It's official, spring is here!
OK, Market Fresh has no special powers. And we won't guarantee that the snowy, chilly and generally unpleasant weather is behind us.
But we do have outdoor farmers markets opening. And that seems like a true declaration that winter is over.
Two outdoor markets will open Saturday -- the Anchorage Farmers Market at the corner of the 15th Avenue and Cordova Street and the South Anchorage Farmers Market at the Subway/Cellular One Sports Center at the corner of Old Seward Highway and O'Malley Road.
Anchorage Farmers Market, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.:
"After fits and starts with breakup this year, it's looking as if we are finally embarking on spring, and it's time to get our gardens growing," says Sarah Bean, market organizer and co-owner of Arctic Organics. "We'll be bringing in the first taste of spring greens: arugula, basil and a few lettuces that have been growing in the greenhouse the last month or two. We'll also have potatoes -- Yukon gold, German butterball, yellow Finn, pimpernel, magic Molly purple."
Additionally, Arctic Organics will have vegetable and flower seedlings, with varieties that are well-suited to Alaskan growing conditions, along with an assortment of potatoes for planting. They'll also have tomato plants, fertilizer blends and a variety of hanging baskets.
The Persistent Farmer will be at the market with dahlia starts, Mother's Day gift packages, seven varieties of tomato starts, seed potatoes and a few other bedding plants.
Other vendors scheduled this week: Bushes Bunches, Persistent Farmer, Seldovitch Farm, Fee's Seafood. Turkey Red baked good and ACAT compost tea.
South Anchorage Market, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.:
One of the early season highlights will be seafood from Arctic Choice. Among the options are: fresh troll-caught king salmon, halibut, cod, rockfish, sablefish, side stripe shrimp and oysters.
Alaska Sprouts will have plenty of fresh, green items to grab for a taste of spring. (Indoor growing has its advantages in Alaska.) Among the items available are live basil plants; romaine and butterhead lettuces; bulls blood and red radish microgreens; bean, onion and clover sprouts; a three-bean sprouted mix; daikon radish shoots; and fresh tofu.
Other vendors include: Glacier Valley Farm with tomato plants, strawberry plants, hanging tomato baskets and hanging strawberry baskets; Gray Owl Farm with flower baskets, potted plants, bare root strawberries and a selection of sometimes unusual plants and flowers; and the Blue Poppy with poppy plants and other rare flowers.
The market will be accepting Quest cards this year. One the first market day of the month, which includes the opening market Saturday, the market will match Quest card benefits dollar-for-dollar up to $20.
The market is also accepting credit and debit cards.
Center Market continues indoors
Duane Clark and Alex Davis, organizers of the Center Market at The Mall at Sears, are celebrating two years at their current location Wednesday.
"This month marks our 104th week working with the Sears Mall," Davis says. "We will have a card for people to sign to voice their appreciation to our host."
If only he could show some appreciation for the late spring too.
"Normally in spring I have something to say about the work we are doing in preparation for the summer of growing, but the ground is still frozen hard and we are doing all our starts 10 days late and hoping that we aren't jumping the gun," he says.
The market, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, will have fresh sprouts, lettuce, tofu and basil plants from Alaska Sprouts. Davis will have about 70 dozen fresh duck and chicken eggs, along with storage crops from last fall, barley flour and cereal, along with loads of his regular pork products.
Country Health Foods will have grass-fed beef; Alaska shrimp, scallops and salmon; free-range duck; Alaska honey; and goat cheese. Earthworks Farm will have their lineup of beeswax and honey skin lotion products, while Vidalia onions will be available from the Shriners.
Spenard Farmers Market annual fundraiser
The Spenard Farmers Market will host its 4th annual Market Kickoff Fundraiser on Friday at the Taproot Public House. The concert will open with singer songwriter Michael Howard and feature C-Note String Band with High Lonesome Sound. The concert starts at 6 p.m.
The concert raises money for the Spenard Farmers Market, Anchorage's only volunteer led farmers market. The market opens on May 18th on the corner of 26th Avenue and Spenard Road in the parking lot of Chilkoot Charlie's.
From the sea
Maybe a turn in the weather means it's time to fire up the grill.
"With the weather forecasted to be sunny this week a grill top with three amazing Alaskan seafood choices would be a dream meal any mother would want," says Dannon Southall from 10th & M Seafoods.
What three choices? Southall suggests the following:
• Halibut: "Fresh halibut from the Gulf of Alaska is coming in daily and we are running a special this week to celebrate the one of the most important woman in our lives -- mothers. Fresh 10- to 20-pound (halibut) will be available for $9.50 per pound; and, as always, we will steak, fillet or cut into roast for free."
• Rockfish fillets: "Coming from the waters surrounding the beautiful island of Kodiak are fresh rockfish fillets. These amazing fillets are averaging over a pound a fillet and would be a great addition to any grill top this weekend."
• Side stripe shrimp: "Fresh Side Stripe shrimp are being harvested in Prince William Sound and those cold water, sweet shrimp will be in house for $10.95 per pound."
Southall says they also have live Alaska oysters from Kachemak Bay for $12.95 per dozen, along with live Manila clams.
Great Alaska Seafood Cook Off
The second annual Great Alaska Seafood Cook Off, hosted by The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, will take place Wednesday. During the live cook off, six professional Alaska chefs will have an hour to prepare and plate a dish highlighting Alaska seafood. The winner of the contest will represent Alaska in the Great American Seafood Cook Off held in New Orleans in August.
The chefs are: Brett Knipmeyer, Kinley's Restaurant and Bar in Anchorage; Drew Johnson, Kincaid Grill in Anchorage; Stuart Campbell, Icy Strait Point in Hoonah; Kevin Lane, Chinooks Waterfront in Seward; Robert Lewis, Maxine's Fireweed Bistro in Anchorage; and Mandy Dixon, Within the Wild Adventure Company (La Baleine Cafe).
Steve Edwards lives and writes in Anchorage. If you have a suggestion for a future Market Fresh column, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.