Ethnobotany of the Naukan speakers, Chukotka District, Russian Far East and Western Alaska

Ethnobotany

The attached link is an article written by Kevin Jernigan, Olga S. BelichenkoValeria B. Kolosova and Darlene J. Orr that compares uses of plants including berries from the past through elder recollections compared to present uses.  They also compared usage with communities in Nome and Kotzebue. Edible plant use has dropped overall from previous years (13%) but the awareness of medicinal uses has skyrocketed (+225%) no doubt because of the interest in antioxidants and other bioactive components. I completed a similar project in the mid 1990s in Ft. Yukon, Alaska and found about a 20% drop in native plant uses, but my project was before all the interest in antioxidants. 

Some of the plants whose use had actually increased include: wild chives (Allium schoenoprasum), tilsey sage (Artemisia tilesii), crowberry (Empetrum nigrum), blueberry (Vaccinium uliginosum), lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea), river beauty (Epilobium (Camerion) latifolium, mountain sorrel (Oxyria digyna), sour dock, (Rumex arcticus), and cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus). The plant locally called stinkweed or tilsey sage is interesting because I found it mentioned in nearly every ethnobotanical reference written in Alaska. It has extensive medicinal uses throughout the state and now the Russian Far East. All the berries mentioned are also the most popular berries harvested in northern Alaska. The berry with the greatest increase in uses from the past is mesutaq better known as masru, lingonberry or low bush cranberry. No surprise there!

 

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Healthy Northern Berries Improve Glucose Utilization

This study from Norway centered around glucose control in the liver. The researchers studied the pathways of glucose uptake and described the enzymes used in the final steps of carbohydrate digestion as alpha-amylase and alpha glucosidase. Any chemical that inhibits these enzymes will slow glucose uptake in the liver and be a benefit to anyone dealing with type 2 diabetes. They studies a lot of berries (bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), blackberry (Rubus fruticosus), black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa), black currants (Ribes nigrum),  bog whortleberry (Vaccinium uliginosum), cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus), Crowberry (Empetrum nigrum), Elderberry (Sambucus nigra), Lingonberry (Vaccinium vitas-idaea), raspberry (Rubus idaeus), red currant (Ribes rubric), rowan berries (mountain ash, Sorbus aucuparia), and sea buckthorn (Hippophae (Elaeagnus) rhamnoides). The phenolic compounds in all the berries inhibited response the enzymes that promote glucose uptake. Some berries had other chemicals that actually promoted glucose uptake: mountain ash and bilberry being the highest. The berries with the most powerful inhibitors were crowberry, cloudberry, bog whortleberry (bog blueberry), and lingonberry with crowberry being ranked number 1!

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Taste testing Finnish Honey

This is an interesting research paper from the University of Turku, Finland, the Finnish Beekeepers Association and the Tallin University, Estonia. The researchers conducted sensory taste testing and completed chemical profiles of several Finnish honeys (buckwheat, cloudberry, lingonberry, white sweet clover, willow herb (fireweed) and mixed flower honeys (composed of flowering mustards, clover and raspberry, and a member of the genus, Vaccinium). They found a total of 73 compounds that contribute to the aroma of the honeys. They also tested flavor, smell, color and texture with a panel of 62 people. Buckwheat honey was described as malty with a cheese- and fecal-like and cow- and barn-like aroma. Some called it “earthy”! They found that cloudberry honey had the highest level of aromatic compounds of those tested. It was described as pungent, solvent-like, herbal and citrus-like. Lingonberry honey was described as pleasant and sweet with notes of vanilla and caramel. The others were rated well because they were most familiar to the panelists and their pleasant aromas. The honey samples that rated poorly because of strong, unfamiliar odor, flavor and aftertaste as well as dark color were buckwheat and cloudberry! Both were strongly negative in consumer appeal.

I have eaten buckwheat honey, and it is as strong and “earthy” as described, more like a molasses rather than honey, but still good especially for baking. To lump cloudberry in the category is amazing! I have never seen a beekeeper sell cloudberry honey – not enough flowers in one location, I suspect, but it doesn’t sound like anything I would invest in! Lingonberries and fireweed – yes!

Kortesniemi, M., Rosenvald, S., Laaksonen, O., Vanag, A., Ollikka, T., Vene, K., Yang, B., Sensory and chemical profiles of Finnish honeys of different botanical origins and consumer preferences, Food Chemistry (2017), doi: Honey article

 

Thaw-degree days in Fairbanks

For a garden club presentation I gave this past spring, I graphed the weather records from the Fairbanks Experiment Farm to look at changes over time. The biggest one goes back to 1948 and is for thaw degree days. This chart is a broad indicator of the warmth of the season. Average daily air temperature records are subtracted from a baseline temp of 32F. This assumes that plant growth occurs at any temp above 32F but not below. This is not quite accurate because cell sap does not freeze at exactly 32F, and there are Alaska native plants that can grow at temps that are a few degrees below 32F. On the other end of the spectrum, garden plants have all kinds of lower limits to growth- cool season crops are often around 40 – 45F below which growth stops. Warm season crops are more like 50F and above. However, choosing 32F at least allows a comparison of the seasons. The thaw degree- day (TDD) chart is split into three just to fit it onto a page. Check out the differences among years and the mean TDD on each chart. The timeline is waaaay too short to make conclusions on climate change, but it is interesting to see the incredible variation from year to year.      1948 – 2016 Thaw degree days

More anti microbial activity in lingonberries

This study explored the antimicrobial activity of the antioxidant phenolic compounds in lingonberry juice and two other fruits in spoiled fruit juice. They studied Asaia lannensis and  Asaia bogorensis, two well known bacteria that are a significant contributor to the degradation of non-alcoholic fruit juices. These bacteria create biofilms  that cause turbidity and adhesion of the juice on surfaces holding the juice. These biofilms, in turn, can cause illness in susceptible individuals. The bacteria are also becoming resistant to a lot of the chemical preservatives used now in juices. The authors found that lingonberry juice added to the product shows a 67% reduction in adhesions from the bacteria. We all knew lingonberries were great. The evidence keeps mounting!

Wild Fruits as Antiadhesive Agents Against the Beverage-Spoiling Bacteria Asaia spp.

Hubert Antolak,  Agata Czyzowska  , Marijana Saka , Aleksandra Mišan , Olivera  uragi´c and Dorotea Kregiel Institute of Fermentation Technology and Microbiology, Lodz University of Technology, Wolczanska 171/173, 90-924 Lodz, Poland; agata.czyzowska@p.lodz.pl (A.C.); and Institute of Food Technology Novi Sad, Bulevar cara Lazara 1, 21000 Novi Sad, Serbia;

Abstract: The aim of the study was to evaluate antioxidant activity and total phenolic content of juice from three different types of fruits: elderberry (Sambucus nigra), lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea) and cornelian cherry (Cornus mas), and their action against adhesion of bacterial strains of Asaia lannensis and Asaia bogorensis isolated from spoiled soft drinks. The antioxidant profiles were determined by total antioxidant capacity (2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl, DPPH), and ferric-reducing antioxidant power (FRAP). Additionally, total polyphenol content (TPC) was investigated. Chemical compositions of juices were tested using the chromatographic techniques: high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry (LC-MS). Adhesion properties of Asaia spp. cells to various abiotic materials were evaluated by luminometry, plate count and fluorescence microscopy. Antioxidant activity of fruit juices expressed as inhibitory concentration (IC50) ranged from 0.042 0.001 (cornelian cherry) to 0.021 0.001 g/mL (elderberry). TPC ranged from 8.02 0.027 (elderberry) to 2.33 0.013 mg/mL (cornelian cherry). Cyanidin-3-sambubioside-5-glucoside, cyanidin-3-glucoside, and cyanidin-3-sambubioside were detected as the major anthocyanins and caffeic, cinnamic, gallic, protocatechuic, and p-coumaric acids as the major phenolic acids. A significant linear correlation was noted between TPC and antioxidant capacity. In the presence of fruit juices a significant decrease of bacterial adhesion from 74% (elderberry) to 67% (lingonberry) was observed. The high phenolic content indicated that these content indicated that these compounds may contribute to the reduction of Asaia  spp. adhesion.

2017 VVI

Healthy sausages?

I first read the title to this article and wondered if this wasn’t a joke – trying to make sausages healthy by adding sea buckthorn juice. Sounded pretty extraordinary to me. But then I read past the abstract and learned that the researchers are trying to find alternatives to chemical additives to sausages. In other words, they were trying to find a natural alternative to artificial additives to their product. In this case addition of 1.5% sea buckthorn juice increased the shelf life, reduced lipid oxidation and improved the microbial quality of the meat product. Its an interesting look at the complexities of food science.

2017 Hippophae

Anna Marietta Salejda,1 Agnieszka Nawirska-OlszaNska,Urszula Janiewicz,1 and Grahyna Krasnowska Department of Animal Products Technology and Quality Management,Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences,ChełmoÅLnskiego Str., 51-630Wroclaw, Poland and Department of Fruit, Vegetable and Nutraceutical Technology,Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences, ChełmoÅLnskiego Str., 51-630Wroclaw, Poland

 

 

The present study was aimed at evaluating the effect of a sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides L.) fruit extract on selected quality properties of cooked sausages.The ethanolic extract of sea buckthorn fruit (SBE) incorporated at the highest level (3%) significantly affected the pH, weight losses, and instrumental color parameters of sausages. The SBE deteriorated organoleptic properties of sausages like juiciness, overall appearance, texture, and taste; however the sausagesmanufactured with 1.5% SBE were scored higher for color and almost the same as control for smell acceptance. Textural parameters like hardness, springiness, gumminess, and chewiness of cooked sausages decreased along with SBE addition. After 28 days of storage, the samples with 1.5% SBE addition were as springy, hard, and gummy as the control ones. Incorporation of SBE increased the shelf life of sausages. The highest inhibition of lipid oxidation was observed in the samples manufactured with 1.5% SBE.The SBE significantly improved the microbial qualities of sausages.

Alaska Strawberry History

For anyone interested, here is a short article I wrote a few years ago about the history of strawberry breeding and cultivation in Alaska.      Strawberry history