Riley Park Apple Festival

A Sustenance Festival event by Little Mountain Neighbourhood house

Written by Nico Starink

Every Saturday, Riley Park is home to a diverse farmers market boasting goods from fresh produce to unique arts and crafts. With an average of around 70 vendors per week, the Riley Park farmers market has made a quite a name for itself in Vancouver.

Riley Park Farmer’s Market photo by Nico Starink

One special Saturday on October 19th, I attended an event at this market that promised a multicultural experience through food and more specifically, apples!

Apples and Food

Upon arrival to the event I was immediately greeted with the fabulous sight of tables full of apple-based dishes from all over the world. Next to that was a sampling area with more apple types than I have ever seen in my life.

This included apples such as: Fuji, Jonyred, Ambrosia, Smoothie, Jonygold, Cinta gold, Empire, and more! Surrounding these tables was an even more diverse group of people. There were grandmothers discussing the dishes they made, children running around and dancing to the music, and everybody in between.

As the event began, each dish was introduced as well as where it was from. Some of my favorite dishes included:

  • An apple jam made from golden apples, a staple in Lebanon
  • Apple Rice dish from Ukraine
  • Apple Biryani from Iraq
  • Apple Cake from Italy
  • Sweet Potato and Apple Soup
  • Dough and Spinach dish from Lebanon, served with apple cider Dijon mustard

These are only a select few of the apple dishes provided but each was delicious and had a culturally rich background. The amount of joy visible on the faces of the people describing how they grew up with these dishes or how their mom/grandma always cooked it a certain way was evident and only added to my enjoyment of the dishes.

“I like the community aspects of the festival and Vancouver as a whole.”
– Carmen, Riley Park Community Garden volunteer and sweet potato apple soup contributor

Apple and Drinks

One thing that immediately caught my attention at this event was the massive barrel with a clamp like presser poised above it. After learning that this machine was in fact a large personal cider press, I was given the opportunity to help chop and grind some apples and learn more about the cider making process.

Step 1: Picking and cleaning your apples. This step is vital as the type of apples you use at the start will impact your ciders taste at the end. Certain “dessert” apples such as Golden Delicious, Granny Smiths, Braeburn, and Gala are better for just straight eating, and as a result can be unnecessarily expensive to press into cider. “Backyard” apples such as Winesaps, which are commonly found in Okanagan are much more suitable for cider. 

Step 2: Don’t forget to clean your kit

Step 3: Set up your juicer and strainer by cutting up and grinding apple pieces.

Step 4: Juice and strain by placing the ground apples into the cider press and going to work.

Step 5: Pitch the yeast

Step 6: Ferment by keeping the cider between 15.5- 22.5 degreed Celsius for around 2-4 months depending on your goals.

Step 7: Finally, last but not least, bottling, and enjoying your cider!

While learning about the cider making process, I also talked to one of the businesses represented at  the Apple Festival, Windfall Cidery, and their ongoing Project lost and found.

Windfall Cidery is a service-based cidery meaning that they have no orchards of their own, and instead build relationships with orchard farmers to supply their apples. Project “Lost and found” was designed to help close the cycle of food waste by collecting unused apples to create their special lost and found cider.

After collecting over 1200lb of apples in their first year they partnered with Greater Vancouver Food banks by taking all their apples that were considered inedible and using them in their cider. This has resulted in over 3500 lbs of apples this year for the lost and found cider with partial proceeds going back to the Greater Vancouver Food Banks.

Overall, the Riley Park Apple Festival boasted diversity in both food and people. This truly was a unique multicultural community experience that was both tasty and valuable.