Regional Farmers Market Report: Pittsburgh, PA

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From Melinda in Pittsburgh: There are scores of farmer's markets and farm stands in and around the Pittsburgh region. The city itself operates eight markets in different city neighborhoods, and there are other independent markets throughout the urban environs - on any given weeknight and Saturday from mid-May to the end of November, you can find at least one open.

To ensure that low-income families , seniors and individuals in the city and surrounding areas have access to fresh, nutritious, affordable produce at their local markets, The Greater Pittsburgh Community Foodbank and its community partners operate twelve farm stands which accept foodstamps and WIC.

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Organic bounty

This weekend, I visited Pittsburgh's only "mostly organic" independent market. Open every Saturday on Penn Avenue in the bustling Pittsburgh Strip District, Farmers@Firehouse is a very popular market known for its high quality, local, seasonal produce. The market has very high standards, and each farm vendor that is not certified organic must agree to and meet a minimum set of standards to be able to participate as sustainable.

Along with seasonal produce, from dozens of vendors, expect to find fresh baked bread, meat, chicken, and wild Alaskan salmon, plus prepared ethnic foods, gifts and fresh flowers. Each week there is a featured recipe demonstration and tasting by a local chef using seasonal, fresh produce and ingredients available at the market.

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Farmers@Firehouse, is also the distribution point for Slow Food Pittsburgh's monthly Laptop Butcher Shop. You can use your computer to place an advance order for locally-raised, grass-fed beef, pastured pork and lamb, and free-range chicken and organic eggs, and the order is packaged and ready for pickup at the market. It is a very convenient way to purchase high-quality meats from a local small-scale, family farm. We picked up our "suburban package" of 50 lbs. of various cuts of beef for $200 from Rose Ridge Farm.

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Honey from the hood

My children thoroughly enjoyed looking at the bee hive demonstration, tasting delicious honey, and asking lots of questions at J&B Apiary's table. These city beekeepers (who market themselves as "honey from the 'hood") produce local honey, soaps, lotions and balms from hives atop the urban Polish Hill neighborhood just overlooking the market.

In season now at the markets in Pittsburgh, you'll find heirloom & hybrid tomatoes, peppers, herbs, beets, eggplant, and tomatillos. Bok choy, garlic, scallions, shallots, arugula, beans, carrots, broccoli, onions and okra. Red potatoes and blue potatoes--color inside and out! Zucchini, cucumber, and cabbage. Melons. Fall squashes debut: spaghetti, baby hubbard, buttercup, butternut, and Sunshine red. Crisp apples are just beginning to appear.

Thanks, Melinda!