NEW! Fresh Roots Wednesday Pop Up Market

Fresh Roots Weekly Pop Up Market is ON!

We are super excited to share that we will be hosting a weekly Pop Up Market located at the Italian Cultural Centre 3075 Slocan Street in Vancouver starting Wednesday, June 3rd! Every Wednesday, June to October from 4-7 pm you can stop by to stock up on a selection of ultra-local produce grown on our schoolyard farms, farm fresh eggs, and seasonal BC fruit in addition to prepared food from the kitchens of the Italian Cultural Centre. We will also be partnering with Ritchie’s Bakery to host their artisanal sourdough bread pick-up! To get your hands on some of this amazing bread, please reach out to them directly online.

There will be parking on-site, as well as street parking nearby. Look for the orange Fresh Roots signs directing you to our exact location.

At Fresh Roots, we are taking COVID-19 very seriously, and want to share some of the measures we’ll be taking to ensure a safe and comfortable experience at our markets. Our procedures and protocols are informed by the BC Centre for Disease ControlBC Farmers’ Markets, and Vancouver Farmers’ Markets to keep you, our community and staff safe:

  • Veggie CSA Boxes will be pre-packed: please bring your own bags to unpack your produce into
  • The market will be one-way from entry to exit: Shop, Don’t Stop!
  • Cash-free payment encouraged
  • Please practice physical distancing. Keep 2m between yourself and others
  • Staff will be wearing masks, gloves and washing hands frequently
  • Hand sanitizer available for customers
  • Sorry, no dogs in the market area
  • Stay home if you are sick to keep our markets safe!

Thanks in advance for your support for all the work we do at Fresh Roots, especially during this difficult time! We are grateful for our engaged community!


Fresh Five: Marvelous Microbes!

Last week we talked a little bit about the tiniest inhabitants of our farms – the invertebrates, fungi, and bacteria that decompose plant and animal matter into the nutrients plants need to survive, which in turn become the nutrients we need to survive. But fungi and bacteria aren’t just breaking down the food in our compost, they are making the food in our kitchens and factories!

Like a lot of people, I took the ample time I’ve had in my home over the last few months to make a sourdough starter, and it’s been a wild ride figuring out how to develop and care for my own little colony of bacteria and yeasts (which are a type of fungus) so I can keep them happy and the use them to make some really delicious bread (and pancakes and crackers and biscuits and crumpets and…). Let’s just say, there’s been a lot of baking, and almost all of it has relied on microorganisms to happen.

And it’s not just breads. Fungi and bacteria are essential to making yogurt, cheese, sauerkraut, kimchi, soy sauce, chocolate, kombucha, tempeh, salami, and so much more. Humans have been employing the skills of bacteria and fungi to help us preserve foods for at least 13,000 years! So let’s raise a toast (fermented or not), to these marvelous microbes!

Here are five things to make to help you get to know our food microorganisms better.

Make it Rise


Wondering why you have to let regular bread dough rise, but you can whip up banana bread and pop it in the over right away? Curious where the holes in your bread come from? What’s the difference between baking powder and baking soda anyway? Looking for an alternate way to blow up balloons for your next party? Check out this activity and learn the secrets of leavening! This one is great for kids as young as kindergarten, and there’s an extension for older kids who really want to get scientific.

Uplifting Leavening Activity Guide


Make it Cultured

June 1 is World Milk Day! To celebrate both milk and microbes, there’s nothing better than yogurt! Yogurt is cultured, which in this case doesn’t mean it’s read all the books sitting on it’s “should read” pile. It means it’s a happy home to a number of strains of beneficial bacteria, which gives it it’s thickness and that tangy flavour. And best of all, it’s super easy to make at home! All you need is a pot, some jars, a food thermometer, milk, a little yogurt from the store, and a warm place. This recipe for the BC Dairy Association will get you started.  It’s really great with the rhubarb compote from our Stems week!)

Make Your Own Yogurt


Make it for Science

Photo by Bev Sykes, CC BY 2.0

Sourdough is having a moment right now. But what is it? While most breads are leavened with baker’s yeast, which can be purchased in packets or jars in the grocery store, sourdough is leavened using a starter culture of wild yeasts and helpful bacteria. Those yeasts and bacteria live all around us, and will find a happy home in some flour and water in your kitchen. The fun thing about sourdough is that the exact strains of yeasts and bacteria are different in different places. You may even have different microbes in different parts of your house! These helpful yeasts and bacteria out compete and harmful ones.

Even if you don’t want to get into sourdough baking, you can still make a starter for science. Sourdough for Science is a citizen science project collecting information about sourdough starters around the world. You follow their instructions to make a starter and collect data for 10 days, then submit you data online!

Sourdough for Science!

Make it Fermented

So many every day foods rely on fermentation, even ones you’d never think of. Hot sauce? Fermented. Chocolate? Fermented. Tea? Fermented. Soy sauce? Cultured with mold and then fermented. Here are some fun videos showing how a few common foods are made. How many fermented foods do you eat?

How Soy Sauce is Made
How Tabasco Sauce is Made
Cocoa Fermentation

Make Kimchi

One of our most exciting community workshops is You Can Kimchi! where we talk about fermentation and it’s importance to food, and make a simple kimchi recipe. It’s messy, spicy, and a lot of fun!

I always start by admitting that I didn’t learn how to make kimchi from a Korean mom, grandma, aunt, or other cultural knowledge keepers. I learned from the internet, from someone who did learn from a Korean mom. And if you have a kimchi maker in your family, you should definitely reach out to them for teaching! Traditionally, kimchi was made collectively by groups of women in an extended family, as it’s had to make just a small batch. Traditional kimchi also includes seafood in the form of fish sauce or shrimp paste, but I’ve left it out of this version to make it more allergy-friendly.

The recipe may look like a lot of ingredients and a lot of steps, but none of them are difficult. Try your local Asian grocery store for the gochugaru (ground red pepper) if you can’t find it where you regularly shop. You could use a different kind of ground chiles, but it won’t quite be kimchi.

The Lactobacillus bacteria that give kimchi it’s crunch, fizz and tang come from the different ingredients in the mix, including the cabbage and gochgaru.  Lactobacilli are anaerobic bacteria. That means they live and multiply where there’s no air. So for your kimchi to be kimchi, you need to use a mix of ingredients, and keep the air out by making sure your veggies are under the brine and there are no big air pockets in your jar.

Food Safety Note: While the lactobacilli are generally great at out competing for harmful fungi and bacteria, if your kimchi grows mold or smells bad, throw it out and don’t eat it!

Simple Kimchi Recipe Card

Happy Fermenting!



Fresh Five: Biodiversity

Happy International Day for Biological Diversity!

You didn’t know May 22 was the International Day for Biological Diversity? That’s OK. Neither did I when I started planning this week’s Fresh Five to be about biodiversity. Talk about good timing! We couldn’t let this special day go by without acknowledgement, so your Fresh Five is coming early so you can celebrate IDB (as the cool kids at the UN call it) with activities to help you think about biodiversity in your neighborhood, on the farm, and in the world.

Biodiversity is, essentially, all the different kinds of plants, animals, fungi, and microorganisms in an ecosystem. Having a wide variety of living things in a ecosystem makes it more resilient and able to handle change. As humans, like all animals, we rely on other living things for food, clothing, shelter, medicine, and more, meaning that maintaining healthy ecosystems isn’t just about keeping the oceans healthy for whales or the forest healthy for moose (though whales and moose are important!). It’s also about keeping the world healthy for us.

Here are five ways to explore and celebrate biodiversity this week.

Make an Ecosystem Web

Fresh Roots grown (mainly) vegetables on our schoolyard farms. Our farmers plant rows of peas, squash, chard, lettuce, parsley, and more. We can grow nearly 100 different varieties of plants in a single season! That might sounds like a lot of biodiversity, but plants and farmers are just a small part of the whole biological picture. Discover how everything from crows to fungus to the air around us contributes to the biodiversity of our farm. We do versions of this activity with kids as young as 8 all the way through adults. (Hint – making the web is only the start of the discussion!)

Farm Ecosystem Web Activity Guide


Be a Biodiversity Detective

Biodiversity isn’t just on the farm, though – it’s all around us! This activity from VanDusen Botanical Garden will help you seek out the biodiversity in you yard, neighborhood, or local park. You might use it on a casual stroll, or make it a game and see how many different living things your can find in 10 minutes. And if you find something you don’t recognize, this could be great time to pull out the Seek app from our Earth Day Fresh Five.

Biodiversity Detectives Teacher Guide
Biodiversity Detectives Student Worksheet


Join the Bird Blitz

Working primarily from home for the last couple of months has given me more insight on my neighborhood birds. There is a family of European starlings who nest in my neighbor’s rafters every spring (and wake me up at sunrise every day). The black-capped chickadees love to hang out on the apple tree in the backyard. The house finches and sparrows mostly stay across the alley in the blackberries, but will sometimes come over if there’s any weeds that have gone to seed. Crows come by occasionally, and on special days the neighborhood ravens will fly over. Gulls like to sit on the roof of the church behind my house, and every once in a while, a bald eagle can be spotted soaring overhead. And that’s just in my urban backyard without any sort of bird feeder!

Do you like watching your backyard birds? Scientists want to know what you’re seeing! The Schoolyard Bird Blitz is an annual bird survey organized by Birds Canada to get students looking for birds, and contributing to scientific knowledge about the prevalence of bird species across Canada. This year, they’ve switch gears from a Schoolyard Bird Blitz to a Backyard Bird Blitz so everyone can participate!

Bird Blitz at Home!

Build a Crow’s Nest

Crows can be trouble on the farm. They love yanking out newly planted started to get at the insects and worms in the freshly turned soil, and they’ve even been know to pull the protective covers off our plant babies. They dig trash out of the trash cans and throw it everywhere. And if you’ve ever walked under a crow’s nest during baby season, you’ve likely been dive bombed by the protective parents. But crows are also extremely intelligent tool-users, and will build relationships with humans who treat them kindly. (They are still wild animals, so please don’t try to make your neighborhood crow into a pet!) And, just like humans and other animals, they have complex relationships with the biodiversity of their ecosystems.

This activity from Science World will get you thinking like a crow! As you build you nest, think about what other types of life are necessary for crows to build their nests.

Crows Nest Activity

Make a Biodiverse Salad

I’m so glad that my local farmer’s market is open again! It was worth waiting in the long, physical-distanced line to get my local eggs, veggies, and a pastry treat. It will be even more exciting when Fresh Roots’ produce is available but that’s still a few weeks away. One of the things I got recently was some of the first local kale. I eat a lot of kale, in smoothies, sauteed with eggs, in pasta or soup, or in salads. Raw kale can be… a lot. Massaging your kale with a little salt, fat, and/or acid for a few minutes starts the mechanical process of breaking down those tough cell walls, making it easier for your body to digest, and makes it less bitter.

And there are so many ways you can top your massaged kale! I like a little red onion, feta, dried cranberries, grated carrots, and candied pecans in the fall, and snap peas, crumbled goat cheese, fresh strawberries, and toasted sliced almonds in the spring. Just like biodiversity is good for ecosystems, biodiversity of foods is good for our bodies! Different foods have different balances of of the energy and nutrients our bodies need to thrive, so mix up your salads, and have fun!

Massaged Kale Salad Recipe Card

Get out and celebrate diversity!



Fresh Roots on The Conversation Lab -Co-op Radio Vancouver

Our fearless Interim Executive Director, Alexa Pitoulis, chats about all things Fresh Roots on The Conversation Lab with Don Shafer produced by CFRO FM (Co-op Radio Vancouver). Thanks so much for the opportunity to share a little bit about what we are up to these days and how we adapted our LunchLAB in-school meal program along with our partner Growing Chefs! to offer students and families meals out of school during this uncertain time.
Vancouver Co-op Radio CFRO To learn more or to donate visit

Listen to “Alexa Pitoulis – Freshroots Urban Farm Society” on Spreaker.


Fresh Five: Sturdy Stems

After last week’s rhubarb ruminations, I wanted another excuse to talk about one of my favorite not-really-fruits. I love introducing kids to rhubarb by telling them I’m going to let them taste a poisonous plant. It really focuses the attention of a group of excited 9 year olds when they think it’s a life-or-death situation. And it’s true, while the stems are delicious, the leaves are poisonous to humans! They are high in oxalic acid, which in large doses, can cause kidney problems, and even death. Oxalic acid is actually present in small quantities in a number of vegetables, including sorrel, spinach, and chard, but nothing close to an amount that would make you sick. Rhubarb leaves have a lot more oxalic acid, but an adult would still have to eat at least 4 kg of the leaves to reach a lethal dose, and, well, they’re just not that tasty.

Potential lethality aside, rhubarb is fun because it’s one of very few food that we treat like a fruit, but isn’t – it’s a stem! Fruits and flowers and even roots get a lot of attention, but I feel like stems don’t get the love they deserve. Stems give plants their structure and shape and carry water and nutrients up from the roots, and energy in the form of sugars down from the leaves. They are like a plant’s skeleton and circulatory system combined! So let’s hear it for the stalks, spears, vines, canes, and trunks out there, just going about their business without a lot of fanfare, bringing us all the beautiful plant life around us.

Here are five ways to explore stems this week.

Dissect a Stem

One of the many important things a stem does is carry water from the roots to the rest of the plant. Inside the stem are structures called xylem which provide a path for water, and the nutrients it carries, to help flowers bloom, make fruits juicy, and give leaves the water they need to make sugar through photosynthesis. Sugars from the leaves flow down the phloem that surround the zylem. In the stem of a celery plant, the xylem are big enough that we can see them easily with just a couple of kitchen tools.

You can try this with other stems, too. I had some success with asparagus, and I suspect bok choi would work really well, too. Experiment with the stems you have in your veggie drawer!

Celery Dissection Activity Guide


See How Stems Work

But how do those xylem actually get the water up from the roots? Plants don’t have a heart like we do to pump water around, and water always moves downhill because of gravity, right? Plants have found a gravity loophole, called capillary action. It’s the same thing that happens when you dip the end of a paper towel in water and the water soaks upward. In this video, my friend Cinders, a children’s librarian in London, uses capillary action to make water walk and create a rainbow, and shows you how you can do it, too!

Walking Water Rainbow 


Learn a Stem’s Story

Some plants have massive stems that can live for hundreds or even thousands of years! Yes, we’re talking about tree trunks, and every tree trunk has a story to tell. Check out the video from SciShow Kids for a quick intro to how tree rings can tell us a story, then try the online Tree Cookie game from Wonderville and Learn Alberta!

Life as a Tree Video
The Tree Game

Explore Dendroclimatology

Tree rings are important tools for scientists studying global climate change, both to document a history of climate over thousands of years, and to help us understand the changes happening around us today. This activity for older students uses two videos to explore what dendroclimatology is and how the stories told by trees are shaping our knowledge of climate, touching on not only science and technology, but geography, industry, and careers as well.

Dendroclimatology Activity Guide

Make a Three-Stem Dessert

I couldn’t do all that talk about the glories of rhubarb without leaving you with a rhubarb recipe! Now, I love rhubarb cake, pie, crisp… I even had a great rhubarb danish recently. But if you want a quick rhubarb fix, nothing is easier than a compote. Some people call this “stewed rhubarb”, but compote just sounds fancier. And, because we’re all about the stems, this recipe has not just one, but three different stem foods! Granulated sugar is processed from sugar canes, maple syrup comes from the sap of the maple trees. Both of these types of sugar are pulled out of the phloem in the plant’s stems! And, of course, we have the tart rhubarb. Want to add a fourth (!) stem? Add a pinch of cinnamon! Cinnamon come from the inner bark of the cinnamon tree.

This compote is great still warm over ice cream, or try it in a yogurt parfait with some granola for breakfast. Or if you, like me, are on the sourdough baking bandwagon, top some sourdough waffles with this goodness. (Freezer waffles work great, too!)

Rhubarb Compote Recipe

Stay sturdy, and drink your water!



Fresh Five Week 5: Senses

Week Five of the Fresh Five? Well, we just gotta keep that theme going, don’t we? So this week we’ll focus on our Five Senses!  Not all people have all of these five senses, but everyone uses at least some of them to navigate the world. One of the best ways to make deep and lasting connections is to engage our senses, and food can be great way to have a mindful sensory experience.

I had a wonderful experience with some rhubarb I harvested from my back yard this week. It was one of those showery days where everything was damp, and the giant rhubarb leaves were wet and rough as I pushed them gently aside so I could find just the right stalks. The cool, firm stalks released from the base with a pop as I pulled them with a little twist. The stalks themselves were a beautiful, shiny blush pink at the base, like the apple blossoms on the tree in the yard, becoming ruby red at the stem end. One of them broke as I was harvesting, and the scent was bright, sharp, and fresh. And I just had to try a bite. It was mouth-wateringly sour, crisp and crunchy, and just tasted alive as only freshly-picked foods can. (I love feeding raw rhubarb to students. It’s a taste they either love, or love to hate!) And that was before I even got it into the kitchen!

Here are five ways to use your senses to experience the world this week.

See Art in Your Kitchen

Have you seen the #gettymuseumchallenge? It’s the one where people are recreating famous works of art using things around their houses, and there have been some amazing recreations. (Dog with a Pearl Earring, anyone?) And, of course, some of our favorites have been created out of food, like The Scream in Focaccia, Woman in Biscuits, or a whipped cream Starry Night.

Now we’re challenging you! Use your eye for shape, color, and texture to create something amazing out of the food or other items in your kitchen. If you share your creations, be sure to tag us! We’re @freshrootsfarms on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Need some inspiration? You can use Google Street View to take a tour of the Vancouver Art Gallery. How cool is that!

Tour the Vancouver Art Gallery


Touch a Mystery Veggie

Nothing is more exciting than reaching into a box, bag, or jar to feel what’s inside! It turns and ordinary turnip or pepper into a mystery to solve. This lesson is one of our all time favorites, in part because of the mystery and in part because it’s so flexible. No veggies? Use fruits, or leaves from outside, or even kitchen utensils! Use what you’ve got! For younger kids, just reaching in and guessing which of a few different options is in the box is great. For older kids, they can use this as a way to really connect with a plant they are growing or studying about in a fun way. Exploring through one sense at a time is a great mindfulness activity, too.

Mystery Veggie Activity Guide 


Smell a Memory

Smell is the sense that’s most powerfully tied to our memories. Whether it’s the smell of favorite foods cooking, spring flowers, someone’s perfume, or a certain dish soap, smells can instantly transport us to our past. This awesome lesson from the Edible Schoolyard Project will help you learn how smells lodge themselves in our brains.

How Do We Smell? Lesson

Hear Your Neighborhood

Hearing is one sense we can never turn off. Because if that, most of us learn to tune out a lot of the noise around us. But sounds can tell us a lot about out environment and the life within it. This Sound Mapping activity from Sharing Nature helps us be aware of the sounds we might otherwise miss.  And this is a great time of year to get listening, as the birds are very active and vocal right now!

Sound Mapping

Taste Carrot Top Pesto

Each week, the LuchLAB: Chefs for Families project shares over 5,000 meals with Vancouver School Board families who need extra support right now. The project is a collaboration between Fresh Roots and Growing Chefs!, and not only is it feeding people, but it’s employing chefs, supporting local food systems, and turning food that might otherwise be wasted into delicious meals, like this carrot top pesto! These carrot tops came right off the schoolyard farm-grown carrots we planted last fall. Don’t have carrot tops? You can use spinach, arugula, nettles, or most any other spring green.

Carrot Top Pesto Recipe

Don’t forget to stop and smell the lilacs!