The snow that fell outside my window at the Daily News yesterday served as a reminder that it may take longer than expected before any fresh local vegetables come on the scene. A second reminder came in an email from Rob Wells, Palmers persistent farmer.
"The Anchorage Farmers Market will open on May 11," he wrote, "a week later than I thought."
This is the market that operates from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays in the parking lot of Central Lutheran Church at 15th and Cordova. The opening will still be "in good time for this growing season," Wells promised -- and just in the nick of time for Mother's Day, which is May 12 for anyone who may have forgotten.
Wells said he will make a Mother's Day Special consisting of a calendar showing off his colorful dahlias and running from this month until May, 2014. It will come along with a 6-inch dahlia start along with some chocolate treats. The price is $25 and you can get a good look at it at thepersistentfarmer.com.
"For folks picking up their preordered dahlia starts or Tumbler Tomato Baskets, I will be calling starting May Day," that's today, May 1, to arrange pick up dates. "I will also be offering tomato starts, including Stupice, a variety well suited for our climate, ferns for landscaping projects and certified seed potatoes."
Knowledgeable planters say we can start planting potatoes now, for those who can't wait to start digging.
An exception to the no fresh green stuff lament is Alaska Sprouts, selling a good supply of greens and shoots as well as lettuces at today's Center Market in The Mall at Sears. Duane and Teresa Clark say they also have Alaska honey, Cranberry Ridge goat cheeses, grass fed beef, free range duck and Alaska seafood, including shrimp, salmon and those yummy Alaska scallops.
There's more local meat at the Center Market. A.D. Farms has pork chops, roasts, loin roast, steak ground pork, spicy sausage, Italian sausage, breakfast sausage patties and more. They're taking orders for their 40-pound meat boxes. Also on hand are "about 70 dozen" fresh duck and chicken eggs, Delta barley flour and barley cereal. And members of the root crop class of 2012 are still to be had, including parsnips and a lot of potatoes: Rempel, Yukon Gold, German butterball, Magic Molly, Russian banana and more.
Alaska diners may be on hold with regard to vegetables, but out in the Bering Sea, whaling season has begun with some large bowheads already brought in. I had the good fortune to receive a traveler from those regions who showed up with a pound and a half of fresh muktuk.
I know, I know. Whenever the subject of food comes up, one can find oneself in a deeply emotional quarrel. Carnivores, locovores, vegetarians, piscotarians and vegans all have reasons justifying why they do or don't eat something.
I look at it like this: The life of every living thing is of equal value. A worm's life is as important to that worm as mine is to me. It's a hypothesis; I can't prove it one way or the other. But all systems suggesting that one life is more important than another ultimately seem complex and arbitrary, so that's what I'm going with for the time being.
Anyhow, you gotta eat. I figure each life I consume is equal to one Karmic Unit (KU), for want of a better name. A breakfast of one potato and two eggs totals 3 KU. A side of bacon adds like 0.02 KU, because it's maybe 1/50th of a pig in fried form. A dozen scallops amount to 12 KU.
But a serving of bowhead -- assuming that one whale makes at least 2,000 full-meal plates of food -- is 0.0005 KU or less. One could eat whale three times a day for 100 years and not rack up the Karmic debt of one shrimp cocktail.
My visitor and I enjoyed the fresh whale boiled, fried and broiled. At the end I was left with about 1/2 cup of whale grease. The oil of a bowhead is sweet, clean and clear. What better use than for baking cookies? Here's a quick recipe:
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar or molasses
1/2 cup whale oil
1/2 cup softened butter or lard
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Flour, just enough so it doesn't stick to your fingers.
w Mix all ingredients together except the soda and blend until creamy. Mix the soda in a little warm water (I used the water in which we boiled the muktuk) and add it in. Knead in the flour. Shape into 1-inch balls and flatten slightly on a greased cookie sheet. Bake in an oven preheated to 375 degrees for about 12 minutes.
Steve Edwards is out of state enjoying greens fresh from the field this week. If you have a suggestion for a future Market Fresh column, please contact him at email@example.com.