An organic farm shop opens – in Dubai
As an avid reader of cookery books and food blogs, living in the United Arab Emirates, I have always felt a sense of longing when I read about seasonal recipes and local produce. Heidi Swanson of 101 Cook Books often talks about fabulous artisan producers and farmers in the San Fransisco area with beautiful photos of the ingredients to match and I revel in the farmers market in Tavistock when I’m in the UK in the summer. I will be wistful no longer and cannot contain my excitement at a real-live, organic farm shop opening a few streets away from my house in Umm Suqeim, Dubai. The shop is right next to the most enormous orange mosque and looks more like a boutique from the outside. When you open the door the fresh, astringent scent of basil and tomatoes hits you. I expected cardboard boxes and a slightly homespun interior but nothing could be further from the truth. Scrolled white wooden units line the walls, stylish prints of vegetables (plus a few camels) provide decoration, your shopping basket is made of natural twine, you put your goods into brown paper bags – the whole shop oozes cozy chic.
I’m not sure where Nazwa Organic Farm is located in the UAE (today’s Gulf News article says the Hatta Road). I forgot to ask the delightful Elena who runs the farm, organises a vegetable box delivery round on Arabian Ranches, and has launched the farm shop (all while heavily pregnant and seeing to the needs of a boisterous toddler). Every day the shop is filled with organic produce from the farm that is picked early that morning. I visited in the afternoon when the shelves has started to empty. While I’m delighted with the aesthetics the real bonus is the provenance of the food and the fantastic fresh taste – and by the way the prices are very reasonable. On my first visit I bought crisp fennel which is delicious sliced and eaten raw with a dip – it bears no relation to the harsh, aniseed taste that you get from the uniform bulbs from Dutch greenhouses. I needed curly parsley for a fish pie and was given a fragrant bunch the size of a small bouquet. The cherry and beef tomatoes ooze sweetness and flavour without having the thick skin so beloved of mass producers (which make them easier to transport). This shop is such a revelation for a country that imports most of its fruit and vegetables that customers can’t help exclaiming their delight to each other. It’s like we’ve been invited to join a fabulous, secret club. The only difficulty I had was not to buy something of everything. Elena has been so busy that she hasn’t set up her online presence – and word of mouth is doing pretty well. So if you’re in Dubai and would like a map – drop me a line in the comments box and I can send you one or download it here OrganicShop - just don’t buy all the tomatoes before I arrive. PS I’ve had so many requests for the phone number – the shop said I could put it up, so here it is: 04 348 3333 and there is a lovely video that you might like too – click here.