Fresh Finds: North Side farmers market a haven for produce
The North Side farmers market, located in the park at Allegheny Commons from 3 to 7 p.m. Fridays, is a vegetarian's paradise.
Not being a vegetarian, I searched out the subtle sign for Mountain View Acres Farm, selling items like grass-fed beef, all-natural pork sausages and chicken breast. The Allgyers, an Amish family, grow a wide variety of produce and raise chickens, beef cattle and pigs on their Indiana County farm. Their meats are processed through Cunningham's Meats, a retail butcher, caterer and restaurant vendor located in Shelocta, Indiana County. Mountain View Acres meats can be pre-ordered for pickup at the market.
My next stop was at the stand of the Fine Family Apiary from Monongahela. The Fine family began beekeeping in 2005 with six colonies of bees and currently tend to about 125 colonies. They pack age honeys that range from seasonal spring blooms to wildflower blends and offer a number of beeswax products, including lip balm, hand lotion and a 15-hour beeswax votive candle.
Flavors and colors of honey change as the seasons and types of flora available change in the area of the honey bees, so it's nice to keep a variety in your pantry. I purchased a jar of raw, amber-color, fall-harvest honey. Albert Fine proudly mentioned that his 23-year-old daughter, Alyssa, is the reigning 2012 American Honey Queen.
I headed to the Jodikinos Farm stand (www.jodikinosfarm.com) for a big basket of extra-hot, red banana peppers.
Joe Jodikino of Clinton set out an impressive display of seasonal produce. Everything from sweet potatoes, butternut squash and pumpkins to sweet and hot banana peppers in varying colors, zucchini, tomatoes, melons, corn, cabbage, onions and fresh-cut flowers. (The greenhouse at Jodikinos is open seven days a week. Weekends feature a pumpkin patch and hay rides.)
I took a little inventory to decide on my menu, then visited the table of Aldo Sauro, who grows fruits and vegetables on a small plot of land in Carrick. Originally from Calabria, Italy, Sauro has been gardening and selling his wares at area farmers markets for more than 40 years. On this visit, the engaging man offered plates of fresh figs, squash blossoms and a few potted raspberry bushes. I purchased about 3 dozen figs for $3 and about a dozen squash blossoms for $1.
My final stop was at the enormous stand of the Joseph P. King Farm, which offered melons, pumpkins, gourds, corn, tomatoes, potatoes, yams, peppers, onions, radishes, cabbage and apples. I purchased a beautiful eggplant, zucchini, a yellow pepper and a few onions and apples for $10. And then it was time to cook.
Olga Watkins is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.