Wednesday, 30 November 2011

3 Men and a 'Zero Mile Diet' in the Industrial Wilds of Dubai

Out on the timber yard, Bishu, Prince and Jose probably don't see a lot of ladies. And certainly not two gardening enthusiasts who have ventured into the industrial wilds of Nad-al-Sheba one bright morning to see nothing less than a small wonder-  food growing on the yard, right there alongside the bare concrete and wood piles of the men's workplace. They smile shyly, stuffing their hands in pockets and shuffling their feet, almost a little embarrassed at our praise and questions.

But we cannot seem to get over the fact that, here in Dubai, except for the hottest months of the year, the men practice as much of a 'zero-mile' or 'farm-to-table' diet as they can.

There's a kitchen on the yard and in the growing season, most of the food cooked there comes from the vegetable patch. 

Whereever there's dug-up ground and space, the men have put up arbours to grow most of the vegetables vertically- a great way to save space and provide shade for other stuff. In places, even dried palm leaves are being used to provide support to plants. Wherever you look, vines are growing ferociously, twining, clinging, the leaves big and bold, flowers blooming and fruiting.

There's even a few chicken running around. I had sort of forgotten what real, alive chicken looked like. Or how agile and funny they can be.  I run after them, trying to get a nice shot, but they refuse to cooperate.

There's also a drumstick tree and a lime tree growing on the yard. A Drumstick tree, or Moringa, as commonly know in India, is quite amazing. Indeed it is considered one of the most useful trees in the world as most of it is edible- the immature green pods eaten like beans, the mature pods used as shelling peas, flowers that have a mushroom-like taste and leaves that are consumed like spinach. The bark, sap, seeds, leaves, oil are also used in traditional medicine. For centuries, they have been used in the tropic and subtropics to fight malnutrition. In today's world, where food security is a growing concern, why don't I see more of these in the UAE?

To enrich and fertilise the land, the men use treated cow manure available in local nurseries. The only pesticide used, and that too sparingly, is Neem Oil.  The empty manure sacks are then reused to plant things like tomatoes and eggplants. A Bokashi bin is also used to make compost.

The workers follow a traditional South Indian diet of curries, rice and chapati and only grow what they like to eat. That's something we should all remember. It's fun to plant new varieties of vegetables that we may like to get into but most of the food we grow should ideally be what we consume on a regular basis. 

I hope you enjoyed and felt inspired by this post. Don't forget to leave your thoughts and comments below!

Happy gardening!


  1. oh i love this post!!!! its fantastic to see these men and their friends practicing 'a zero mile' diet which back home is really a way of life for most people. growing a few vegetables in your backyard, eating whats in season... has all become so quaint... isn't it?

  2. Thanks for bringing us this story about these men and their gardening venture.

  3. Great post , loved reading it :) .

  4. Thanks Rajani, Sandy and Shabs from Yum & Delish! It was very indeed heartening to see this little food growing inspires me to do so much more!

  5. What a great post and a lovely story too!!Very glad you shared!

  6. This is amazing. I was bowled over reading this...why aren't they in the news?! You should write to and share your post, really you should!

  7. What an interesting post! Love the photography and am really interested in visiting this place. Can anyone just pop by?

  8. thank you missterious...unfortunately no, its a private place and u can't just drop by...but keep coming back to the blog for more stuff:)

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  10. Hi, This is indeed a nice post. I need Moringa/drumsticks leaves in Dubai urgently. Can you help me please ??
    Where can I buy that? Can I have your contact number in case i can get it from you?

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  12. Wow! Imagine what they can do with a larger plot! That is just awesome.