Reading the North

The Alaska Almanac

Edited by Nancy Gates (Alaska Northwest Books, $14.99)

The blurb: The 33rd edition of the almanac is filled with facts about Alaska's geography, economy, sports, cultures and more, plus the wacky insights of Mr. Whitekeys.

Excerpt: "Three species of salamander, two species of frog and one species of toad are found in Alaska. In the salamander order are the rough-skinned newt, long-toed salamander and northwestern salamander. In the frog and toad order are the boreal toad, wood frog and spotted frog. The northern limit of each species may be the latitude at which the larvae fail to complete their development in one summer. While some species of salamander can overwinter as larvae in temperate southeastern Alaska, the shallow ponds of central Alaska freeze solid during the winter. All these amphibians are found primarily in southeastern Alaska, except for the wood frog, Rana sylvatica, which with its shortened larval period is found widespread throughout the state and north of the Brooks Range."

The Alaska Wild Berry Cookbook

(Alaska Northwest Books, $14.95)

The blurb: First published in 1982, the cookbook's latest edition includes 275 recipes --including breads, beverages, salads, mains, desserts and preserves -- for nearly 50 different types of berries that grow wild in Alaska.

Excerpt: "In this volume we have concentrated our recipes among the more abundant or more popular species of wild berries. Many berries native to other regions are similar to ours and can be used in place of the Northern fruit suggested for recipes here. Cultivated species may also be substituted for wild berries, although one must remember that they are often less tart than their wild relatives and adjustments in the sugar added may be necessary.

"The different forms of raspberries may be substituted one for the other and blueberries likewise. The red currant is a distinctive fruit, and it is probably best not to use other varieties of currants when a recipe calls for red ones. Lowbush and highbush cranberries are entirely different and require different recipes."

Compiled by Matt Sullivan, Anchorage Daily News