Start eating locally grown seasonal fruit and vegetables today
Eating fruit and veg that’s in season has become quite a difficult task for an expat living in Dubai. Seasonal produce is hard to come by especially because we are all from different parts of the world and the seasons do differ quite a bit.
If you hail from Europe the cherry season differs to Asia’s mango season and pears come at different times throughout the year. While we are blessed to have imports of the highest quality in our supermarkets and we are really spoilt for choice it seems that the trend has been to make all fruit and veg available year round and not just seasonally, mind you this seems to have been a worldwide trend with supermarkets, not just a case unique to the UAE.
The popularity of health foods and organically grown produce has grown exponentially in the last few years; people are reverting to consuming locally produced seasonal fruit and vegetables. Most of the imported fruit and vegetables that you buy in the supermarkets have been picked before ripening and stored in cold storages for long periods of time. They are then allowed to ripen and are sold to the public at large. This system is safe and healthy for the consumer but the flavour of the produce is impacted. That is the reason for choosing seasonal produce as it has ripened naturally before being harvested, thus the taste and the smell is all natural, whole and good.
Many people think that the UAE is not a sustainable farming culture because of the desert soil and the scorching heat but UAE farmers have been around for a long time. Mainly their farms yielded just enough produce to feed their families and farms on a larger scale were there for the Sheikhs and their forces.
However with the advents in the technology that surrounds the farming industry it has become possible to farm even in the desert. Hydroponic farming is a popular method by which UAE farmers sustain their produce. The UAE government is behind the idea that the farms should be organic, and now you can go and by seasonal organic produce straight from the farmer’s market.
Every Friday during the winter months there is an organic farmer’s market at Souk al Bahr on the terrace of Baker and Spice. The farmers set up stalls and from 10am to 4pm, there is a cheery sound of chatter among the adults while the children run around and gaze in wonder at the little chicks that are brought down for the market. Fresh herbs, vegetables and dairy products are up for grabs. Like the vegetables that they sell the market is also a seasonal venture. As the temperatures begin to soar the farmers market is shut down for the summer, but have no fear for Baker & Spice sell some seasonal produce within the restaurant during these hot and humid months. Displayed on the shelves and tables today there is an array of tomatoes, garlic, herbs, capsicum and eggplant. All fresh from the farms in Dubai, Ras al Khaimah, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain and regions within the UAE.
There are other organic markets popping up more frequently in Dubai and hopefully by next winter we will all have trained our palettes to appreciate the seasonal fresh produce a whole lot more. It doesn’t all begin and end at the markets, if you have a bit of a green thumb why not grow your own veggies in the garden. There is some produce that grows well in the UAE climate, albeit in the winter time. Window farms have become very popular in Europe and the US where people live, as they do in Dubai, in high rise apartments. These window farms do not use soil but a nutrient rich solution that plants can grow in.
Veggies that do well in a Dubai Garden
More and more people are growing small gardens in Dubai and are enjoying making great tasting dishes with the plants that they grow. These are not professional farmers, they are hobby gardeners that enjoy growing their own veggies and fruits. The good news is that it is not difficult and you can do it too. The most negativity in having a small garden comes from the human factor, everyday folk pushing the idea that it is impossible to grow anything in this climate. If you want to do it you can, if you have no garden, use a pot. If you have no time, make time. It doesn’t take hours and hours; just a little TLC can have you on your way to picking chilies and tomatoes from your very own garden.
The most important thing about growing your own plants, whether they bear fruit or not is knowing the kind of climate that they thrive in, do they like heat and sun or do they prefer the shade, that is how you will know where to grow your plants. A little help from nutrients and compost will not go amiss either.
Eggplant, zucchini, onions and potatoes thrive in the Dubai springtime and are very versatile vegetables that can produce many a happy meal. The wintertime is fantastic for growing cucumber, pumpkin, capsicum and chilies. Tomatoes and herbs can grow year round but are not too fond of the harsh sun. Broccoli, rocket, basil, coriander, flat leaf parsley, tomatoes, chilies and bell peppers like to be nurtured in a pot and can grow on the balcony of your high rise.
If you are planning to garden in Dubai you can be adventurous, try and grow your own figs, avocadoes or pineapple. The only thing to limit you is you because if others can do it and hobby gardening appeals to you then go ahead and have your own garden. Gardening is a stress reliever; you can forget about the office and concentrate on your herbs. There is nothing like the achievement of eating something that you have grown yourself.
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Written by: Nela Lukic for ExpatWoman.com