The sun is shining and the days are longer, but we're still a long way from summertime in Alaska.
But over at Far North Fungi, the mushroom-growing greenhouse "feels like the rainforest" and it's a "perfect environment for the mushrooms to thrive," said co-owner Allison Dunbar.
Far North Fungi recently started selling its blue oyster mushrooms at the Center Market at The Mall at Sears. As the season progresses, Dunbar said shiitake and pink oyster mushrooms will join the lineup in the near future. Far North is selling at Wednesday and Saturday markets.
Opening for business in January, Dunbar said Far North is excited to add to the locally grown food network in Alaska.
"Naturally and locally grown produce is extremely important to us," Dunbar said. "With 99 percent of produce coming from outside of the state, more local farmers are needed. Gabriel (DeGange) and I saw a wonderful opportunity to take our mushroom knowledge and turn it into a business that provides local produce year-round to our community.
"We harvest every other day. So, the mushrooms you buy from Far North Fungi are guaranteed fresh and will last up to two weeks. Another benefit of the mushroom being fresh is better flavor. Our oyster mushroom strain has been perfected over the years to ensure the best taste possible, providing the umami flavor everyone desires."
Dunbar said they grow their mushrooms on locally sourced straw and oats. They grow the mushrooms without antibiotics or chemicals.
The regular vendors will join Far North Fungi at the Center Market this week.
Alex Davis will be at all three markets with his cuts of pasture-raised pork and storage vegetables. Davis also has goose and chicken eggs, raspberry jam, honey, grass-fed beef, cuts of young goat, Alaska Sprouts items, Mosquito Mama balsamic vinegar, items from Tonia's Biscotti, Evie's Brinery items and live lettuce and spring mix from Alaska Natural Organics.
Davis' pork cuts include bratwurst, loin roast, chops, fresh side, Italian sausage, spicy sausage, breakfast sausage patties, ground pork, ribs and other portions.
Rob Wells, The Persistent Farmer, is at the market on both Wednesday and Saturday with dahlia tubers.
"I should have all my pre-orders available for pick-up," Wells said. "I am running out of inventory on some varieties but still have many colorful ones available."
Monica's Confection Connection will be at all three markets with a nice selection of sweets. Options include gourmet brittles, regular and salted caramels, gummies and fudge.
Earthworks Farm will be at all three markets with their beeswax and honey Abeille Alaska bath and body care products. "We are featuring our 'Big Irish' St. Patrick's Day gift soap this week along with our usual gift tins and other 'gifty items,' " owner Dee Barker said.
The Rempel Family Farm will be at Saturday's market. Produce options include carrots, purple onions, snow apple turnips, green cabbage, red beets, parsnips, kohlrabi, winter squash and 12 varieties of potatoes. The Rempels also have cuts of yak meat.
A full lineup of vendors are on the schedule for the Thankful Thursdays market.
Duane Clark will have potatoes; carrots; jams with local berries; honey, honeycomb and beeswax; grass-fed beef and yak; black cod, side stripe shrimp and scallops.
Daisy Nicolas will have her Drool Central dog treats at Thursday's market, but will just have a short day — 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. She also will have jams from Keven Wendell of Three Bears Farm, who is on vacation this week. Drool Central will have a pop-up market from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday at Alaska K9 Aquatics.
Non Essentials will have duck and chicken eggs, sourdough bread, banana and zucchini breads, and German cheesecake and berry pies.
Farm 779 will have a large selection of fermented foods, including triple ferment, small batch kombucha teas, two varieties of beet kvass, eight varieties of slow ferment Alaska grown vegetables, coconut kefir and other items, including coconut bee-based body products.
Other vendors include The Spice & Tea Exchange with a new Wild Berry Spring green tea, along with several other green tea options, and Alaska Pasta.
From the sea
Fresh halibut is back.
Dannon Southall of 10th & M Seafoods said this week is a "flaky fish fiesta," with first-of-the-year halibut along with cod and rockfish also available.
"Halibut season started this past Saturday with a few fisherman going out to target everyone's favorite flat fish," Southall said. "Fresh halibut, cod or rockfish fillets are a wonderful way to participate in the flaky fish fiesta. Each of these fish works great in tacos for this weekend's March Madness.
"The weather in Southeast has not been the best. We are hoping it improves later in the week to allow the fisherman to go out and target winter kings."
Southall said the fresh halibut are available as fillets and as whole fish. Whole fish are $11.95 per pound and are in the 10- to 20-pound range.
Steve Edwards lives and writes in Anchorage. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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