingredients you choose, know that young adventurers will be asking for more. I keep GORP in an airtight jar at home on the kitchen counter or in our RV for fast snacking.
KNOW YOUR GORP
- NUTS Any nut is a good nut for GORP, but raw nuts that haven’t been coated and roasted in hydrogenated or soybean oils and salt are a plus.
- SEEDS Seeds, often overlooked in favor of nuts, pack a bonanza of nutrition and add a unique texture to any GORP mixture. Try sunflower or pumpkin for a kid-pleasing combination.
- DRIED FRUIT Dried fruit is a great way to boost blood sugar after a day of hiking or biking. Try to find sun-dried fruits, if possible, to reduce the sugar content, and go Alaskan by adding wild cranberries, crowberries, or blueberries. Of course, there are many fruits available to please a child’s palate, so mix and match at your local grocer or farmers market.
- FUN STUFF Go for fun while exploring Alaska. Whatever sweet treat your family loves, add a bit to GORP for an unexpected boost, especially on long days. Dark chocolate, popcorn, coconut flakes, pretzels, chocolate chips, or miniature marshmallows will do nicely. It’s all about balance.
We put together a winning recipe you can use (but feel free to innovate)!