In the springtime and summer time Alaska receives more sunshine than any other state. In places like Barrow the sun doesn’t set for an entire two-and-a-half-month period from May 10 to August 2nd.
In the state’s most southern point, the midnight sun is out for near 17 hours in June. The midnight sun’s extra sunlight affects the plant life in Alaska and has led to the creation of colossal vegetables in the state. At the Alaska state fair, you can see 138-pound cabbages, 35-pound pieces of broccoli, and huge pumpkins.
What Is the Midnight Sun?
The midnight sun is a colloquial name given to the fact that there are months where there are high levels of sunlight in Alaska. At the equator, the sun rises directly up and goes directly down. In Alaska, the sun is travelling at an angled 360-degree circle. The sun still emits visible light even when it is below the horizon.
The midnight sun has a different length of duration depending on where you are in Alaska. For instance, in Barrow, Alaska there is a time during the summer solstice where the sun is up for a full 24-hour period.
In Seward, Alaska this time drops slightly to 18 hours during the summer solstice. You can view the midnight sun almost anywhere in Alaska however. A great place to view the midnight sun is on Clearly Summit. There you will have an excellent view of the midnight sun.
The opposite of the effect of the midnight sun occurs when Alaska is in its winter solstice. During this time there are actually days where some parts of Alaska receive no sunlight. In Barrow, Alaska which is located 330 miles north of the Artic Circle, there are 67 days of no sunlight.
How Does the Midnight Sun Affect Vegetables?
During the spring time, the midnight sun causes an enhanced amount of sunlight. The increase in sunlight during these seasons promotes exceptional time for plants to grow. Having extra hours of sunlight promotes more growth as this is more time plants are actively photosynthesizing and harnessing energy from sunlight.
The extra sunlight doesn’t just help vegetables grow larger, it can also enhance the flavor of those vegetables as well. Because the sunlight may last for over half of a day, vegetables can spend most of their time using the process of photosynthesis to make sugars like glucose.
These same vegetables then only need to use around 1/4th of the day to convert the sugars into starches. This means that more sugar is produced in one day than is typical for most vegetables with average light.
Matnuska-Sustina Valley Giant Vegetable Farmers
The Alaska State Fair hosts many giant vegetables made predominantly in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley. The Matanuska-Susitna Valley is an area with a large number of farmers that migrated to the area from the Midwest as part of The New Deal around the 1930s. This was partly an experiment to increase the United State’s agricultural production after the Great Depression.
240,000 acres of land were usable for folks from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. After the 1930s the population ebbed and flowed over the next few decades until there were eventually not many families living in the area.
Despite this, the Matnuska-Sustina valley went on to be one of the largest agriculturally productive regions in Alaska.
Giant Vegetables at The Alaska State Fair
Ever wanted to see a giant pumpkin looks like? Or maybe you’re curious what an over 100-pound piece of cabbage looks like. The Alaska State Fair in Palmer is home to a giant vegetable competition where farmers from the Matnuska-Sustina valley area compete to see who can grow the largest vegetable.
Among the categories of giant vegetables, you will see the following:
Every year the winners of the fair are listed on the Alaska State Fair’s website. Among these records, you may even see world records set by farmers who have grown giant vegetables.
Beyond competition, you can also purchase giant produce if you go to the Alaska State Fair. What better way to experience a fair than to purchase giant vegetables from a local farmer’s market? You can also purchase giant flowers from local farmers as well.
The Midnight Sun Encourages Vegetable Growth in Alaska
While there are days in which the sun does not shine in Alaska, there are also days where the sun does not set. In certain places in Alaska, like the Matnuska-Sustina valley, farmers utilize the extra sunlight to grow the largest possible vegetables they can.
These farmers compete at the Alaska State Fair to try and break local and world records for largest vegetables grown. Don’t be surprised if these giant vegetables taste better than your local grocery store’s vegetables.