Now that it’s November, it’s time to truly HARVEST your love for Fall: infinite squash and apple recipes, the iconic orange-red color of leaves, and the soothing sensation of the crisp breeze. Yet, the worst part of Fall is the end of the University’s weekly summer tradition: the farmers’ market. Students adore the farmers' market; not only do we have the convenience of paying with dining dollars and panther funds, but the farmers’ market also provides us with an opportunity to sample a wide variety of fresh produce, coffee, baked goods, and meals. Each week while the farmers' market runs is a struggle to decide whether to get your favorite empanada or to venture out and try something new. However, seeing as they sell out within the first few hours nearly every week at the farmers’ market, you’d (Carib)BE(an) kidding me if you haven't tried SaludPgh.

Despite the diversity of the amazing restaurants Pittsburgh boasts, there are only a few that offer Caribbean cuisine, none of which offer a solely vegan-vegetarian based menu. SaludPgh epitomizes the combination of healthy, conscious eating with the preservation of traditional Puerto Rican and Caribbean cuisine. With the wide variety offered on the menu -- featuring baked empanadas, pickled tropical salads, assortments of rice and beans, vegan mac and cheese, and tofu or seitan-based stews and curries – everyone, not just vegetarians, can find a favorite.

In 2014, Sha-King Cehum founded SaludPgh, with its humble beginnings as a monthly-brunch establishment at 720 Records in Lawrenceville. With the success of the brunch and the endless positive feedback from patrons, SaludPgh evolved into a popular Pittsburgh restaurant and catering business. In addition to partaking in the University farmers’ market, SaludPgh also shares its delectable cuisine at other local markets, including the Bloomfield Saturday Market and Pittsburgh Vegan Festival, and caters for local organizations, such as Awesome Pittsburgh and the Google office in Bakery Square. SaludPgh became involved with the University of Pittsburgh’s farmers’ market after a University representative recognized the high-quality of the cuisine and approached Cehum to give students the opportunity to try SaludPgh’s unique fare.

Cehum’s father, a vegetarian, taught him that because meat is an expensive luxury in the campos, the Puerto Rican countryside, locals optimize their farming and agriculture to serve as their central food source and diet. Highly inspired and enlightened by his father’s way of living, Cehum strove to change his diet and to incorporate healthier versions of traditional dishes to sustain the health and well-being for both himself and his children, like most other people in his culture. Cehum also found inspiration from an exemplary restaurant called Uptown Juice and Veg, located in New York City’s Harlem district. A loyal customer since 1999, he admires the way in which this establishment offers both a fresh juice bar and an extensive buffet of Caribbean cuisine. This inspired him further to use regional ingredients from Puerto Rico and the Caribbean as the foundation of his business.

Considering that the Caribbean gastronomy is heavily based on fruits, beans, and vegetables, Cehum nearly effortlessly adapted vegan/vegetarian ingredients to traditional dishes. For example, one of my favorite dishes was pastelon – a Puerto Rican plantain “lasagna.” Although the conventional recipe for pastelon requires ground beef, SaludPgh adopted lentils, yuca, and taro to mimic - and outshine - the meat’s savory flavor and highlight the unique sweetness of the plantain.

In the future, SaludPgh will be launching a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for a food truck, as a food truck would be the most mobile means to reach the greater Pittsburgh area and become more accessible to various neighborhoods. Right now is just the VEGAN-ing of SaludPgh’s (Puerto) RIC-an future, so try to PLANTAIN your excitement!