Aqpik is a small herbaceous plant that grows on the tundra around Golovnin. The 3-4 inch high plant consists of small, dark, heart-shaped leaves and a taller flower stem. The flowers are white and the berries turn from a dark reddish-orange color to a pale orangy color as they ripen.
The berries are very important to the Eskimo. The tangy, sweet berries are used as a dessert and eaten usually with milk and sugar. A more traditional method of preparing the berries is to eat them in akutuq, or Eskimo ice cream. Akutuq is made by whipping fat, either reindeer or moose fat, or crisco, and adding berries and cooked flaked fish or fish eggs. The type of fish is usually whitefish but salmon will do, as well. This is high energy food and used to be a necessary part of survival in Alaska. This traditional food is not eaten as much today, due to the presence of modern "cow" ice cream.
While salmonberries are the favored berry among
many of the Elders in Golovin, many years the berry crop is absent. Hulten
explains that aqpik
"does not fruit
in years when heavy frost occurs during flowering time." This may help to
explain why some years are great berry years while other years are poor. The summer
of 1994 was a poor year.