How would you respond if you went to a spa and you found out that some of the products included ingredients harvested from your very backyard?
“Finally”- says interviewee Tim Fryatt of Lifecycles Project. “I think that would be really exciting. I have a household with my partner where our food is from our back yard, or places in the community. But one of the few places we don’t have products from our local community, is in our bathroom.”
This Farm-2-Face Blog is to tell you the story behind our apple cider vinegar (ACV), the key ingredient in our Saving Face Toner. We source our ACV from a partnership between Spinnakers Brewpub and Lifecycles Project. Many of the apples used are collected from registered tree’s from Victoria’s Urban Orchard.
What is the Urban Orchard?
The Urban Orchard is a transformative way of thinking as a society. Where we are all stewards of the fruit trees in our backyards so we can harvest large yields of food from our city for years into the future.
Fruit trees are an amazing gateway to understanding our urban ecological life. There are studies that show that human health is impacted by the trees in our cities. Cities by design are human made and require a human relationship. It is really an opportunity in a simple way to start to feel responsibilities around our urban backyard.
If you are a homeowner/renter on Vancouver island you likely have a fruit tree in your backyard, which makes you a farmer in our Urban Orchard.
What is in our collective backyard?
Cherries, Yellow Plums, Transparent Apples, Cherry Plums, Victoria Plums, Apples (LOTS OF APPLES), Italian Prune Plums, Bosc Pears, Bartlett Pears, and Quince. You may have also come across blackberries, almond trees, walnut trees, grapevines, and rarely kiwi, peach, and apricot trees.
Tim Fryatt is the Social Entrepreneur at the Lifecycles Project, a local non-profit in Victoria BC that cultivates community health by connecting people to the food they eat and the land it comes from. For years, Tim has been the man who helps facilitate the success of the Lifecycles Fruit Tree Project.
How does the Fruit Tree Project work?
- Tree owners who want to harvest the fruit of their trees and share it with the community register their tree here.
- Someone with experience in farming and orchards will come and assess your tree to verify the harvest timeline.
- Closer to the date of harvest, a Harvest Leader will come and verify the tree is ready for picking and schedule a picking date.
- On the tree’s harvest cycle volunteers will arrive and pick your fruit! Become a Volunteer
- The fruit comes back to the warehouse for sorting. Anything that is ripe and needs to be eaten right away goes to the foodbank.
- From there the fruit is divided between the homeowners, volunteers, and the foodbank.
- Anything that isn’t perfect (has scars, scabs, or blemishes) becomes part of Lifecycles Social Enterprise.
Fruits that are blemished, scarred, or scabbed become ingredients for products such as apple juice, cider, and apple cider vinegar.
Lifecycles also works with the Royal Bay culinary program to offer chef’s an opportunity to work and develop tastes with local flavours. They recently made an interesting inventive taste with the quince fruit paste. The quince is the last to fruit in the season in late October. Looks like a pear but not really - it is really hard and the flesh is like a fuzzy amazing smelling rock. Remove the pulp by roasting or quartering and boiling down with sugar. Really high in pectin and then you can slice it and eat it with cheese.
How much fruit are we talking here?
Victoria and its surrounding regions has about 900 registered fruit trees. In 2017 there were 200+ trees harvested and about 25,000lbs of fruit. In 2016 there were about 350+ trees harvested and 50,000lbs of fruit.
Do you think we have enough fruit to sustain the island?
I am not sure that Victoria is a heavy fruit eating society but I definitely think there is enough fruit to be a significant part of a local diet. Last year the yield was so high the volunteers only reached about 50% of the registered trees. So it is not far fetched to think our Urban Orchard is producing about 100,000lbs of fruit annually.
Urbanization is something that is happening all over the world. Urban Agriculture is a conversation we need to have as a society. Often these conversations include grand plans with aquaponics, or large architectural transformation but how about this...a tree in a back yard and it produces hundreds of thousands lbs of fruit that can be collected and shared through the simple practice of taking care of the trees.
Has the recent housing boom affected the Fruit Tree Project?
When a home switches ownership it is not part of the process in exchanging keys to go over the history of the fruit trees and their proper care. Many trees will not produce fruit after a change in ownership or could take a few years to come back or not at all.
The housing boom has also resulted in a lot of new construction which affects the number of trees we have on the island. I would love to see each registered tree have an online system where we can keep a history of the tree and its care. This would also be interesting because of the number of fruit varieties we carry in our Urban Orchard. Maybe there are varieties that are more resistant to climate change or different environmental factors we will encounter in the future!
Let’s talk about apple cider vinegar!
How do you make ACV?
Lifecycles Fruit Tree Project works with Spinnakers Brewpub and Phil’s Farm to transform backyard apples → fresh pressed apple juice → apple cider → apple cider vinegar. We buy the apple cider vinegar for Miiko Skin Co.
How do you manage the quality and consistency of the apple cider vinegar?
The beauty of the product is in its diversity, all we can do is be consistent in our manufacturing procedures. When the apples are pressed they undergo UV pasteurization to kill bacteria. The apple juice is brought back to Spinnakers to be transformed into an alcohol. When the cider reaches about 6% alcohol a vinegar mother is added which metabolizes the alcohol into acetic acid. The mother competes with other bacteria and other yeasts by creating an acidic environment. What is left is a 5.5% acetic acid, which is then aged for a couple years.
Acetic acid is an important ingredient for its antioxidants and exfoliating properties on the skin. As well, this acidic environment plays a role in skin care by killing bad bacteria, yeasts, and reducing the risk of breakouts. Acetic acid - Vinegar usually has PH of about 2.4. Our skin is a PH of about 4.5-5-5. At Miiko Skin Co, we have to dilute the final product to be closer to the skin's PH.
Apple Cider Vinegar is essentially a product that will not go bad because of the vinegar mother and the acidic environment. Each bottle might contain anywhere from 10-100 apple varieties contributing to different flavours and scents.
What is your message to the community?
In the past the Fruit Tree Project has focused on the fruit and the harvest, where the season starts and ends from June to November. We are now trying to develop stewardship over the urban orchard, rather than the yield. We are looking for self-empowered customers who are interested in the decision making process of how to care for their fruit trees.
What is your favorite local fruit?
Apples! Huge fan of ribston pippin (crisp and brightly acidic) and the golden russett (crisp and nutty), maybe the best is the ashmeads kernel (ice wine in apple form).
How do you like to eat it?
In cider. I am a cider maker!