Sunday, May 10, 2009

Grow, Pittsburgh!

The past few days here in Pittsburgh have been packed. The weather has miraculously held out for the most part, allowing Ollie and I to venture all over the city exploring farms, gardens, fairs, and markets. Okay, and a few coffee shops. (What can I say - the 'burgh has a ton of fabulous independent java joints and I feel I would be remiss if I were to neglect these cultural centers. Also, they have free wifi and Will had kindly offered the use of his laptop for a few hours so I could do some online research without suffering thumb cramps trying to surf the web on my blackberry.)

Friday's action included an extended stop at the annual May Market, held on the grounds of the impressive Phipps Conservatory. There were dozens of garden clubs and urban farmers selling all manner of seedlings to throngs of local greenthumbs. It was also where I had a chance to meet Susanna, one of the Grow Pittsburgh movers and shakers, who gave me a rundown on some of the local gardening programs around the city. There's some great work going on here, including a fledgling Edible Schoolyard program (modeled on Alice Waters' famed Berkeley pilot project that integrates growing and eating healthy, sustainable food into the public school curriculum). Good stuff.

Saturday provided a chance to check out "Farmers at the Firehouse" - the farmer's market in the hip and happenin' downtown Strip. Unfortunately, my morning dilly dallying meant that Will and I arrived too late to get in on the wild mushrooms, which had sold out hours before our arrival. And my chat with the 2 Jonathans at the mushroom booth has not yet yielded an invitation to go morel hunting with them. I guess I shouldn't be surprised: Michael Pollan alluded in The Omnivore's Dilemma to the secret-of-life degree of guardedness among avid mushroomers. C'mon, I can keep a secret. Just toss me a few chantrelles and mum's the word.

After a sandwich and a stop by REI for the much-needed rain cover for my bike helmet and shoes (I had foolishly mocked helmet cover wearers in the past, but 6 days of biking in pouring rain changed my tune), Will and I poked around the Friendship neighborhood's Folk & Flower Fest. Here at last I met Barb, one of the founders of Mildred's Daughters, and managed to snap a picture of her and a few of the other workers and volunteers at their seedling stand. I had been to the farm earlier in the week and learned about the rare history of the 5 acre plot (which has been farmed since the late 19th Century) and working group alternative program to traditional CSAs. From here, we walked to the nearby Montessori school to check out their vegetable patch and then it was off to the Frick Greenhouse, where we encountered a good variety of seedlings and seasonal produce.

Ah, but the story of Pittsburgh was not over yet. Sunday morning found Ollie and I pedaling back to the Landslide Community Farm for - you guessed it - the brunch. Really, can I resist an opportunity to be around good people and good food? No, clearly I can't. They even let me into the kitchen, where I proceeded to sneak garlic into just about everything but the french toast. And I'm glad I loaded up on carbs because I needed them for the cross-town, hill-laden trek to Braddock Farms. (Oh my, did I say hills? I think I looked *down* and saw Mount Olympus from my vantage point on Forward Avenue.) The farm was alive with asparagus, garlic, lettuce, tomato plants, and strawberry shrubs. Pretty sweet, and oddly, but somehow fittingly, ensconced next to one of the city's few remaining steel mills.

I managed to navigate a different route back, with considerably fewer hills, that took me once more past the fantastic East End Food Co-op. I picked up a few last goodies and headed back to Steve's apartment. After dinner and a hot bath, I think it's time for a mug of tea and some flannel pjs. My legs are going to be sore tomorrow - I can tell.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

1 comment:

  1. Pittsburgh is such a friendly town, but if you want to avoid being tarred, feathered, and run out of town by a mob of angry hockey fans, I would avoid mentioning that you live in DC, because the Capitals just beat the Penguins in Game 6 of the playoffs.


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