Pesto, pickles, salsa and salad dressing take a turn for the original — and local — when made by Foraged and Found, a small Ketchikan business that was recently featured in Edible Alaska magazine.
Edible Alaska is a publication that regularly features recipes and harvesting or gardening tips centered around Alaska. Foraged and Found was featured on the publication's website this past month.
Founders and owners Jennifer Brown, Ciarra Perro and Chelsea Goucher spoke with the Daily News from their processing facility's kitchen on Thursday morning to describe how they came to be featured in the publication.
"We are a specialty foods company that focuses on manufacturing products that really showcase the wild bounty of the Southeast Alaskan area," said Brown. "That's kind of our elevator pitch, I guess."
The products are all made from local ingredients — such as bull kelp or wild berries — that the women harvest in the Ketchikan area. Many of the ingredients are aquatic plants.
Brown said that communications with Edible Alaska began after being contacted by the Alaska Small Business Development Center this April.
"In light of the COVID pandemic, they (SBDC) are trying to feature a lot of small businesses around Alaska, just trying to kind of promote them, showcase them, give them the opportunity to have a little bit of a PR platform," Brown explained. "And so our SBDC rep, Shelley Hill, reached out to me a couple months ago just asking if we wanted to be featured by the SBDC in conjunction with Edible Alaska. And we're such huge fans of that publication that it was a no-brainer for us."
Brown believes that Foraged and Found was contacted because their values aligned by the Edible Alaska ethos of "featuring Alaskan makers and shakers of the food space."
"It was just kind of being visible enough, I guess, to the folks at SBDC that they wanted us to be promoted," Brown said.
"Being featured in a magazine that I think personally aligns with how I think we feel — you know, promoting local food, shopping locally, being sustainable, creating jobs, building communities — it's a great magazine with a great ethos, and so being featured in it is super exciting," Goucher commented.
Goucher also said that after being one of a handful of small businesses featured by Edible Alaska, "it's really fun to see what other people are doing around the state to kind of grow both the local food economy and manufacturing."
However, Goucher believes that Foraged and Found stands out from other start-ups.
"I think that we're unique in that we're an all-women owned business," Goucher explained. "That's pretty exciting. And then I think what we're doing is unique, as far as using the aquatic plant. We definitely have some unique products ... I think being all women owned is a huge thing for us, and we've really kind of bootstrapped it."
Those unique products include such items as kelp salsa in multiple flavors, sea asparagus pesto, jams and jellies from local berries and kelp-based salad dressings.
Perro said that these unique products all stem from a mutual appreciation that the women have for local and sustainable harvesting.
"I guess it started about three, four years ago (as) kind of just a hobby that all of us were pursuing," Perro explained. "We had a pretty nice group of girls who all enjoyed harvesting. Jenn came up with making pickles out of the bull kelp that we have all around the area and we made an extra large amount of it and decided to volunteer at one of the Blueberry Festivals that we have here, and it ended up being a big hit, so we decided to move forward with that and try to actually make something from it."
For Brown, the attention that the women garnered at that 2017 Blueberry Arts Festival "switched on the lightbulb" in her brain.
"It's a hobby that transformed into a promising start up," Brown said.
In the future, the faces between Foraged and Found hope to upgrade the business.
"We're trying to scale up right now from a small cottage industry, basically, into something larger and commercial and outward facing," Goucher explained. "We really want to bring the flavors of Alaska to people and palates who aren't familiar with Alaska, or aren't in this state. So we're really putting our focus there."