Shop Seasonally and Buy Local
Various vendors line the perimeter of the local parking lot, showcasing this week’s fresh, colorful harvest with rows of vibrant cherry tomatoes, sparkling raspberries, delicate leaves of basil. Dollar bills are exchanged with cartons of local produce as friendly dialogue pierces the warm summer breeze. Local residents get to know the farmers, asking about the farm, about seasonal favorites, about the best way to incorporate that parsley into tonight’s dinner. After a notoriously long, dredging Pittsburgh winter, we have all been waiting for our favorite summer highlight: the Farmer’s Market!
Farmer’s Markets are the perfect venue and opportunity to support nearby farmers, introduce friends and family to the concept of buying locally grown foods, and practice eating seasonal produce harvested only a truck drive away. Eating locally packs a great punch. It stimulates the local economy, provides more nutrients and less chemicals for our bodies, benefits the environment, and creates opportunity for conversation with local growers to become more informed about exactly how the product was cultivated.
What to Buy
Around this time of the year, the best in-season vegetables are the crunchy classics! Look for carrots, cucumbers, celery, garlic, summer squash, and radishes. These veggies can easily be sliced raw for snacking, dipped into a creamy hummus or paired with a dollop of ranch dressing for picky toddlers. Another easy alternative is to chop, dice, saute, and season your veggies to incorporate into a light summer soup. Lastly, if you’re looking to impress your neighbors at the next social distanced get-together, whip up a fancy, deceptively simple “Carrot, Radish, and Cucumber Salad” that boasts an elite flavor profile and showcases your local farmers’ prized productions. This recipe is found at ttps://www.wideopeneats.com/recipes/carrot-radish-and-cucumber-salad/.
In terms of buying seasonal fruit, stick with classic staples like apples, berries, and melons. Embrace your bold and adventurous edge through picking up more exotic options like rhubarb, figs, plums, and nectarines. Use these ingredients to recreate your grandmother’s rhubarb pie, or slice and dice different ingredients into a tasty, colorful fruit salad topped with a fresh squeezed lemon. There are so many options available! Encourage your kids to pick out their favorite fruits and veggies at the market, and help facilitate positive interactions and learning experience through the process of buying local.
After visiting the Bethel Park Farmer’s Market in early June, I was personally struck by the energetic and excitable atmosphere, also noticing that the designated market area became very populated, very fast. The people are hungry! For local foods! We love it. Addressing the Covid-19 concern, many folks arrived wearing cloth masks and rubber gloves, maintaining the designated six-foot distance while scanning the produce or waiting in line. Also, some of the vendors installed a clear, plastic tarp to create a partition between the customers and the farmers; this way, interested residents can easily scout and identify their produce of choice without having direct contact with the farmer on the other side of the material.
There are different locations throughout the greater Pittsburgh area, like Forest Hills, Beaver County, Monroeville, East Liberty, and Bloomfield, along with options in the South Hills like Bethel Park or Mount Lebanon. The USDA agricultural marketing site has created a platform to locate agricultural producers and market locations closest to you, found at https://www.ams.usda.gov/local-food-directories/farmersmarkets. This way, you can enter your zip code into the metric and receive immediate information regarding how to conveniently access farmer’s market locations, operating times, and specific products. With all this new information, we encourage you to find your closest Farmer’s Market, bring a friend or two, and bring the farm to your dinner table!