x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Meet the farmer who grows your food at Friday market

Baker and Spice farmers' market at Souk al Bahar gives shoppers chance to talk to the people who produce the freshly picked fruit and vegetables on sale.

Today's Baker and Spice farmers' market at Souk al Bahar gives shoppers a chance to talk to the people who produce the freshly picked fruit and vegetables on sale.
Today's Baker and Spice farmers' market at Souk al Bahar gives shoppers a chance to talk to the people who produce the freshly picked fruit and vegetables on sale.

DUBAI // Shoppers have a chance to meet the farmers as they purchase freshly picked fruits and vegetables at the Baker and Spice farmers' market at Souk al Bahar today.

The market, organised by Baker and Spice cafes and Emaar Mall groups, will run from 10am to 5pm every Friday throughout the growing season. Last April, the market was held for two weekends and attracted about 4,000 visitors.

Five farmers from Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, Ras al Khaimah and Dubai will set up stalls at the market, along with a wholesale fruit and vegetable supplier who imports from Oman.

According to Yael Mejia, the food consultant at Baker and Spice, the locally grown fruits and vegetables not only taste better, they do not carry the cost of transportation from abroad.

The market was "an opportunity to get to know the range of produce grown in the region", she said. Aubergines, tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes, mini pumpkins, citrus fruits, herbs, livestock and poultry, plus other items will be on sale.

The UAE imports 85 per cent of its food at a huge cost to the environment - and the taste of fruits and vegetables. Produce is often picked before ripening, and kept in cold storage for months.

"You will definitely taste the difference of buying local," Ms Mejia said.

Last year, the market's timing coincided with the volcanic eruption in Iceland, which spewed ash that grounded aeroplanes, and produce, across Europe. Supermarket shelves in the Gulf region were suddenly empty of fruits and vegetables grown in Europe, highlighting the importance of domestically grown produce.

Ms Mejia said she hoped the introduction of a farmers' market would encourage consumers to think about where their food came from, and how it was made. "We don't have a choice in eating, so it's strange we don't care what goes into it."

Last month, Baker and Spice opened an artisan's bakery at Dukkan Al Manzil. Bread is baked in small batches, rather than mass produced. The dough is left to rise naturally, something that normally does not happen in the industrial bread-making process.

"Time is missing from people's processes," Ms Mejia said, "You can't [speed up the process] without ramifications."

She said that wheat and gluten allergies had become increasingly common with the popularity of mass-produced bread. Often extra ingredients are used to stop it from going mouldy, or to hold it together.

Ms Mejia said she hoped the artisan bakery and farmers' market would reconnect consumers to their food. "In about two generations, we've lost the ability to make, judge and understand food," she said. "People don't want to know how food happens."

mdetrie@thenational.ae