Saturday, April 30, 2016

Spring Greens

Today was my first trip to a farm stand in 2016. It's about time! I visited the Sturges Orchards and Farm Market in the Strip District. Sadly the Pittsburgh Public Market closed. Now the former vendors are scattered about. It took me a few minutes to find Mr. Sturges. His stand is now located on 18th Street between Smallman and Penn. I was lured there by the promise of asparagus, but I was too late for it. He had fifteen bunches and they sold out long before I got there around 10:30. He had plenty of varieties of apples, hard cider, and bags of lettuce and kale. Today, I bought a bag of each of the greens. They came with an extra little treat, edible flowers.
It's kind of like when you stay at a luxury hotel and they leave mints on your pillows. You don't need them, but they sure make your stay that much better. Well, I've heard that's what happens. In other words, the greens would have been enough! The flowers demonstrate the kind of extra special addition that the folks at Sturges always include. I already ate about half of the kale. It was fantastic. Mr. Sturges said that they will continue to be a presence at the Shady Side Academy Farmer's Market on Wednesdays. On Saturdays they will set up at the Bloomfield Farmer's Market, the Cranberry Farmers' Market, the spot in the Strip district, and also possibly the new Shadyside Farmer's Market as well!

In other news, I have started an Instagram account @eatinglocalinpgh and Twitter account @eatinglocalpgh. Please come visit and follow!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Pittsburgh CSAs

Sign Up!

OK, so you've voted for your chosen candidates for the various races in your district, your state, and in your nation.

Now it's time to vote (with your dollar) on which farm will provide you with delicious goodness from late May until early November. CSA time is coming! Hooray!

I first joined a CSA in 2007, my first full year living in Pittsburgh. It is a gift that keeps on giving, and I am so excited for our CSA to begin again this year.

What is a CSA, you ask? CSA stands for community supported agriculture. The idea is that you give money to a farm or farmers in advance and that will help the farmer pay the start-up costs, such as seeds, equipment purchase or repair, etc. The CSA members don't get their returns in money; instead they get a share of the harvest. Often, the literature or websites will talk about you, the consumer, purchasing a "share." That "share" usually looks like a crate or box of food that is delivered to a point in the Pittsburgh Metro area or is available at the farm. You may get a half- share, which could be a smaller amount of food or a biweekly crate. Or, like we do, you may get a "large share" which will include an extra item or two. There are all kinds of CSAs these days. It can be produce, meat, dairy, flowers, etc. There is even a CSA for soup. Don't be confused by impostor CSAs (where the A is for art or alcohol or even ice cream).

After nine years, I continue to feel that a CSA provides you with a crate of surprise gifts each week. Don Kretschmann, founder of one of the oldest organic CSAs in the country, once said that joining a CSA is a way to make your life less complicated because it is one good decision that will provide you with weeks and weeks of healthy, delicious eating and will support your local farm community. We all know how stressful making decisions can be. So, if you haven't signed up yet, it is not too late and you should join a CSA now!

Harvest Valley Farms during the Pumpkin Festival
Which CSA? We have used Harvest Valley Farms for nine years. It is an absolutely wonderful CSA that practices sustainable farming. And, obviously, since we stuck with it for nine years, I definitely recommend it. The vegetables all look and taste beautiful. They are clean and packaged if needed. There is an excellent variety of what I think of as "regular" vegetables and fruits. There are not tons of greens only, for example. Art King (Harvest Valley's farmer) also sources from other local farms to make sure the share holders get a variety of fruit and other treats such as honey, cheese, jam, etc. 

Jane Dillner chatting with folks on her farm tour 
This year, because of a change in drop off location, we will no longer be able to receive their CSA. I am definitely going to miss their CSA (I will be at their stand at the East Liberty farmers' market every week if I can), but I am also very excited about the one we joined, Dillner Family Farms. They also have an egg share available, but it will probably sell out fast. The Dillners work with Misera organic chicken and McElhaney Beef along with the "Jane's specials" to offer you lots of additional choices. Farm tours are coming up and you can see them on their website. Another nice aspect available at their pickup is that one can switch out an item one doesn't want from a box of items from others who have done the same. Our neighbor has been using their CSA for years and really loves it. She likes how an email comes out early in the week listing what will probably be in the share so that she can plan her menu for the coming days.

There are lots of other CSAs out there. Here is the Pennsylvania CSA Guide. It is listed by county and you can link right to the websites to check out each farm's products, costs, pick-up locations, and more. Here is a United States and Canada CSA listing in case you are reading this blog and are not here in Pittsburgh: . If you don't know which CSA you want to join, you can visit one of the upcoming CSA fairs sponsored by Farm to Table Pittsburgh. We missed a few, but there are more coming up. On the website, you can see which farms will be participating. There is one coming up soon at Chatham's Eden Hall Campus. You can also use Farm to Table Pittsburgh's website to see the 48 CSA's available around here! 

I hope if you read this blog, you will add a comment about which CSA you belong to, what it is like, and to whom it is recommended. Thanks for reading!