Alaska, nicknamed "the last frontier," lies far to the north of its 48 contiguous siblings, greatly surpassing any one of them in size. Given its geographical location, and its snow-capped mountains, awe-inspiring glaciers and crystal cold waters, it is no wonder that Alaska seems distinct from other US states. It also has a unique and fascinating history: The region's first inhabitants are thought to have arrived from Asia some 60,000 years ago via a land bridge formed during the Ice Age. In 1741 Danish explorer Vitus Bering claimed the region for Russia. At first, the Russians commuted for furs, but by 1784 they had begun a permanent settlement. To this day, reminders of the Russian colonial period are still in evidence in many place names and buildings, including onion-domed Orthodox churches. The United States purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867, and in 1959 Alaska became the 49th state.
With over 34,000 miles of coastline, Alaska's cold, clear waters provide a mouthwatering array of fish and seafood, including oysters, scallops, sablefish, halibut, and cod. Alaska is one of the world's foremost areas for wild salmon production, with its yearly catch amounting to over one-third of the world total. Salmon harvesting is carried out with a view to ensuring a lasting stock for the future and the concept of sustained-yield management is even included in the state constitution.
Salmon spawn in fresh water and then migrate to the sea. When mature, they return to fresh water to continue the cycle, sometimes traveling hundreds of miles. Salmon do not eat once they return to fresh water, so as they leave the ocean they are well-supplied with fats and nutritional elements to sustain them during their long voyage. There are five varieties of salmon harvested in Alaska: the largest and least abundant is the King or Chinook salmon, valued for its red flesh and rich flavor. There are also sockeye, silver (or coho), chum, and pink salmon (the smallest and most plentiful). Besides being sold fresh, the Alaska salmon catch is also made available in quick-frozen, smoked and canned forms.
Another of Alaska's most famous seafood products is Alaska King Crab, renowned for its sweetness and tenderness. This giant crab is harvested in the early winter by fishermen who brave the rough, cold seas and transport it to processing plants where it is cleaned, cooked and quickly frozen.
Not all of Alaska's food products come from the water, however. Though the winters are cold, the long summer days provide excellent growing conditions - in fact, a million acres of land in Alaska are farmed, with an emphasis on dairy, livestock and vegetables. In the northernmost part of the state, the sun does not set for 84 days in summer. All that sunlight can produce some giant vegetables, so don't be surprised if you find a cabbage that weighs in at 70 lbs! America's "giant vegetable king," John Evans, using a carefully-developed organic soil stimulant system, certainly leads the pack, growing huge specimens that have won him hundreds of prizes, and nine Guinness World Book of Records listings.
Photo of the Recipe Page : Alaska Seafood
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