Things are turning green at the Center Market. Fresh, Alaska-grown lettuce and herbs are showing up regularly at the market held weekly at The Mall at Sears. On Wednesday, greens from both Alaska Seeds of Change and Alaska Natural Organics will be available.
Ryan Witten, greenhouse manager at Alaska Seeds of Change, said he and members of the youth staff will be at Wednesday's Center Market with a lettuce mix, chervil, bok choy and chives. While the market is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Witten said the Seeds of Change booth will be open 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
"Everything will be freshly pulled from the tower on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning," Witten said.
Anchorage Community Mental Health Services is managing the Seeds of Change project, which employs local youth. They are growing the vegetables hydroponically in a Midtown building.
Witten said Seeds of Change will only be at one market weekly for the near future, but he hopes for expansion.
"Working with our youth to build a strong local community is a core part of why Alaska Seeds of Change was founded," Witten said. "Alex Davis has been working very hard to build a conscious community of vendors at the Center Market. The Center Market is a noncompete market, requiring vendors to work together and coordinate on the crops and products that they'll be bringing to market.
"Anchorage is a large community with lots of need for growers of different types and sizes to provide fresh, high-quality, locally grown food. Selling our produce at The Center Market felt like a natural fit for us."
Alaska Natural Organics won't have its own booth space, but will have produce available at Davis' A.D. Farm booth. Davis will be carrying live lettuce and spring mix from ANO.
"The Center Market is really just a great way for us to bring our spring mix and our living heads to retail customers," said Bob Shaw of Alaska Natural Organics.
"We received hundreds of requests over the last few months to find a way to bring fresh lettuce direct to consumers and we feel this is going to work really well for us. It's also a really nice addition to the produce normally available in midwinter at the market; nothing like super-fresh greens for flavor!"
Shaw said the lettuce grown hydroponically at the former Matanuska Maid building in Midtown is a bit different than most grocery store varieties available currently.
"It's not your typical iceberg or romaines so commonly shipped up to Alaska. The frilly and small-leaf lettuces that we grow don't travel as well, so they are not typically shipped to Alaska at any time. They have such a great flavor and texture that we are getting great feedback from restaurants and consumers alike."
Shaw said the living lettuce is sold as full heads with the roots attached.
"Customers who bring home a living lettuce clamshell can add a half ounce of water to the bottom of the clamshell and pop the lettuce in the fridge where it will keep for a couple weeks easily," he said. "Since the lettuce leaves our farm alive, it stays fresh longer and retains more of the nutrient value longer."
Shaw said Alaska Natural Organics is producing more than 17,000 plants each month on a rolling harvest, with fresh produce twice a week. The company's spring mix is offered in nearly 20 local restaurants and living basil is available in Fred Meyer stores.
Other Center Market vendors include:
A.D. Farm: Davis will be selling the live lettuce and spring mix from Alaska Natural Organics. Additionally, he has local honey, grass-fed beef, cuts of young goat, raspberry jam, balsamic vinegar from Mosquito Mama, Alaska Sprouts items and barley products from Alaska Flour Co. Davis also has his farm's vegetables and pork products, including chops, ribs and sausages. Davis will be at all three markets.
Monica's Confection Connection: Look for our gourmet brittles, regular and salted caramel, gummies and fudge. Fudge varieties include red velvet, chocolate walnut and mint chocolate. The sweets will be available at all three markets.
Earthworks Farm: Dee Barker will have her Abeille Alaska skin care and body products, including a new batch of shampoo and conditioner.
Rempel Family Farm: The Rempels will be at Saturday's market with orange and purple carrots, green cabbage, purple onions, turnips, red beets, kohlrabi, parsnips, five varieties of winter squash and 12 kinds of potatoes.
Plenty of vendors are lined up for the Thursday market at The Mall at Sears.
The Spice & Tea Exchange will have "family favorite spice blends," said owner Liz Eldridge. "We want to help make meal night an easy success with choices like Fiesta Taco, Coconut Thai and Tuscany Seasoning."
Farm 779 will have their vegan-gluten free almond bread, cookies and "perfect snack" mix. The ferment lineup includes Yensis onions, Valley-sourced vegetable krauts and blends, three kind of aged kvass and four varieties of coconut kefir.
Nonessentials will have chicken eggs, breads, butter cookies, fruit pies, shortbread, and birch and berry syrups.
Duane Clark will have scallops, side strip shrimp, black cod, grass-fed beef and yak, honey, salsa, jams, zucchini relish and vegetables.
Drool Central will have probiotic treats for dogs in four varieties. Daisy Nicolas also will have a Saturday pop-up market from noon to 3 p.m. at New Sagaya City Market.
Steve Edwards lives and writes in Anchorage. Contact him at email@example.com.
Local farmers markets
Monday in the Valley: Colony Farmers Market, noon-6 p.m., 610 S. Valley Way, Palmer
Wednesday in Anchorage: Center Market, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., The Mall at Sears, Benson Boulevard and Denali Street
Thursday in Anchorage: Thankful Thursdays market, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., The Mall at Sears, Benson Boulevard and Denali Street
Friday in Anchorage: Center Market, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., The Mall at Sears, Benson Boulevard and Denali Street
Saturday in Anchorage: Center Market, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., The Mall at Sears, Benson Boulevard and Denali Street