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Fresh Five Wrap Up

Summer is here, school is out, and my team and I are gearing up for the start of Camp Fresh Roots. (We still have a few spaces left for this summer – come play with us!) And so the time has come to wrap up the Fresh Five. It has been a labour of love to create and curate these resources over the past 12 weeks in this time of uncertainty. I hope you and your family have been able to use these activities to connect to each other, the world that surrounds you, and the food that nourishes you.

For this, our final week of this version of the Fresh Five, I’m collecting all the Fresh Roots activities, field guides, and recipes so you can revisit your favorites, or find ones you may have missed the first time around.

Field Guides

Edible Flowers

Flowers are beautiful, but did you know they can be delicious, too? Our Edible Flower Field Guide will help you identify some of the many tasty, colourful flowers you might find in your neighbourhood. It includes sustainable foraging guidelines, and an Edible Flower Bingo card you can bring with you as you go looking for treats. Please forage responsibly!

Field Guide to Edible Flowers

Native Plants in Vancouver

You don’t have to get out of the city of find native plant species! Douglas-Firs, Western Red Cedar, Salal, Sword Ferns, Bleeding Heart, and so many more are beloved plant members of our communities. This Field Guide to Native Plants will help you identify some of the many native species in our parks, yards, and school grounds. Plus, there’s a Bingo sheet to make your next walk even more fun!

Field Guide to Native Plants in Vancouver

Activity Guides

Super Seeds!

Grades K-4

One of our most popular classroom workshops is Super Seeds! And now you can try it for yourself! We’ve adapted our workshop curriculum to be done at your kitchen table, with just things you probably have on hand. If you have or can find Lima beans, I recommend them for this, as they are both very large (so it’s easy to see what’s in them), and the skins are relatively thin, so they are easy to peel.

Super Seeds Activity Guide

Food and Farmworkers

Grades 9-12

I’m a podcast person. I have about 30 different podcasts that update regularly in my feed, on topics from food to mythology to history to linguistics. So when I heard a recent episode of the US-based economics podcast Planet Money about how COVID-19 is impacting American farmworkers, I wanted to share it. This is a complex topic, touching on issues of food security, labour rights (or lack thereof), public health, and yes, econ. It’s sure to spark discussions, so we’ve made a bit of framing for it. I recommend listening to your older student and discussing it together. (And in case you’re wondering, Fresh Roots farmworkers are mostly local university students, and pay starts at $15.50/hour.)

Food and Farmworkers Activity Guide

 

Signs of Spring-O Neighbourhood Bingo

All Ages

Are your kids (and, let’s be honest, you) getting tired of walking around the same 5 blocks over and over again as you try to get some fresh air and gentle exercise during these days of physical distancing? Print out this Neighbourhood Bingo sheet! Look at your local environment in a whole new way as you notice how spring is blooming all around us.

Spring Bingo Card

Explore Your Spring Traditions

All Ages

At Fresh Roots, we think everyone should have healthy food, land, and communities, and one of the ways we strengthen our communities is through traditions! Whether your spring celebrations centre around a religious holiday, a natural phenomenon, or a special calendar date, talking to your elders about where those traditions come from is a great way to build relationships. Not spring anymore? You can do this same activity for other celebration seasons!

Exploring Spring Traditions Activity Guide

Make Veggie Art

Grades K-5

If you have some fruits or veggies that have been in the fridge just a little too long, Veggie Printing is a fun way to repurpose them! Not only is it a good thing to do with that limp celery, a potato that’s started growing, or the bits of your veg that aren’t going to make it into soup, it’s also a great way for kids to play with their food. When kids are encouraged to use all their senses to get to explore a carrot or asparagus in a stress-free way, they can develop a greater appreciation for them, which in turn makes them more likely to eat those vegetables!

Veggie Print Activity Guide

Touch A Mystery Veggie

Grades K-5

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 favourites, 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 in a fun way. Exploring through one sense at a time is a great mindfulness activity, too.

Mystery Veggie Activity Guide

Explore Dendroclimatology

Grades 9-12

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

Dissect a Stem

Grades 1-5

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 provides 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 surrounds the xylem. In the stem of a celery plant, the xylem is 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!

Stem Dissection Activity Guide

Make an Ecosystem Web

Grades 3-12

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 sound 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

Make it Rise!

Bread

Grades K-7

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 a Plant Friend

Grades 4-12

This activity is a chance to slow down and really connect with a plant in a different way than we normally do. We often think about what a plant is called, or how it’s useful to us. That can often lead to a very one-sided relationship with plants – they give, and we take. But by making a close connection with one particular plant, we can become more in tune with what it needs and what we can give back. Plus, it’s a great excuse to hug a tree, and trees are great huggers! And don’t miss the video made by Cara at our site at  Suwa’lkh School in Coquitlam.

Meet-A-Plant Activity Guide
Cara’s Plant Friends

Meet Your Local Pollinators

Grades K-8

What do pollinators need to survive? And what pollinators live in your neighbourhood? Check out this activity for all ages to learn some pollinator facts. Then, take what you’ve learned out into your neighbourhood to see which pollinators can make a happy home near you!

Neighbourhood Pollinators Activity Guide

Recipe Book

I hope you enjoyed cooking and eating all those delicious recipes as much as I enjoyed creating them. With local summer produce coming into full force, it’s a great time to revisit some of those recipes with new fruits and veggies. And to make it easy for you to find your favourites, we’ve put them all into a recipe book. Happy cooking!

Fresh Five Recipe Book

With love and a fistful of sunshine,

Kat

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Fresh Five: Pollinator Power!

Happy Summer Solstice everyone! Way back in April for our Flower Power week, I said we’d get to learn more about bumblebees and other pollinators, and that week is finally here! June 22-28 is Pollinator Week in Canada and the US, and with all the summer fruits and vegetables starting to show up on the farm and at your local farmer’s market, it’s a great time to think about and say thank you to the animals we can’t live without.

Did you know that one out of every three bites of food you eat relies on animal pollination? Most of the fruits (like apples, berries, and melons) and vegetables-that-are-actually-fruits (like tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and peas) we eat need animals to pollinate the plant’s flowers before it forms fruits. And many other vegetables (like carrots and beets) need pollinators to form the seeds they grow from. You can find a list of just some of the foods that need animal pollinators at the Pollinator Partnership. And that’s not even thinking about all the other plants that rely on animals to help them make seeds!

So thank a bee, bat, bird, fly, moth, butterfly, wasp, or even lemur for the work they do to help our plant friends!

Meet Your Local Pollinators

What do pollinators need to survive? And what pollinators live in your neighborhood? Check out this activity for all ages to learn some pollinator facts. Then, take what you’ve learned out into your neighbourhood to see which pollinators can make a happy home near you!

Neighbourhood Pollinators Activity Guide

 

Learn About Bumblebees

I’ve said before that bumblebees are my favorites. They are just so fuzzy and chill and hard working. As long as you’re not messing with them, you can get right up close and watch them harvest pollen and nectar. And especially in the morning when they are sleepy and hanging out on a flower to warm up, you can even gently pet them! (One very gentle finger, please!)

The Bumblebee Queen, by April Pulley Sayre and illustrated by Patricia J. Wynne is a fabulous way for young (and not-so-young) learners to see the whole bumblebee life cycle. And through Tumble Book Library, you can see this book come to life! To access it, you’ll need to first log into your Vancouver Public Library account, then click the link below. Don’t have a VPL account? You may be able to log in through your local library, or you can sign up for a free trial.

The Bumblebee Queen

 

Bees in Danger?

You’ve probably heard that bees are in trouble. Both our native bee species and commercial honeybees, which originally came from Europe, have seen declines in their numbers in the last couple of decades. You know how important our pollinators are, so you know this is a big problem for us and for other living things! But why is it happening? It’s… complicated. This activity for older students (grade 7+) helps explain some of the complexities involved. It’s focused on California, but as we’ve talked about before, a very large percentage of the produce we eat in BC is pollinated by those Californian bees.

You’ll need to create a free account to download this lesson plan!

Colony Collapse Disorder Lesson

Make a Pollinator Haven

What can you do to help our pollinators? It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3! 1, Give them some food. 2, Give them some water, and 3, give them shelter. Especially in the city, it’s hard for pollinators to find the things they need to survive, but it doesn’t take a lot to help them out. If you have enough outdoor space for a pot of flowers and a shallow dish of water, you can help make a pollinator haven. Check out the info from the David Suzuki Foundation on How to Create a Pollinator Friendly Yard for ideas, activities, and more, and the Wilderness Society’s Bee Cheat Sheet for a list of native plants that will bring all the bees to your yard!

How to Create a Pollinator Friendly Yard
Bee Cheat Sheet

Taste Pollinator Power!

Here’s another Camp Fresh Roots classic recipe – Pollinator Power Salad! You can use any fruits that are in season. Strawberries and cherries would be a great choice right now. Oh, and if you want to get extra fancy, chiffonade a few fresh basil leaves and mix them in with your fruit. You’ll thank me, and the bees!

Pollinator Power Salad

With joy and gratitude,

Kat

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Fresh Five: Native Plants

I grew up in this corner of the world, the coastal Pacific Northwest, and did a lot of camping as a kid. One of my most favorite summer memories is picking bright red huckleberries growing on the nurse stumps dotting the campground. I don’t know when I learned the name Huckleberry or her neighbors Sword Fern, Douglas Fir, or Oregon Grape. I’m sure it was from my parents, who had grown up camping in this ecosystem, too, who had learned from their parents or Scout leaders. Those plants have been my friends and teachers as long as I can remember.

Unlike the plants I was taught about and given the opportunity to become friends with, the same can’t be said for the Indigenous people who’s lands those plants evolved on. I knew some of their names, as they had become place names, but as a white kid living in predominantly white communities, my education about native people was limited to learning about how they “used to live,” before white people settled and built “real” cities and states and countries. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I started hearing more often about the vibrant, living traditions of Indigenous people.

I know now that I was living and learning on the lands of the Cowlitz and Clackamas; Chinook, Clatsop, and Kathlamet; Puyallup and Nisqually; and Duwamish and Suqaumish tribes and nations. (Indigenous peoples in the US generally self-identify as tribes, though some groups use nation or band.) Today, I am very grateful to live as a settler on the traditional, unceded territory of the Musqueam, Tsleil Waututh, and Squamish Coast Salish peoples. Fresh Roots also operates on the territories of the Kwikwitlem, Katzie, Sto:lo, and Qayqayt First Nations, and we are continually working to be responsible stewards of this land which is not ours.

(If you’re wondering who’s land you’ve lived on in North or South America, Australia, or New Zealand, you can find out at Native Land.)

Indigenous people have lived and learned from the land and the plants that grow there for thousands of years. If you have the opportunity to learn about your local plants directly from the people who know them the best, seek out and take advantage of that opportunity! But this week, I want to share five ways you can learn more about, and from, plants native to the Vancouver area. I hope it’s a good place to start really getting to know this beautiful part of the world.

Make a Plant Friend

This activity is a chance to slow down and really connect with a plant in a different way than we normally do. We often think about what a plant is called, or how it’s useful to us. That can often lead to a very one-sided relationship with plants – they give, and we take. But by making a close connection with one particular plant, we can become more in tune with what it needs and what we can give back. Plus, it’s a great excuse to hug a tree, and trees are great huggers! And don’t miss the video made by Cara at our site at  Suwa’lkh School in Coquitlam.

Meet-A-Plant Activity Guide
Cara’s Plant Friends

 

Native Plants in Your Neighbourhood

You don’t have to get out of the city of find native plant species! Douglas-Firs, Western Red Cedar, Salal, Sword Ferns, Bleeding Heart, and so many more are beloved plant members of our communities. This Field Guide to Native Plants will help you identify some of the many native species in our parks, yards, and school grounds. Plus, there’s a Bingo sheet to make your next walk even more fun!

Native Plant Field Guide

 

In Harmony with Nature

In Harmony with Nature is a project by Lori Snyder and Laura Cisneros. Lori Snyder is an Indigenous herbalist and educator, who I’ve been fortunate to learn from and who has helped Fresh Roots maintain the Indigenous Plant Garden at Van Tech Secondary. Laura Cisneros is a Cuban Art Historian and a writer focused in the experience of living and creating in a foreign language. Together, they are 2020 Artists-in-Residence at the Hasting-Sunrise Community Centre. You can learn more about what they are doing and how you can get involved at their website. And check out the blog post linked below to for an introduction to three edible species, Oregon Grape, Blue Camas, and Stonecrop.

Introduction to Three Native Plants

Birdscaping

Humans aren’t the only ones who rely on plants for food, shelter, and more. Animals do, too! Native plant and animal species have co-evolved to support one another. Choosing native species for your yard or school garden encourages native pollinators like bumblebees and butterflies (more on those next week!), and native bird species, too! Check out this guide to Birdscaping with native plants from the Environmental Youth Alliance. And if you need some plants, you can order them from our native plant propagation program at Suwa’lkh, where we work with students to grow native species to both reindigenize the forest at Suwa’lkh to sell to the wider community!

Birdscaping
Buy Native Plants!

Nesto!

Marije’s back this week for another fantastic recipe. If you liked the Carrot Top Pesto from earlier this spring, you’ll love her recipe for Nesto, AKA Nettle Pesto! And for more nettle info, you can check out the video I made way back in March when the nettles were just coming up at Van Tech.

“Stinging nettles are a delicious and exciting plant to go foraging for. They come in two subspecies: a native species, Urtica dioica gracilis which is the one we see and eat the most often, while another (Urtica dioica dioica) was introduced many years ago but is (so far) happily coexisting with the native plants of this area.

Where to look for nettles: These plants love moist places- look for clearings in a forest where some light is getting through, near river banks, in old fields, or by the sides of quiet roads. Make sure to wear long sleeves and pants, gloves, and bring a pair of scissors.

What to do once you find the nettles: Cut the tops of the plants- these are the most tasty, and this allows the plant to continue growing. Try not to touch them until they’re blanched!

Nettles are good to eat all spring and summer. Like most greens, yhey’re best eaten before they start to make flowers or seeds. Nettle pesto, or “nesto” is a great way to eat nettles – it tastes fresh, clean and green; a little bit like cucumbers! ”

Nesto Recipe Card
Kat’s Nettle Video

Plants are great teachers – get out there and learn from them!

Kat

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Fresh Five: Waves of Justice

This past week has been an emotionally intense one for many of us as protests continue to highlight the systemic racism in our communities, and those protests against police violence are met with violence in return. As an organization dedicated to Good Food for All, we at Fresh Roots have been working individually and collectively to find ways to show solidarity with Black, Indigenous, and other marginalized people, and to continue our ongoing work toward building a just food system. If you haven’t see it, please read our message to our community.

And through that, our work continues, of growing food, feeding families, and teaching kids and youth about the food and ecological systems we are all part of. Before joining Fresh Roots, I spent five years as a marine educator, helping kids and adults learn about the importance of our oceans, and our Salish Sea in particular, so I was excited to create this week’s Fresh Five in honor of World Ocean’s Day on Monday, June 8th.

But I also can’t ignore the vitally important conversation we’re having about racism. Environmental problems disproportionately affect marginalized communities, and racism makes it harder for some of wisest voices for conservation to be heard. We cannot truly help our oceans without also fighting racism. So this week’s Fresh Five looks at many of those ways people and oceans are connected, and some of the ways racism has made it harder for oceans, and the people who depend on them, to thrive.

How to Talk About Racism with Kids

Before we jump into the ocean, I wanted to share some resources for parents who might be struggling with how to talk about racism and the anti-racism protest movement with their kids. The first link is a written guide that provides a framework for having these conversations. And the second is a link to the Sesame Street/CNN Town Hall aimed at kids and parents.

How to Talk to Kids about Race and Racism
Coming Together: Standing Up to Racism

 

Oceans and People

Last weekend, I took a beach vacation to the other end of town. It was a perfect chance to see some of the many ways people connect to the ocean. There were kids playing in the sand, kayakers, people in sailboats, and even some brave swimmers using the ocean for recreation and exercise. There were also container ships and what looked like a gravel barge being pulled by a tug boat, sowing the commercial importance of waterways in our global society. And on the beach were many small clam and mussel shells and seaweed, hinting at the food the ocean provides. And, of course, many gulls, geese, and herons connecting land and water ecosystems.

This interactive story from Ocean Wise, part of the elementary Ocean Literacy course, is a great place to dive into how oceans and people are connected. Ocean Wise has lots of other fantastic resources to learn more about our oceans, too!

Ocean Literacy: Oceans and People

 

Sustainable Fishing

Fresh Roots was fortunate to be part of something very exciting last week. Our LunchLAB: Chefs for Families program in partnership with Growing Chefs! was gifted 100lbs of the first catch of BC spot prawns from Organic Ocean. BC spot prawns are a delicacy and only available for a few weeks a year. Why the short time frame? It’s because BC spot prawns are an example of a sustainable fishery. That means the seafood is caught in a way that doesn’t harm the ecosystem and leaves enough of the seafood in the ocean for future years.

Sustainable fishing is important for people because somewhere between 1 and 3 billion people around the world rely on seafood for their primary source of protein. Seafood is also a traditional and culturally important food for many Indigenous peoples around the world, including in BC. Indigenous people eat 15 times more seafood than non-Indigenous people globally, according to a 2016 study from UBC. That means that preserving and protecting seafood stocks for future generations is not just an environmental issue, it’s a justice issue, too.

This classic sustainable fishing simulation from the California Academy of Sciences is easily modified for a family game night – just use fewer food items or have a longer “fishing season”. Feel free to substitute any small food item for the crackers and popcorn. I’ve always played it with M&Ms!

Sustainable Fishing Game

Clam Gardening

Photo: Mary Morris, SFU. CC-BY 2.0

While today our oceans are faced with over fishing, that hasn’t always been the case. For thousands of years, Hul’q’umi’num and WSÁNEĆ peoples of the Gulf Islands tended clam gardens as a form of sustainable aquaculture. Clams and their bivalve cousins mussels and oysters are some of the hardest working creatures in the sea. As filter feeders, they absorb toxins as they gather plankton, cleaning the water around them! Traditional clam gardens may be up to four times as productive as untended clam beds, which allow them to provide a continuous source of food for people while actively improving water quality. This is just one example of Indigenous knowledge of how to live in mutually beneficial relationship with the ocean and its inhabitants.  Listening to and learning from Indigenous and other marginalized communities is needed to care for our oceans. We need everyone’s knowledge and ideas to solve the problems we face today.

Check out this web page from Parks Canada to learn more about clam gardens and their project to connect ecological and cultural knowledge. Be sure to watch the video!

Clam Gardens – Learning Together

Nori Wraps

For our recipe this week, I brought in one of our new Experiential Learning team members, Marije! She’ll be working with me this summer to run Camp Fresh Roots, and you’ll be seeing more of her on the blog over the next few weeks as well.  Here’s what she had to say about seaweed!

“Maybe it’s because I didn’t grow up next to the ocean, but I used to imagine seaweed as one thing: long, green and wavy. But there are so many different kinds; seaweeds of all shapes, sizes and colours! British Columbia has an incredible amount of seaweed biodiversity; there are over 530 varieties right here on the shores of Vancouver! (Bates 2004). A member of the algae family, seaweed is classified into three groups: green, red, or brown.

“Seaweeds of the Pacific Northwest is a guide to identifying 25 common seaweeds that we can find right where we live. Some are edible, some are beautiful, all play important roles in Pacific Ocean ecosystems. Next time you’re at the beach, try finding as many different seaweeds as you can. See if you can classify it by looking at its colour: is it a Chlorophyta (green), Rhodophyta (red), or Phaeophyta (brown)?

“Seaweed isn’t really a “weed”, a better word might be sea-vegetable. Seaweed (or sea-vegetable; start the movement!) is super nutritious, full of vitamins, minerals and iron. Nori is an edible seaweed that is part of the Rhodophyta (red) family. After it is harvested, it is shredded, pressed and dried into thin sheets, similar to how paper is made. Here is a recipe using nori sheets as the base ingredient; you can use any combo of your favourite veggies and/or protein for the filling for these rolls!”

Nori Rolls Recipe Card

May we all be inspired by these waves of justice to do the work to care for the Earth and each other.

Kat

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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

Bread

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 keeper. 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 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!

Kat

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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!

Kat

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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!

Kat

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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!

Kat

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Fresh Five Week 4: Flower Power

They say that April showers bring May flowers, and we’ll see if that’s right this week! Friday is May Day, which has been celebrated with flowers since Roman times, when it was known as Floralia, a 6-day long celebration in honor of Flora, goddess of flowers. One May Day tradition from my childhood which may be due for a revival is making May Baskets, simple woven paper baskets filled with flowers, often dandelions or other blooming “weeds” we found in our yard. We would, as tradition required, sneak up to our neighbors’ doors, place the basket, knock, and run away with much excitement.I can’t help but think this would be a fantastic way to stay physically distant but socially close. Who doesn’t love getting flowers!

In honor of May Day, this week’s Fresh Five is all about Flower Power.

Forage for Edible Flowers

Flowers are beautiful, but did you know they can be delicious, too? Our Edible Flower Field Guide will help you identify some of the many tasty, colorful flowers you might find in your neighborhood. It includes sustainable foraging guidelines, and an Edible Flower Bingo card you can bring with you as you go looking for treats. Please forage responsibly!

Edible Flower Field Guide

 

 

Find Flower Friends

While you’re out looking at flowers, slow down and keep your eyes peeled for bees, butterflies, and more! We’ll have a whole week dedicated to pollinators, but this is a great time to start looking for them. You can help scientists track what species are living where using the Insight Citizen Science iPhone app. Don’t have an iPhone? Bumble Bee Watch (based in the US) lets you take pictures with any device and upload them to their database. Both of these projects are meaningful ways you can contribute to scientific knowledge in your community!

Insight Citizen Science
Bumble Bee Watch

 

Dissect a Flower

But why do pollinators visit flowers? And why do flowers want pollinators to visit them? Check out this Flower Dissection lesson from the great folks at SPEC to learn about the different parts of a flower and their functions, and see why pollinators are so important to plants, and to us! It’s part of their Green Thumbs at School lesson book, which is full of other great lessons. 

Flower Dissection Lesson

Press Flowers

If you have blooms that are too pretty to eat (or just not edible), you can press them and turn them into lasting decorations! This site has great descriptions of many different ways to press and dry flowers. Did you know you can press your flowers in the microwave? I sure didn’t!

Flowering Pressing

Roast Cauliflower

Is cauliflower really a flower? Yes, it is! The tight, white head of the cauliflower is actually its immature flower buds. If you left it on the plant, it would bloom! Broccoli is a flower too. Coating anything in butter and roasting it is sure to make it even more delicious, and cauliflower is no exception. You can substitute the curry powder with any of your favorite seasoning blends. Adding a colorful sprinkle of cilantro or dandelion petals takes it from everyday to gourmet.

Roasted Curry Cauliflower Recipe

Happy Flowering!

Kat