Food and Drink

It’s the best time of year to visit an Alaska farmers market. Here are 9 items to check out.

Southcentral Alaska has been blessed with plenty of sunny days. And some rainy ones, too.

Crops are really starting to peak. And there is no better time to head to the farmers market to see what's keeping all our local growers up during our long summer days.

You will always find something unique or unusual at the market, but this week, we're focusing on the top nine items to find at the market. Some are absolute standby market veggies, some are special treats to look for. Get to a market and investigate.

1. Basil

Put it on pizza. Make it into a homemade pesto. Let it sit on your counter and enjoy the smell. Whatever you do, just get some basil.

"The biggest abundant and beautiful crop to anticipate for this week is our basil," says Sarah Bean of Arctic Organics and the Anchorage Farmers Market. "The plants are in their flourish, with tall stems and large tender leaves. The bunches are large, because small is not possible!

"Long and short: it's time to make pesto to freeze for the winter."

Bean suggests for those who really want a load of basil, it might be wise to pre-order. Contact Arctic Organics at info@arcticorganics.com to have them set aside the right amount of basil.

A table laden with zucchini is presented by Glacier Valley Farm of Palmer, September 4, 2013, in front of the Dimond Hotel. (Erik Hill / ADN archive 2013)

2. Zucchini

You'd be hard-pressed to find a farmer without a stack of zucchini. Small ones, big ones and maybe some you haven't seen before.

Barbara Landi of the South Anchorage Farmers Market says Glacier Valley Farm has the "lion's share" of zucchini at the Saturday market, but "Stockwell Farm has at least four kinds and Farm 779 has little designer-type patty pans and yellow crookneck."

Dinkel's Veggies always has a good supply of both yellow and green zucchini at each market they attend, including Spenard, Muldoon and three Wasilla markets.

Colorful cauliflower is displayed for sale at the Mountain View Farmers Market. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)

3. Cauliflower

Cauliflower — in all its many colors — is really starting to show up as summer continues.

Landi says several vendors at the South market have a great supply of the cruciferous veggies. Landi says VanderWeele Farm has a rainbow of cauliflower—"purple, cheddar yellow, chartreuse green and, of course, white." Also, visit the Rempel Family Farm and Sun Circle Farm booths for a nice selection.

The Muldoon Farmers Market is focusing on cold crops this week, so it's a great place to grab cauliflower, along with cabbage, broccoli and kohlrabi. The market is also hosting Alaska Grown, which will be asking visitors to participate in a 1-minute survey—and handing out prizes to those who do.

4. Dog food and treats

Walk around any farmers market and it seems there are as many pups as there are people.

What better way to reward your pet's loyal attendance to your every whim than with some specially created snacks or meals.

Both Farm 779 and Drool Central are fixtures at the South Anchorage Farmers Market. Farm 779 is featuring new, frozen raw-meat meals. The meat is from Havemeister Farm and goes to Mat Valley Meats for processing. Julie Meer adds raw whey to the food that comes as a frozen "puck."

Daisy Nicolas from Drool Central will have a wide variety of dog treats at the market and at the Friends of Pets Dog Jog at Service High School. Drool Central's treats are made with Alaska salmon and cod and frequently include Alaska-grown barley and carrots.

The Alaska Peony Distributors peonies photographed June 30, 2016.  (Scott Jensen / Alaska Dispatch News)

5. Peonies

Meer from Farm 779 says "peonies are popping." Grab some from them at the Thankful Thursdays market at the Midtown Mall or wait until Saturday for the South Anchorage Farmers Market.

Alaska Peony Co-op will also have plenty of peonies in a variety of colors, Landi says.

6. Carrots

While Mark Rempel still describes his orange delicacies as "baby carrots" that are starting to grow up. They "are getting a little bit bigger." Rempel will have baby carrots (and lots of other veggies, of course) at the South Anchorage market.

So, grab a bunch — or two since they're still small — and enjoy one of Alaska's most flavorful treats. (Everybody knows Alaska carrots are simply the sweetest around.)

Fresh eggs await buyers at the Mile 5.2 Greenhouse stand of Eagle River at South Anchorage Farmers’ Market at O’Malley Sports Complex Saturday June 6, 2009 on Old Seward Highway at O’Malley Road. (Erik Hill / Anchorage Daily News)

7. Eggs

Sure, you can get chicken eggs at the grocery store, but why? And why stick with just the basic chicken?

Alex Davis of AD Farm is at the Center Market at the Midtown Mall with chicken, duck, turkey and Guinea eggs. And, yes, they're all different.

Davis explains: "Guinea eggs are the size of a small chicken, strong flavor and the hens lay only part of the year. Duck is a huge egg—small ones are the size of a jumbo chicken egg. The egg is rich and wonderful for baking or just eating.

"Turkey are a huge egg; flavor is much like a chicken egg. They are also seasonal layers. We have several types of chicken and each give a different color and size.

The base feed is corn- and soy-free out of Delta, David said. "For the Guinea, turkey and duck we mix in a few extra goodies for more protein. No cages. They all get barley fodder for extra feed."

Davis runs a full-service farm, so he also has pork cuts and veggies at the market, but over at the Anchorage Farmers Market it's all eggs for the folks from Happy Valley Chickens.

Mint chocolate fleck ice cream from Wild Scoops (Photo courtesy Wild Scoops)

8. Ice Cream

Alaskans are known as ice cream lovers. Per capita, we consume more ice cream than folks from most other states.

Naturally, a trip to a summer farmers market wouldn't be complete without taking home some ice cream. Wild Scoops, which will be set up at the Airport Heights Farmers Market on Wednesday and the South Anchorage market on Saturday, will have its always-unique and Alaska spin on ice cream.

Take home Mint Chocolate Fleck, which Elissa Brown describes this way: "We use the freshest spearmint from Seeds of Change with dark chocolate freckles throughout. It tastes like the real deal!"

Or go with an Orange Appeal, "a totally unique new flavor. We start by steeping an orange peel-coriander-hop mix from Midnight Sun's 'Panty Peeler' mash in our cream," Brown says. "Then we swirl in homemade orange caramel and bits of glazed donuts from Dipper Donuts. There's a touch of bitter pithiness combined with donut sweetness, and notes of creamsicle running below."
You might want to get in line now!

9. Grab your bike

OK, for the last one, you won't be putting this on your dinner table. But Thursday's Mountain View Farmers Market is highlighting Bike Day. It includes a free bicycle safety course from Bike Anchorage and free bike repairs from REI. What better way to celebrate summer than riding your bike to market … and riding off with some safety tips and veggies?

Steve Edwards lives and writes in Anchorage. Contact him at akmarketfresh@gmail.com.

Local farmers markets

Wednesday in Anchorage: Center Market, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Midtown Mall, Benson Boulevard and Denali Street; Farmers Market at Airport Heights, 3-7 p.m., 2530 E. 16th Ave.; Northway Mall Wednesday Market, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Northway Mall
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; Wasilla Farmers Market, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Iditapark

Thursday in Anchorage: Mountain View Farmers Market, 3-7 p.m., 3543 Mountain View Drive; Thankful Thursdays market, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Midtown Mall, 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., Midtown Mall, Benson Boulevard and Denali Street; Fourth Avenue Indoor Market, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., 333 W. Fourth Ave.

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., Midtown Mall, Benson Boulevard and Denali Street; Fourth Avenue Indoor Market, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., 333 W. Fourth Ave.; Muldoon Farmers Market, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., 1301 Muldoon Road; 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 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., 333 W. Fourth Ave.

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