I was 7 years old when I caught my first fish. It was during a canoe trip with my family on the Swanson River, somewhere between Sterling and Nikiski. I remember my dad helping me drop a line in a shallow, calm pool. When I looked down I could see dozens of fish swimming; their shiny silver scales reflecting through the warm water.

Full disclosure: the fish weren’t very big, but my chances of catching one were good. With a little bit of beginner’s luck, one took the bait.


It was around that same time I began learning about the types of wild berries I could eat in Nikiski. Blueberry and raspberry bushes surrounded my house and my brother, sister and I would eat them by the handful.

The berries were sweet and plentiful. We would invite the other neighborhood kids to come harvest our found treasure. It was my early introduction to the kinds of things that grow in Alaska.

I would consider most of my family full-fledged green thumbs; they’ve perfected their gardening techniques throughout the years. We had a small orchard of apple and cherry trees, beds of strawberries and sometimes more vegetables than we could eat.


Now grown, I realize how lucky I was to be able to harvest food from my backyard or eat freshly caught fish most summer days.

Since that first catch on the Swanson, I mostly fish for salmon or halibut. I’ll take weekend trips to Nikiski and Kenai to harvest vegetables from the garden and “borrow” fish from family if I haven’t had the chance to fill my freezer; thankful I have people willing to share their Alaska grown goods, along with some of their favorite recipes.



Smoked Salmon Brine

1 gallon cold water

1 quart Yoshida (any flavor)

1 cup pickling salt

2 cups brown sugar

2 tablespoons garlic powder

3 tablespoons cayenne pepper

Grilled Salmon

Coat salmon with a dry rub (spices) of your liking. Brush the fish with pesto while grilling. Serve with mango salsa.

Rhubarb Crisp 

Crispy, tart and sweet. Serve topped with vanilla ice cream, if you’d like.

Halibut Olympia 

A classic from my family table that you can bring to yours.

Harvesting Alaska is an ongoing series exploring all the ways Alaskans live off the land. KTVA welcomes you to share your recipes by sending them to web@ktva.com and by using #myharvestAK on social media. Your recipe may be featured in an upcoming Harvesting Alaska.