‘Tis the season to eat loads of fresh, local veggies! Fruits and vegetables harvested locally are picked at their peak and eaten soon thereafter, giving us the best flavor and nutrient content. If you are tired of the same ol’, same ol’ at the grocery store, break out of your routine and head to a Farmers Market near you! Anchorage has a variety of market options, as do many other communities around Alaska, click here to see a list put together by the Alaska Farmers Market Association in 2013.
How do you shop at the market? Sometimes I just wander the booths picking up things that look good and other weeks I head in with an agenda (these are the weeks I meal plan). Either way, save a little room in your budget to pick up something new and exciting. If you are unsure how to prepare your mystery purchase, ask the seller, they often have loads of delicious ideas.
Markets are just one of many options for buying locally, there are a variety of farms that have weekly farm stands. In my neck of the woods, we stop by Sun Circle Farm or Arctic Organics to supplement the veggies coming out of our garden. Ask around in your community or at the market to locate farm stands near you.
In addition to buying locally, you can grow locally too! Gardening can be done big or small, the scale depends on the time you are willing to commit and space available. If you are just starting out or want quick (not instant) gratification, try planting salad greens. Pea shoots are one of my favorite salad greens, requiring only 2-4 weeks of patience before I can harvest greens with the essence of crisp sweet peas. And, the pots of pea shoots look pretty. Purchase your pea seeds, soak overnight and plant. Easy, peasy. You can plant your peas in a variety of containers, if using a recycled container, punch holes in the bottom to ensure drainage. For more detailed instructions, checkout Vertical Veg. Once the shoots are 4” tall you can harvest the top 2 inches for salads, you leave behind the base inches with at least 2 leaves and they will continue to grow for several more weeks.
Eating from your garden or local market is the ultimate in eating seasonally, you will see the contents change from spring greens to carrots and broccoli to Brussel sprouts as the summer progresses. Hopefully, it also helps you develop a relationship with small, local businesses which supports diversity in our food system and economy.
See you at the market!
Sherrill Collins, MS, RDN, LD