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Food and Drink

Seedlings and first fresh greens are now available at farmers markets

Gardeners, rejoice: It's now officially OK to put plants in the ground! Of course, they won't bear for a while yet, so if you want to eat fresh, local food, you'll have to head to area farmers markets.

Unless you have a heated greenhouse, that is – and even then, markets have plant and flower starts suited for both indoor and outdoor growing.

"Even the tender plants, like tomato and zucchini" can go in the ground this weekend, according to Sarah Bean of Arctic Organics.

She'll bring lots of vegetable and flower seedlings – all chosen for Alaska conditions – to the Anchorage Farmers Market on Saturday. Among the veggie standouts are hardy tomato varieties such as Glacier and Siberian Otradny, plus "classic greenhouse varieties" such as a beefsteak type called Celebrity and tiny, sugar-sweet Sun Golds. Bean will also have hanging baskets: nasturtium, petunia, mixed herbs and cottage garden mixed flowers.

As far as things to eat right now, Arctic Organics will have arugula and mixed lettuces from the greenhouse. Things are a little slow, thanks to recent cool, windy weather, but Bean notes that once the wind stopped the days got a lot warmer.

"It finally feels like gardening season," agrees Rob Wells, aka The Persistent Farmer. He'll bring dahlia starts, five kinds of seed potatoes, vegetable seedlings and even ferns for shade gardens to the Anchorage Farmers Market.

Other vendors there include AD Farm (Alaska-grown meats and meat products), Brown Dog Farm, Happy Valley Chickens, Shaggy Mane Shroomery, Seldovitch Farm, Sun Fire Ridge, Ed and Tina's Kraut & Pickling and Turkey Red Café.

South Anchorage Farmers Market

The Rempel Family Farm returns to this location on Saturday. The largest certified organic farm in the state, it produces more than 60 types of vegetable crops.

"It will be great to have them back," says market spokesman Arthur Keyes.

The Rempels are part of a crowded field at the South Anchorage market: 21 vendors in all, including Harvest Point Farms, Earth Works Farm, Drool Central (pet treats), Gold Nugget Farm, The Blue Poppy, fermented products from Farm 779 (which will also appear at Thankful Thursdays at Sears Mall), Three Bears Farm, Arctic Choice Seafoods, Country Garden Farm, Butcher Block #9 and Glacier Valley Farm.

Again, not a lot of fresh produce is available just yet. Be patient, and eventually you'll be able to eat the way author Michael Pollan suggests: "Mostly plants."

Center Market

Summertime means cookouts, and Alex Davis has char-worthy offerings like loin roasts, fajita meat, house-made sausage, "barbecue pigs" (33 to 49 pounds) and what he calls the "dino chop": a bone-in chop with the pork belly and ribs still attached.

"Wanna be the grill king? This will establish your throne," he says. But he also has potatoes, carrots, and eggs from chickens, ducks, geese and even turkeys.

Other treats at Center Market include raw honey, grass-fed beef from Windy River Farm, barley products from Alaska Flour Co., fermented foods from Evie's Brinery, pet treats from Doggy Decadence and Squeal, and sprouts, tofu, microgreens and basil from Alaska Sprouts.

Alaska Farmland Trust benefit

The third annual "Drink Beer, Save Farms!" event takes place from 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday, June 2, on a private farm in Palmer. It's a family-friendly benefit with a cookout, music from the Ken Peltier Band and, as noted, beer (plus cider and wine) from local brewers.

Advance tickets are $5 for anyone over 13 and free to anyone younger, available at BrownPaperTickets.com. At the gate, tickets will cost $10 for those 13 and up and $5 for children under 12.

Oh, and bring your own cup: This is a plastic-free event. (If you forget, you can buy a commemorative glass at the benefit.)

Markets in Anchorage and Mat-Su

Monday in the Valley: Colony Farmers Market, noon-6 p.m., 610 S. Valley Way, Palmer

Wednesday in Anchorage: Center Market, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., The Mall at Sears, Benson Boulevard and Denali Street

Thursday in Anchorage: Thankful Thursdays market, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., The Mall at Sears, Benson Boulevard and Denali Street

Friday in Anchorage: Center Market, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., The Mall at Sears, Benson Boulevard and Denali Street

Saturday in Anchorage: Center Market, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., The Mall at Sears, Benson Boulevard and Denali Street. Also: Anchorage Farmers Market, 15th Avenue and Cordova Street, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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