Summer Fruits

It’s in the 40’s here in Abu Dhabi now, summer’s well and truly here! This is the first year of having an established garden, this time last year our fruit trees were fairly newly planted, so I’m surprised to see that so much is still growing. We have a second flush of figs, seen in […]

Roma Tomatoes

The Roma tomatoes have done really well. They grew quickly and ripened quickly, each bunch weighing over a kilo. Even though it’s 40 degrees here now, we still have some flowering although it’s probably too hot for them to pollinate now. Last week I picked 7 kgs of various tomatoes. As well as using them in sauces or cooking them for breakfast, I’ve made ketchup and canned several jars ( with my new pressure canner that my friend Karen got for me in the US)Image

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The raw ingredients for my ketchup in a big saucepan. I didn’t have any fennel bulbs so used fennel seed, tasted fine.

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Tomato ketchup reducing. I’d used 2kgs of Roma tomatoes plus at least a couple of Kgs of other veg, and ended up with just 750mls of sauce. It took about 3 hours to reduce after sieving, but was definitely worth the effort. All natural ingredients, no preservatives and I used agave nectar instead of sugar. Tom loved it so much he’s eaten half of it already!

I also have 6 x 500gm jars of home grown and canned tomatoes

 

Grow your own – update

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The raised beds are doing well, we have Roma and beef tomatoes, peppers, chillis, butternut squash, pumpkins, courgettes, sweetcorn, sweet potatoes, garlic and various herbs (I’m not even mentioning aubergines although they continue to grow profusely!). The big disappointment this year has been beans – they just won’t grow, get to about 12 inches then keel over and die. We have 2 broad bean plants that have survived and flowered, but haven’t produced any beans.

The figs and pomegranates are ripe and we’re harvesting them almost daily, bananas are ripening and the citrus trees have tiny oranges and lemons just starting. The mangos didn’t flower after all the shocking we gave then, so looks like we’ll have to wait another year to eat fresh homegrown mangos. The photo above is a small clump of sugar cane which is almost ready to harvest, we don’t use a lot of sugar, but it’s nice to be able to produce our own cane juice, which I’ll be using for the next batch of fermented ginger beer.

 

Update:-

One of the mango trees finally flowered and we had about 5 fronds of blossoms, each eventually had approx 10 fruit buds, unfortunately a storm in April blew most of those off and we are left with 2 fruits. Let’s hope they survive to ripen.

Aubergine Update

I’m sick to the back teeth of aubergines, we have half a dozen jars of brinjal in the fridge, and have given as many away. We have 3 kilos of ratatouille and 3 kilos of aubergine curry in the freezer, and have eaten as much again. There is also only so much moussaka one can eat, ditto grilled aubergine! I give away approximately 4 kilos of aubergine a week, and only the not-so-nice ones are retained for the above home processing.

Lesson learned, I shall only retain a few plants at the end of this season, along with some peppers, tomatoes, chillies and a courgette plant.

And a note on courgettes…..in the uk our courgettes grew so prolifically we couldn’t give enough of them away, here I have one tiny courgette just ripening from 3 plants!

Food Forest in the Desert

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Not only do vegetables grow quickly here, so do trees. The banana plants in the photo above were planted a year ago and have doubled in size since. They’ve only produced one bunch of very small bananas on one plant so far, which means their energy has been concentrated into vegetative growth.

We have 5 mango trees in the garden that were planted 4 years ago, so they should be flowering this year. We’ve cut them right back to ‘shock’ them into flowering, and also to let some sunlight reach the plants growing below them, fingers crossed we get some mangos. They don’t look so great (aesthetically) right now because of the hard pruning, so I’ll post a photo when they are in full bloom.

The orange and lemon trees flowered well last winter, their first year after planting, and then had severe bud fall due to 3 days of unprecedented bad weather in April. We eventually picked one lemon, someone else helped themselves to the single surviving orange! Let’s hope we have better luck this year.

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The pomegranate tree above was planted last year and has about 50 small fruits already, so looking forward to eating some of those.

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The fig tree that was planted last winter is laden with fruit, literally hundreds. This isn’t the best photo but I was trying to also capture the papaya tree in the background, it can just be seen in the top middle section of the photo. We’ve had little success with papaya trees so far, they wilt and die after a few months, they are either too shaded or too exposed, so this one, planted in the middle of the fig and palm trees, and shaded from the mid day sun by the damas trees in the background, is doing really well. We need to plant some others near by and in similar conditions as they are not self pollinating.

The plan is to under-plant all of these trees with edible shrubs, perennials and herbs, hence the title of the post. We planted aubergines around the base of some of the palm trees last year and they survived the intense summer sun, we’re doing the same with peppers and tomatoes this year. I’d like to plant some berry bushes and strawberries in the next month or so, and some self seeding plants such as amaranth.

Growing things in the desert – veggies

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I love winter in Abu Dhabi, the days are warm and sunny and the evenings cool, enough to need a sweater ( for me, at least -Tom is still in short sleeved T shirts).

But what I love most about winter is that we can grow our own food, without any chemicals. We have raised beds, pots and vegetables growing under trees. We have lots of trees!

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These are 3 of our raised beds, and we are experimenting. Our neighbour claims that the soil here ( um, what soil?) is really good for growing vegetables, all it needs is some natural fertiliser now and again. So we have one bed that is just local soil with the addition of farmyard ( goat) manure. We have another bed which is filled with our homemade compost mixed with some locally bought compost. We’ve mulched around the plants to retain moisture in this bed.  We’ve planted the same plants (almost) in each bed so that we can compare. and so far the local bed is lagging far behind.  The only thing that is growing well is garlic, whereas in the ‘western’ bed, everything is at least 3 times the size of the local bed one month after planting. Now, it maybe that the slower growth will lead to a longer growing season, who knows – we’ll report back in a few months.

The third bed also has our compost and a frame for  growing vertically.   We planted runner beans, French beans, pumpkins, butternut squash,  and sweet potato vines. All of the beans have died, both transplants and seeds sown directly into the ground. I’ve replanted time and again and they all die at about 12 inches tall 😦  I’ve decided to give up trying as it’s obviously too dry for them and have now been replaced with cucumbers and honeydew melons, which are just about an inch tall so far, so you can’t really see them in the photo. We’ll update on progress.

 

 

First crop of the season

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This is the first crop of the season. This photo was taken just over a week ago and we had 4 kilos of aubergines. I picked another 4 kilos tonight!

Winter is the season for growing vegetables and flowers in Abu Dhabi, everything shrivels and dies in the intense summer heat. Usually we’re just planting out our seedlings at this time of year, but last spring/early summer, we cut back our aubergine plants to bare stems and kept them shaded and well watered throughout the summer – we’d planted them under the fruit trees which provided the shade and the trees needed to be watered regularly, so it was no extra effort to keep the aubergine plants watered.

The plants grew back very slowly, hardly at all for the first few months and then a bit more vigorously in September, we had our first flowers by end of September and the fruits were ready for picking by first week of November.

The first batch was made into an aubergine pickle (Brinjal), with a couple reserved for grilling on the barbie

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This pickle tastes amazing with cheese and crackers or a curry. However, it needs to be kept in the fridge.

 

Now I need to find a some interesting aubergine recipes to use up the estimated 4 kilos per week – any suggestions?

 

Growing Sweet Potatoes

This is a first attempt at growing sweet potatoes. We found a crusty half of a sweet potato at the back of the veggie draw and cut it into 4 pieces. These pieces we placed in a dish of water and put them outside in a site that gets morning sun but is shaded from the mid day sun.

It took about a week for the potato to sprout and another week for the slips to grow to 10 cms, the right size for picking. I love how things grow so quickly here….

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One wasn’t big enough to pick so we left it for another week, by which time 3 more slips had sprouted.

The slips were put into jars of water to root, which also took one week, before being transplanted into large pots.

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The first 4 will stay in these pots so they can be moved around if the garden doesn’t get enough sunlight in the winter. The other 4 will go into the various raised beds

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Altogether we have 8 sweet potato vines from half a dried out potato