Comment: Late to the organic party
One of my New Year resolutions that I have surprisingly kept, much to the delight of my newlywed husband, is cooking at home more. One of the impediments to that, however, is sourcing good vegetables. More often than not, I’ll cut into a bell pepper from my local supermarket downstairs and invariably find a worm, or, in some cases, vegetables that look and feel right but when you cut them open and chop them up, and pop one in your mouth as it so happens when you cook, something just seems off.
Recently, I went on a trip to a Dubai farm that has its own crop of organic vegetables, home-grown and available to buy. It completely changed the way my food tasted. The vegetables I bought from the farm were a bit lopsided and a bit ugly to look at — not quite so pretty and consistent as what you would get at a chain supermarket — but it was better than any vegetable I have tasted since moving to Dubai.
While I do realise I am probably very late to the organic vegetables party, I am also not alone. According to the Organic Trade Association, the estimated size of total organic market consumer sales for organic products in the UAE totals AED154 million (US$42m) per year, making it the 38th largest market in the world. And locally, according to the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, the growth of organic farmland in the UAE has gone from 2,360 acres in 2009 to 45,890 acres last year.
It’s not just the Middle East however; sales of organic food hit a record $43 billion last year, up 8.4% from the previous year, according to the Washington DC-based Organic Trade Association.
Regionally, we have also seen a chain reaction among hotels launching their own organic farms on-property. Salalah Rotana Resort in Oman, Coral Beach Resort Sharjah and Ramada Hotel & Suites Ajman are some of the hotels, to name but a few, that have launched organic farms to offer guests sustainable dining experiences and encourage healthy living.
In the UAE alone there’s a whole host of organic farms to choose from, and another reason to maybe consider going organic would be to support small, local businesses. And let’s face it, the fewer steps between the source of your food to it finding its way to your kitchen, the lower the risk of food contamination. And in my personal opinion, it’s fresher and much tastier.
While there is still a debate on whether organic is truly better or not, I prefer not to wade into that particular hornet’s nest. To me, it’s all about taste — and the simple fact is that organically farmed vegetables, whether grown locally or further afield, taste better to me. This makes the act of choosing quite simple — it’s the better option.