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Food and Drink

Get your garden on: First outdoor market of the year offers flower and veggie starts

Arugula seedlings. (Getty)

Alaskan locavores have been able to visit farmers markets all winter inside The Mall at Sears. This weekend marks the opening of an outdoor venue: the Anchorage Farmers Market, at 15th Avenue and Cordova Street.

Early May means not many freshly harvested offerings will be available. However, you can get the makings of your own garden.

"We'll have plenty of vegetable and flower seedlings … well-suited to Alaskan growing conditions," says Sarah Bean of Arctic Organics.

Of particular interest to Alaska gardeners are tomato starts, both Siberian varieties bred for outdoor vigor and classic greenhouse types. Arctic Organics will also have a selection of floral hanging baskets and custom fertilizer blends to keep your plants healthy.

Bean says there's a chance she'll be selling fresh basil and arugula, "if it grows enough this week." She'll definitely bring potatoes from the 2017 crop.

Speaking of spuds: Rob Wells, aka "The Persistent Farmer," will have five kinds of Alaska grown seed potatoes. You can buy Denali, Chieftain, Magic Molly, Gold Rush Russet and Yukon Gold varieties by the pound. He'll also be discounting "the last odds and ends of dahlia tubers."

Dahlia starts aren't yet available, due to recent cool temperatures. "But hundreds have been planted for pick-up later in the month," he says.

Other vendors scheduled to appear at the Anchorage Farmers Market are All About Time, Ed & Tina's Kraut & Pickling, Happy Valley Chickens, Northern Flowers, Seldovitch Farm, Shaggy Mane Shroomery, Sun Fire Ridge and Turkey Red Café.

10 years and counting

Products from A.D. Farm will also be available at the Anchorage Farmers Market, as well as three markets inside the Mall at Sears. This week marks A.D.'s 10th anniversary of weekly Anchorage markets.

"Yes, that is 520 weeks driving into Anchorage," says Alex Davis, who farms in Palmer.

At both market locations he'll have potatoes, orange and purple carrots, eggs from chickens fed on soy- and corn-free feed, and three kinds of fruit preserves. Davis will also sell numerous cuts from heritage-breed, pasture-raised pork plus four kinds of sausage (Italian, spicy, breakfast and chorizo), hocks, bones for broth and fat for rendering.

Among the other items at the Mall at Sears markets are yak meat and certified organic vegetables from Rempel Family Farm, Wild Child fermented salsa, barley products from Alaska Flour Co., Doggy Decadence pet treats, grass-fed beef from Windy River Farm, Tonia's Biscotti, kim chi and other products from Evie's Brinery, hydroponically grown greens from Alaska Seeds of Change, and sprouts, microgreens, tofu and basil from Alaska Sprouts.

Visiting a farmers market, indoors or out, is fun for singles, groups of friends or families. Pick up flower or veggie starts and pleasurably anticipate the sight of these seedlings growing into summertime vigor. Learn about a product you've never seen before, and purchase something new to try: a fermented kraut, a dark bread, a mushroom that scares you a little bit.

Or how about this: If there's someone you'd like to ask out, suggest meeting at the farmers market. The experience is colorful, low-key and you'll probably be given food samples. With luck, it'll become a standing weekly date – and as summer comes on, those free samples will become much more plentiful. #frugalfun

LOCAL FARMERS MARKETS

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; Fourth Avenue Indoor Market, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., 333 W. Fourth Ave.

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.

Saturday in Anchorage: 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.

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