Where to shop for local, organic veg in Dubai
Updated June 29 2015: Smelling the delicious aroma of a freshly picked green pepper, sampling a plum tomato that only a few hours ago was on the vine, swapping food tips with other shoppers (what do you do with kohlrabi?), tasting yet another spoonful of amazing raw honey from Yemen, sitting on a rustic bench eating a homemade chicken sausage and egg roll washed down with freshly pressed pomegranate juice, swapping foodie gossip under the palms trees….
My favourite start to the weekend, every single Friday, is the Farmers’ Market on the Terrace (which was next to Emirates Towers but moving to a new venue next season) where I do my weekly shop for organic, local veg direct from the farmers and much more besides. But you knew that didn’t you. The hotter weather is creeping up, the market has ended for the season and I’m dreading being catapulted back into the dispiriting aisles of the supermarkets contemplating limp, tasteless veg, picked weeks ago and flown in from miles away. But luckily there are some alternatives which may keep us going until the most fallow months; tomatoes and potatoes plus free range eggs from local farms are available in abundance right now which is why I have indexed them for the price comparison. Here’s my view about what’s available….
The Farm House – Al Manzil Souk
This little shop has the feel of a rustic farm shop and is supplied by the farms who sell at the Farmers Market. If you have been to the market you’ll recognise owner Robert as the man who squeezes the pomegranates. The shop also stocks other local and unusual produce such as rock salt and camel milk soap. You can buy local eggs, chicken, organic milk (from Organiliciouz), local honey and dried goods. It’s the most locally focussed of all shops and apart from occasional fruit from the region, only sells local, organic produce. Prices for some things are similar to buying at the market – some slightly higher as you’d expect.
Where to find it: At Souk Al Manzil. Easy to park in the underground car park by the Al Manzil Hotel entrance, Downtown, Dubai. thefarmhouse.ae and at The Change Initiative, Dubai. Plus they home deliver. More details on their Facebook page.
Greenheart – Al Barsha
I remember the excitement of visiting Eleanor Kinanes’s first shop when it opened and the awful disappointment when it closed so suddenly. Greenheart is now a much larger business with close relationships with local farms and a thriving wholesale operation. The farm shop is close to the Miracle Garden and opens three days a week – or you can order online from a range of local and imported organic fruit and vegetables or a local veg box. This is the box scheme I’ve used the most and found the produce the freshest as they pick it that morning. Greenheart holds a small market at Comptoir 102 on Jumeirah Beach Road on Saturdays mornings at present and supplies to the Farmer’s Garden which has branches at Wasl Vita and in Wasl Square. Eleanor is passionate about what she does and very knowledgeable about water conservation – check the website for more details and to book a farm visit.
Where to find it: Driving on Umm Suqeim street towards Arabian Ranches take the turn off to Arjan, follow the road round and take a left at roundabout. greenheartuae.com
Ripe – Umm Suqeim
While Baker and Spice established the Farmers’ Market and built a community, Eleanor’s passion to work with farmers has brought many different new varieties into the market (often better suited to the hot climate), Ripe’s energy and marketing put veg box delivery on the map in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. They run a number of markets in the UAE although the veg is eclipsed by craft stalls and food stands. The Ripe shop in Umm Suqeim is calm, bright and pretty and not just about veg. A favourite of the ‘yummy mummy’ crowd it also sells things like cosmetics, ‘Superfoods’, tea, coffee and dairy products (not all organic) as well as a mixture of local and imported fruit and veg. I think you can take away a cup of Raw coffee there too. Ripe has a coding system on their website which shows clearly whether something is organic or local (although not its country of origin) – however at their markets, in their veg boxes and at their shop this is not always apparent so ask before you buy.
Where to find it: Take the last right hand turn from Al Manara street heading towards Sheikh Zayed road. Ripe on the left in the group of shops by the large orange mosque ripeme.com
Other places to buy local, organic veg
Al Shuwib organic farms – you can phone your order direct to this farm (they attend the Farmers’ Market when in season) and they will deliver. 03 732 4114 Facebook
Bio Organic – an attractive new store in Tecom which offers an alternative to OF&C. Local, organic produce is stocked but this is not their core business and most is shipped in from Europe and beyond. Bioorganicstore.com
Blue planet, green people – the Jumeirah Lakes Towers location means I have never visited this shop although I know they have been selling local, organic veg for a few years and ran a market at one point. You can order from their website and they provide veg boxes too. blueplanetgreenpeople.com
Go Organic me – They have been around for a while but recently launched a new website and online ordering. They work with local farms and supply veg boxes of different types including a weekly juicing box. They mix local and imported but all produce is organic. Founder Meenaxy Vashishtha is driven by personal conviction about organic produce. goorganic.me
Nature’s Chalet – A new shop in Motor City which, from their Facebook page, appears to stock some organic, local veg.
Organic Foods and Cafe – the pioneer and first major supplier of organic foods in Dubai which now has three branches here plus you can order online. It does a thriving business but owner Nils Accad came out quite vociferously in the media against local, organic veg. However, now some local, organic vegetables are now stocked – probably due to customer demand. organicfoodsandcafe.com
The Hundred Wellness Centre – On Saturdays between 11am – 3pm, organic farm Integrated Green Resources (IGR) holds a pop up here. See their Facebook page for more details.
Union Coop also stocks an increasing range of local organic produce. It’s best to get there early in the morning.
Do you shop with the seasons? Are you missing the Farmers’ Market? Have I missed anyone off this list? What do you do when the growing season comes to an end?