avling toronto

Toronto restaurant gets its ingredients from its rooftop garden

At a time when everyone is prioritizing local in Toronto, one restaurant is getting their ingredients from the closest place possible: their own rooftop garden.

Avling has had a rooftop garden since they first opened, and it's now home to dozens of varieties of produce, including tomatoes, berries, leafy greens, apple trees and veggies like radishes, peas, carrots and squash.

They even have a few rows of bitter greens that make their way into the beer, so you're not only eating but drinking local here.

"We are also growing some experimental varieties of wheat and chicories in conjunction with other growers. This year we harvested about 900 cloves of garlic, there are about half a dozen different varieties and they are all currently hanging to cure. I actually think it will last until next year," says Chef Andrew Moore.

"We have several pollinator crops like nasturtium, borage and dandelion to name a few, so there are healthy populations of bees, butterflies and birds from all over the neighborhood. We also prioritize crop rotation, which means as we harvest crops, we plant different crops in in its place."

While under normal circumstances a full dining room would be tucking into all that goodness cooked on a wood-burning grill, for now they're doing a lighter vegetable-forward menu on their smaller patio.

"Unfortunately, the scale of our patio isn't enough to sustain the sheer volume of produce coming from the roof. So, we introduced a weekly produce box," says Moore. The contents change from week to week. However, gardening isn't just about bounty in the present; it's also about planning for the future.

"We have also spent a lot of the down time pickling, drying and preserving some of the ingredients too. There are some quicker turnarounds, like the pickles for our burger that are currently on the menu, and some longer projects like the fermented garlic scapes," Moore continues. 

"We also just made bitters out of our wormwood, and have several flowers drying. So everyone is excited for the winter menu, when a lot of those projects will be ready to go."

The restaurant also uses the rooftop garden for workshops and tours, which should be resuming in the next few weeks. Avling extends its locavore policy to proteins as well, exclusively sourcing whole animals from small independent farms and butchering them in house. 

"Our butcher also uses some of the bounty from the roof to season the charcuterie," says Moore. "As a chef, I couldn't ask for anything more. The flavour and taste of freshly picked produce is unparalleled, and having that literally at our fingertips is truly a dream come true."

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez

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