Fruit vs. Vegetable: Summer Botany Edition

Originally, I was going to write a long, detailed article about a new type of squash I encountered in the garden, however in the midst of telling a friend about this idea we got into a discussion about the technical differences between fruits and vegetables. The answer surprised me. Sure, we’ve all heard about how a tomato is technically a fruit, usually from some know-it-all kid in elementary school who posed the question in such a way to embarrass anyone who didn’t know the answer. What this kid in elementary school probably didn’t tell you was why a tomato is a fruit.

Fruits develop from the flower of any plant, whereas vegetables are any other part of the plant; this usually means the leaves, stems or root. Working in the garden certainly helps with understanding how each plant grows, but just from shopping in the super market one can discern what is a fruit and what is a vegetable. Anything with a stem is probably a fruit. For example: peppers, both bell and hot, are fruits because they develop out of the flower of the plant, same goes for tomatoes, squashes, cucumbers, beans, and peas. Don’t worry; potatoes, carrots, kale, spinach, and broccoli are still vegetables. Rhubarb, although generally paired with fruits like strawberries, is technically a vegetable because the useful part of the plant is the stems.

These may seem like trivial botanical facts for plant nerds like myself, but thinking about which vegetables are botanically fruits forces us to reexamine our relationship to food. It mends the gap between our thinking about food and plants that plagues those of us that get the majority of our food from grocery stores. When you ask yourself whether what you are eating is a fruit or a vegetable, you’re asking about the plant it stems from (pun intended). This gets us thinking about our food in new and exciting ways.




Student Bloggers Spotlight – Annika

Harvesting Some Veggies

By Annika

There has been a lot of harvesting recently. I think it is mainly because there are a lot of markets and senior centers coming up. My market and senior center days are in August so I will be the last one to go to a market or senior center. Today I harvested broccoli. We couldn’t find the shears so we had to cut the broccoli using scissors which was next to impossible. Every time I pass the broccoli I am always intrigued on how it is grown. I find it so cool how it grows in the middle of the plant and it looks so funny. We collected so much broccoli! They were all huge too which is great for the market.


We also collected carrots. They are so cute and tiny. They are like tiny, little baby carrots. Some of them were this pretty purple color too. I wonder why? Either way I cant really eat carrots because of my braces but that is okay cause I never really liked them that much anyways.


What is your favorite type of veggie and why?


To Weed or Not to Weed

Having never worked on a farm in such a rainy and temperate climate, I was amazed at the amount of weeds the earth could produce in just a matter of days! Between the cultivated vegetables, our farms are overflowing with chickweed, dandelion, sheep sorrel, horsetail, self seeded strawberries, lettuce and cilantro. These weeds are simply wild plants that were not cultivated by farmers, and often compete – and outcompete the plants we grow to sell. And while weeds may not be what we want to send to market, their medicinal benefits are numerous and the lessons they can teach us are invaluable.

Horsetail is notorious at Fresh Roots for its tenacious root system and its ability to reproduce beneath the soil. These tall, hollow stalks are ringed with spindly long leaves and are connected underground via a long root called the rhizome. The rhizome produces new shoots that grow upwards towards the light. While above ground, a patch of horsetail appears to be a collection of individual plants, each with their own root system – below ground we see that they are all connected. If you only remove the visible shoots while weeding a patch of horsetail, it will continue to grow and thrive, a plant hydra that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Earlier this summer, folks from the Vancouver Telus branch came out to the Van Tech Farm to work as part of their ‘Days of Giving’ campaign. My team tackled the horsetail with vigor, working together to dig up the rhizome and remove the weed from our farm. From a farmer’s perspective, the horsetail is a beast. From an evolutionary standpoint it is pure genius. The beauty of the horsetail reflects the beauty of my time working with Fresh Roots. The collaboration between players is what makes us stronger – it is the rhizome that connects us and promotes both innovation and creativity. I’ve learned that it is impossible to plan a strong lesson or run a good field trip alone, and that working with my Experiential Learning team fosters the same synergy that we see with the horsetail – we thrive together. Our weedy beds are certainly a labour of love, but if we listen to what the plants are trying to teach, we too will learn their lessons.



Horsetail is an antioxidant, anti inflammatory and antimicrobial. It is high in silica, an essential mineral for human health, and helps promote the growth of healthy bones and connective tissues such as collagen. Silica declines with age, so it is important to maintain the body’s silica levels to support strong bones, hair and fingernails. Topically, horsetail salve can be used to treat burns and wounds.






Red clover flowers are sweet to eat fresh and can also be dried for tea. As a topical treatment, red clover soothes eczema, sores and burns due to its anti-inflammatory compounds – eugenol, myricetin and salicylic acid. Red clover is a blood thinner, and its concentration of phytoestrogens daidzein and genistein mimic estrogen in the body. For this reason, red clover can alleviate menopause related discomfort such as hot flashes.





Chickweed is a small leafed viney ground cover that is delicious in salads. Taken orally, chickweed can remedy a variety of conditions including asthma, blood disorders, conjunctivitis, constipation, inflammation, and other skin ailments. It also aids in digestion. Topically, chickweed salve can treat rashes and sores.






The entire Dandelion plant can be used medicinally. The long taproot is dried and ground as a coffee replacement and natural diuretic. The leaves and flowers can be eaten raw (dandelion and lettuce are in the same plant family) and due to its richness in Zinc and Magnesium, the plant promotes detoxification and healthy skin.






Sheep sorrel is a tangy tasting groundcover with thick, arrow-shaped, tender but flavourful leaves. It tastes delicious in salads, or on its own – the kids refer to it as nature’s sour candy! Sheep sorrel is rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, B and beta-carotene. Popularized by Rene Caisse’s cancer curing Essiac tea, Sheep Sorrel has the ability to destroy cancer cells in the body and inhibit metastasis (the spreading of cancer cells outward from the tumour site). Sheep sorrel is a blood purifier, aiding in the disposal of dead tissues within the body.



Keep your eyes peeled for these weeds growing at Fresh Roots Farms and around Vancouver and make use of their medicinal benefits!


Terrific Thursdays

Wow, week two is in the books; we can hardly believe it.

Spent the day building tables, seeding beets and drying beans, and cooking our signature bean and warm potato salad recipe with blueberry, blackberry crumble for dessert.

What a terrific Thursday!



First week of SOYL

Week One

A crazy awesome week has gone by here at the farm! Our SOYL program has begun and we are so excited to learn, grow, and share good food with our community.

Here are the highlights of the week 🙂


Students cooking up the Farm Roots special, garic scape baked fries.

Before and after pics of the students hard work weeding the overgrown rows.

Garlic hanging to dry (we have lots of red russian garlic ready for you to stock up on).

Have a great weekend!






We have been busy getting the farm space ready for our summer SOYL program to begin. Shamus took the lead in designing and building the luffa trellis. That’s right, we are going to have vines growing up a ten foot trellis over a picnic area. Thank you Shamus!

Wait, there’s more! We set up a 12 ft by 19 ft hoop-house (small green house) so we can extend our growing season 🙂


One more week until SOYL starts and we couldn’t be more excited.   

Celebrating the year

What a year!

Yesterday marked the last day of the fall/winter program at the farm, and boy was it a big day!

The day started with a farm scavenger hunt, then the students competed in farm Olympics where they had to fill two buckets with weeds, plant corn, pick peas, water the orchard, and fill two wheelbarrows with wood-chips.

Students and staff prepared a barbeque lunch before unveiling the new sign at the entrance of the farm paying homage to Mr. Graham Harkley, and Mrs. Tammy Veltkamp – the amazing teachers who started this program and who will not be returning next year. Their legacy will live on through our students and the farm.

We finished the celebratory day by watching the grade 12 environmental studies students’ film then indulged in some tasty treats and the students presented their teachers with gifts.

P.S a note from the gr. 12 enviro class – SAVE THE BEES!!!

Have a great summer and be sure to visit the farm stand for fresh produce 🙂 Look at all those garlic sapes we just pulled, come before we are all out!



Delt Farm Update

June is here and we are already full throttle into our growing season thanks to the hard work of the Delta Farm Roots students and staff. With nearly all our beds planted, we are expecting lots of food and we are excited to announce we will be selling at the Ladner and Tsawwassen farmers markets: July 22nd (Ladner) , July 28th (Tsawwassen) , Aug 11th (Tsawwassen). We may change one of our Tsawwassen markets to the North Delta market, so please stay tuned!


Farmer Jasmine is back with Fresh Roots for a second growing season, and we are very excited to have Farmer Shamus join us with his excellent building skills and eye for infrastructure improvements. Please join us at the Delta site – 6570 1A ave – to buy our fresh produce on our honour stand and don’t forget to say hi to us on the field.


Happy Growing!



All Our Father’s Relations

The Vancouver Food Policy Council is pleased to invite you to join us for a special documentary film screening of All Our Father’s Relations, followed by a panel discussion.

When: Thursday, May 31st – 6:30 to 8:30 PM. Doors open at 6:30pm. Film starts at 7pm. Panel starts at 8pm.

Where: Science World at TELUS World of Science, 1455 Quebec St, Vancouver, BC. View Map.

The venue and washrooms are wheelchair accessible. Gender neutral washrooms are available on-site.

Tickets are $15 – available through Eventbrite. Share the event with friends and family on Facebook.

We acknowledge that we are on the unceded, occupied, ancestral and traditional lands of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səl̓ilwətaɁɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) nations.

As we strive to understand our own relationships to each other and the land through food, it is important for us to also recognize the historical and ongoing colonization and settlement of Indigenous peoples and lands that make it possible for us to be here as settlers.

About the Film

All Our Father’s Relations (祖根父脈) is a documentary film telling the story of the Grant siblings’ journey to rediscover their father’s roots and to better understand his fractured relationship with their xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) mother. Raised primarily in the traditions of the Musqueam people, the Grant family and their story reveals the shared struggles of migrants and Aboriginal peoples today and in the past.

Panel Discussion + Special Guests

Join us afterwards for a panel discussion with Alexandra Henao-Castrillon, Hayne Wai and Howard E. Grant to explore how the erasure of Indigenous and minority communities’ food contributions impacts current society and actions.

Alexandra Henao-Castrillon is originally from Colombia. She has worked supporting and advocating for migrant farm workers in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley for the last 6 years. She is a founding member of the Migrant Workers’ Dignity Association

Hayne Wai is a longtime advocate, researcher, and author on Vancouver’s Chinatown and Strathcona. He is a founding member and past president of the Chinese Canadian Historical Society of BC and a former board trustee of the Dr. Sun Yat-sen Classical Chinese Garden and continues his involvement with both organizations. Hayne worked for the federal and provincial governments and was more recently a sessional instructor at UBC’s Faculty of Education. He has served on government, post-secondary and community committees on anti-racism, diversity, human rights and multiculturalism including the recent city advisory committee on Historical Discrimination Against Chinese in Vancouver. Panelists and participants will explore topics ranging from Reconciliation efforts, migrant farm labour organizing, and other challenges we are facing in just and sustainable food systems.

Howard E. Grant was born and raised in the Musqueam community. He was one of the fortunate children who did not attend residential school, giving him the benefit of learning his culture, values and teachings from his elders in his every day life. Mr. Grant is his family’s cultural speaker and is a historian and cultural leader of his extended family. As a result of this, Howard was given the honour by the elders of his extended family to carry the name qiyəplenəxʷ, a name known and respected throughout Coast Salish territories. Mr. Grant is currently the Executive Director of the First Nations Summit. The First Nations Summit is comprised of a majority of First Nations and Tribal Councils in British Columbia, providing a forum to address issues related to Aboriginal Title, Rights and Treaty negotiations as well as other issues of common concern. He is also a long serving member of Council from his home community of Musqueam.

Sarah Ling was born and raised as a 4th generation Chinese Canadian in Prince Rupert, B.C. on Tsimshian territory. She is a Project Manager with an Indigenous focus at the University of British Columbia at St. John’s College as well as Student Housing and Hospitality Services, where she produces and manages both Indigenous and Chinese Canadian storytelling initiatives. She is the lead Producer of All Our Father’s Relations, and was recently elected President of the Chinese Canadian Historical Society of B.C