Memorial Day weekend is around the corner, and Alaskans are ready to celebrate.
For some, it will be the first fishing trip of the season or time to put the plants in the ground. Others are getting the camping gear ready. For many, it will be a chance to visit all their favorite farmers markets.
And there is quite a lineup of markets, some with special events.
The South Anchorage Farmers Market is hosting a WineStyles event that benefits the Alaska Farm Land Trust. The benefit offers shoppers the opportunity to taste a variety of wines.
Vendors this week include a number of stands with plant starts, both vegetables and flowers. New to the market this week is Mat Valley Meats, with a large variety of Alaska-grown meats including beef, bison, elk and pork.
Glacier Valley Farm will have the first of the season's English cucumbers, while Seldovitch Family Farm will have radishes, white turnips, green onions, romaine lettuce, spring salad and fresh eggs.
Alaska Vegan & Gluten Free will have red lentil dahl soup with cilantro, pico de gallo, homemade corn tortilla chips, lemon cupcakes and bread. Other vendors include: Gray Owl Farm, Flattop Farm, Earthworks Farm, Northern Flowers, The Blue Poppy, Joan's Jams and Jellies, Non-Essentials, Alaska Sprouts, Sweet and Sassy Kettle Corn, Northern Lights Mushrooms, Arctic Choice Seafoods, Drool Central and Maryjane's Breads and Cinnamon Rolls.
The Spenard Farmers Market will feature music on Saturday by a trio of University of Alaska Anchorage music students and alumni. Fill your basket while jazz music fills the air.
Saturday will be the first Quest Card SNAP program match day at the market, where the first $20 in food assistance qualified users spend at the market will be matched with $20. "Use it for produce, bread, honey, seafood ... even vegetable starts like tomatoes," says Cindy Shake, the market's media and community relations volunteer chair. "The Quest Card match program will occur every Saturday this season at the Spenard Farmers Market."
Look for new vendor Fire Island Rustic Bakeshop with breads, croissants, tarts and scones; Alaska Corn Company with a large selection of kettle popcorns; Sweet Steel with hand-crafted steel garden art and fresh jumbo cookies from Illusions Bakery; Wild Rose Alaska Natural Harvest with mustards, vinegars and jams/jellies; Glacier City Gardener with unique and hardy perennials not commonly found in the Anchorage market; and Alaska Gourmet with Alaska-caught salmon, halibut, scallops and crab.
The Anchorage Farmers Market will feature Arctic Organics, Bushes Bunches, Northern Flowers, The Persistent Farmer, Turkey Red baked goods and ACAT with compost tea.
Rob Wells, The Persistent Farmer, will have ferns for shady areas in the garden, dahlia starts, vegetable starts and tumbler tomato hanging baskets. He says the ferns are going fast and this may be the last market they're available.
Arctic Organics will have vegetable and flower seedlings, along with tomato plants, apple trees, fresh greenhouse-grown basil and some storage beets.
"Memorial always signals the start of gardening season in Alaska," says Sarah Bean of Arctic Organics. "This year we can agree confidently that it's safe to get growing!"
The Center Market at the Mall at Sears is open both Wednesday and Saturday. A.D. Farm will have loads of pork products, along with fresh eggs, storage potatoes and beets. Country Health Foods will have grass-fed beef, yak, Alaska Sprouts products, jams and local honey.
Alaska Vegan & Gluten Free will be at the market with the regular lineup of items, including soups, bread and homemade tortilla chips.
Choose Food Wisely will have fresh ready-to-eat fermented whole food probiotics and drinks.
Grills will be heating up all across Southcentral during the weekend. For those who won't be catching their own fish for the fire, commercial fisheries are doing well.
"The second opener of the Copper River was better than the first, and we will have fish in here (Wednesday) morning," says Dannon Southall of 10th & M Seafoods. "We will have Copper River sockeye both headed and cleaned as well as fillets in house. There will be a few kings mixed in but not many, so it is best to call ahead of time.
"If your heart is set on kings, we will have fresh troll kings in from Southeast."
The troll-caught kings are going for $16.95 per pound for head-on fish and $22.95/pound for fillets. Call ahead for pricing on the Copper River fish.
Halibut is available ($10.50/pound for whole fish and $19.95/pound for fillets), along with fresh Prince William Sound spot and side-stripe shrimp.
Steve Edwards lives and writes in Anchorage. Contact him at email@example.com.
Local farmers markets
Monday: Mat-Su Farm Market, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Palmer Depot
Wednesday: Center Market, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Mall at Sears, Benson Boulevard and Denali Street
Saturday: Anchorage Farmers Market, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 15th and Cordova in the Central Lutheran Church parking lot; Anchorage Market and Festival, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Third Avenue between C and E streets; Center Market, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Mall at Sears, Benson Boulevard and Denali Street; South Anchorage Farmers Market, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Subway/Cellular One Sports Center at the corner of Old Seward Highway and O'Malley Road; Spenard Farmers Market, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Spenard Road and 26th Avenue
Sunday: Anchorage Market and Festival, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Third Avenue between C and E streets
By STEVE EDWARDS
Daily News correspondent