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Food and Drink

Local produce is at its peak – now’s the time to hit farmers markets for something fresh

Bright lights Swiss chard is offered for sale by Kenley’s Alaskan Vegetables and Flowers of Palmer at the South Anchorage Farmers Market in front of the Dimond Hotel in September 2013. (Erik Hill / Anchorage Daily News)

Termination dust hasn't hit yet, but it could happen any day. Yet, as summer wanes, veggie options surge.

"The quality of the produce with the cooler weather is as good as you are going to find in Alaska. We are at the peak of the season," says Mark Dinkel of Dinkel's Veggies.

We may be seeing less daylight, but Alaska vegetables make the most of it.

"Every ray of sunshine that pokes out from between the rain clouds seems to inspire rapid growth of the crops," says Sarah Bean of Arctic Organics, who says the cauliflower harvest is particularly heavy right now.

Think you don't like cauliflower? Maybe you've never had it fresh, or had it roasted. It's both sweet and earthy, and delicious hot or cold. Roast up a few heads and you've got meals for days.

Best of all, it's easy. Cut cauliflower into small pieces and add sliced onions; if desired, add some cut-up broccoli and/or thinly sliced carrots. Toss with olive oil and salt. Spread vegetables onto shallow pans and cook at 425 to 450 degrees until tender. Serve over rice or any other favorite grain, with more olive oil.
(Note: Save stems, cores and leaves to make the no-basil "pesto" mentioned in last week's Market Fresh. Use all of the plant and you'll get maximum value for your dollar – plus a really tasty snack or side dish.)

Muldoon Farmers Market

Dinkel's will bring carrots, green and yellow zucchini, new potatoes, sweet onions, broccoli, tomatoes, cauliflower, strawberries, leaf lettuce, cabbage, green beans and pickling cucumbers.

Speaking of pickling: Why not save some of summer's bounty for winter enjoyment? The National Center for Home Food Preservation offers step-by-step instructions on canning, freezing, pickling, dehydrating, jerking, smoking, fermenting and making jams and jellies with or without pectin. The site is an invaluable resource, so bookmark it.

Anchorage Farmers Market

Rob Wells, aka The Persistent Farmer, says that dahlias are in full bloom. "Spectacular" blossoms can be had, singly or in bundles. Surprise someone you love, or add color and texture to your own life.

As noted above, Arctic Organics is awash in cauliflower: white, purple, green, yellow and Romanesco. But save room in your shopping bag for carrots, red and golden beets, broccoli, turnips, radishes, cabbage, rhubarb, fennel, celery, sugar snap peas and zucchini. Loads of greens and herbs will also be available, including arugula, basil, sorrel, collards, rainbow chard, cilantro, dill, thyme, oregano, kale and half a dozen kinds of lettuces.

Other vendors at the market are Brown Dog Farm, Ed & Tina's Krauts & Pickles, Happy Valley Chickens, Mom's Garden, Seldovitsch Farm, Stockwell Farm, Sun Fire Ridge, Turkey Red Café breads and treats, Vang Family Farm and VanderWeele Farm.

South Anchorage Farmers Market

The Rempel Family Farm grows more than 100 types of certified organic vegetables. This week, you'll see carrots, sugar snap peas, green beans, turnips, kohlrabi, broccoli, onions, cucumbers, salad mixes, green cabbage, arugula, bok choi, tat soi, cress, mustard, mizuna, mint, potatoes and parsnips.

If animal protein is more your thing, check out the yak meat from animals fed on grass and organic vegetables, with no added hormones or antibiotics. More of a pescatarian? Arctic Choice is selling coho, sablefish, halibut, oysters, side stripe shrimp and frozen seafood options such as red king crab, scallops and razor clams.

Farm 779 will have fermented products like krauts and kvass, and teas and snacks. Drool Central provides pet meals and freshly baked treats made from Alaska vegetables, grains and fish.

Spenard Farmers Market

Stands will overflow with more of that peak produce from Dinkel's: carrots, green beans, green and yellow zucchini, tomatoes, new potatoes, sweet onions, broccoli, cauliflower, strawberries, leaf lettuce, pickling cucumbers and cabbage.

Midnight Sun Farm is bringing golden raspberries, currants and honey; D&L Enterprises will sell half a dozen varieties of canned pickles and other veggies. Alaska Seeds of Change is stocking salad greens plus basil, Thai basil, dill and chervil.

Brown Dog Farm will sell Tuscan kale, Napa cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, beets and cut flowers. Four Tern Farm has field greens plus Alaska-grown beef in cuts, grinds and soup bones.

Also expected: fermented products, kombucha, turnips, carrots and greens from Chugach Farm; radishes, beets, an "edible flower salad mix," cabbage and potatoes from the Ba-Lescas Brothers; brined pork chops and eggs from Peters Creek Catering; and organic and gluten-free cakes from the Happy Cakery.

Mountain View Farmers Market

The refugee farmers from Fresh International Gardens are selling broccoli, radishes, mustard greens, zucchini, carrots, beets, sugar snap peas, turnips, tomatoes, celery, cucumbers, lettuces, chard and kale. Among the herbal offerings are mint, cilantro, dill, parsley and spice blends.

Other vendors are Cali's Smokey BBQ, the Ba-Lesca Brothers, Vitali and Monica Family Farm, Vang Family Garden, Alaska Bug Bites, Eva's Cupcake Bakery, Edible Alaska and Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezey.

Center Market

Protein and produce share the limelight here. Kohlrabi, snow and sugar snap peas, turnips, salad mixes, new potatoes, strawberries, rhubarb, broccoli, carrots, green beans, collards, chard, kale, spinach, red beets, and several lettuces are fresh from local fields.

Leave room on the plate for grass-fed beef, thick-cut pork chops, ham steak, several kinds of sausage, pork roast, chorizo and fajita meat, or corn- and soy-free duck and chicken eggs. Or keep the veggie vibe going with ginger citrus carrots, lemon dill kraut, Alaska kimchi and other offerings from Evie's Brinery, or sprouts, microgreens, tofu and basil from Alaska Sprouts.

Thankful Thursdays

Expect broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, beets, peppers, kale and other fresh local vegetables. Grass-fed beef is also available.

Or skip the meat and go vegan and/or ketogenic with Farm 779's almond and flax breads, chocolate chip cookies, citrus flair kefir and nut-based kefirs, kombucha, beet kvass, and fermented krauts and vegetable blends.

"We jar happiness, fresh each week, just for you," says Julie Meer.

Donna Freedman lives and writes in Anchorage, and blogs at DonnaFreedman.com.

Local farmers markets

Monday in the Valley: Colony Farmers Market, noon-7 p.m., Palmer Depot

Tuesday outside of Anchorage: Eagle River Farmers Market, 3-7 p.m., Eagle River VFW Post; Farmers Fresh Market, 3-6 p.m., 33955 Community College Drive, Soldotna

Wednesday in Anchorage: APU Farmers Market, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., 4225 University Drive; Center Market, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., The Mall at Sears, Benson Boulevard and Denali Street; Farmers Market at Airport Heights, 3-7 p.m., 2530 E. 16th Ave.

Wednesday outside of Anchorage: Highway's End Farmers Market, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Delta Junction; Homer Farmers Market, 2-6 p.m., Ocean Drive; Soldotna Wednesday Market, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Soldotna Creek Park; Tanana Valley Farmer's Market, 11 a.m.-4 p.m., 2600 College Road, Fairbanks

Thursday in Anchorage: Mountain View Farmers Market, 3-7 p.m., 3543 Mountain View Drive; Thankful Thursdays market, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., The Mall at Sears, Benson Boulevard and Denali Street

Thursday outside of Anchorage: Peters Creek Farmers Market, 3-8 p.m., American Legion Post 33

Friday in Anchorage: Center Market, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., The Mall at Sears, Benson Boulevard and Denali Street; Fourth Avenue Indoor Market, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., 333 W. Fourth Ave., Suite 200

Saturday in Anchorage: Anchorage Farmers Market, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., 15th Avenue and Cordova Street; Anchorage Market and Festival, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Third Avenue between C and E streets; Center Market, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., The Mall at Sears, Benson Boulevard and Denali Street; Fourth Avenue Indoor Market, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., 33 W. Fourth Ave., Suite 200; Muldoon Farmers Market, 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., Begich Middle School; South Anchorage Farmers Market, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., O'Malley Sports Center; Spenard Farmers Market, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., 2555 Spenard Road

Saturday outside of Anchorage: Highway's End Farmers Market, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Delta Junction; Homer Farmers Market, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Ocean Drive; Kenai's Saturday Market, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center; Soldotna Saturday Farmers Market, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., East Corral Avenue and Kenai Spur Highway; Tanana Valley Farmer's Market, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., 2600 College Road, Fairbanks

Sunday in Anchorage: Anchorage Market and Festival, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Third Avenue between C and E streets; Fourth Avenue Indoor Market, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., 33 W. Fourth Ave., Suite 200

Sunday outside of Anchorage: Tanana Valley Farmer's Market, 11 a.m.-4 p.m., 2600 College Road, Fairbanks

Editor's note: The variety of flower that Rob Wells will bring to market was misidentified. They are dahlias, not peonies. 

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