It's a bit early to be thinking spring, but compared to most of the Lower 48, it was downright spring-like in Alaska this week.
And while the spring equinox is weeks away, it's not too early to dream.
The Persistent Farmer has its online dahlia catalog available at www.thepersistentfarmer.com. The dahlias are all Alaska grown by Rob Wells. A printed copy of the catalog is available by calling 1-907-745-2789.
"We have 92 dahlia tuber varieties for sale this year," Wells says. "We are still small scale so availability on some is limited.
"We started over 70 new varieties in 2013 and, of those, we have 23 with a tuber inventory large enough to sell. We also have three new collections for sale: 'Bright, Sunny Day,' which is a collection of vibrant yellows and oranges; 'Red, Hot Lovers,' which is made up of intense red, pink and purple dahlias; and our very popular, 'Who's Your Daddy,' which is a compilation of 10 of our best tubers which have lost their tags and we can't identify."
Wells will begin delivering dahlia tubers the first week of March -- just 56 days from now! -- and will deliver plant starts in May at the Anchorage Farmers Market.
For $6 per plant, Wells will start the tubers and have them ready in time to put them in the ground.
"We have a controlled environment in terms of light, heat, space and management. Often, folks will start them on the kitchen counter in front of a window that doesn't get great exposure over the entire day, or they get pushed aside and broken when the groceries come in, etc.," he says. "We can start them with ours in our heated greenhouse, which has an alarm system that constantly monitors the temperature, and maintain them till they are ready to plant. Much less hassle for the customer, they pick them up and pop them in the ground when all danger of frost has passed."
And going Alaska-grown has advantages when it comes to the big, bold, beautiful dahlias.
"Many of the large growers will not ship to Alaska in early March because of temperature concerns. If you want to see a full season of bloom, you need to start them in March (inside) and get them into the ground as soon as possible," Wells says. "Some of the varieties we have would be difficult to even get in Alaska at all.
"All of our tubers have grown a summer at least in Alaska, so they are acclimated to our soils and long days."
From the sea
Dannon Southall from 10th & M Seafoods says the "seafood world is starting to pick up again even though we are in the middle of winter.
"Weather in Southeast has finally laid down enough for them to get out and target the ever wonderful winter troll kings. This week we will have both red and white kings available with the head-on as well as fillets in house."
Another tasty treat is Gulf of Alaska fresh cod fillets.
Also look for fresh spear fish fillets, mahi mahi fillets, sushi-grade tuna, mussles ($5.95 per pound), clams ($6.95/pound) and Alaskan oysters ($12.95/dozen).
At the market
There is always plenty to see at the Center Market at the Mall at Sears on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The market is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays.
Alex Davis of A.D. Farm says the market will continue on both Wednesdays and Saturdays, at least through the end of January. "We are going to continue on with Saturdays through January; depending on customer participation we will continue on further than that. We have lots to sell yet and are happy to continue on with two markets a week."
A.D. Farm will have eggs, pork products, potatoes, carrots and beets.
Duane Clark's Country Health Foods will have grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, spot shrimp from Valdez, king salmon and scallops. He also carries Alaska produced honey and Alaska Sprouts items, which include sprouts, shoots, tofu and lettuces. He will also have goat cheese and cow's milk gouda cheese.
Drool Central is joining the market with locally made natural dog treats and dog meals using Alaska wild fish, Alaska barley, Alaska grown vegetables without artificial flavorings and substitutions, salt, sugar, spices, garlic, onions and other items. This week, there will be a new grainless wet pet meal for dogs and cats.
Alaska Vegan & Gluten Free will be offering cupcakes, tomato sauce, split pea soup, carrot ginger soup, roasted beets and sweet potato soup, red beans and brown rice with pico de gallo, fresh pico de gallo, corn chips and petit baguettes.
The Rempel Family Farm will have 10 varieties of potatoes, sugar pumpkins, a wide variety of squash, beets, cabbage, parsnips, rutabagas, daikon radish and carrots.
Earthworks Farm will be back with their honey and beeswax lotion. And Tilgner's Ruby Red Sockeye Salmon will also have their cold-smoked salmon available.
Steve Edwards lives and writes in Anchorage.