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How heirloom vegetables have helped a UAE farm flourish in the desert

A stroll through Greenheart Organic Farms reveals rows and rows of vibrant vegetation, despite the early October temperatures. Yet most producers in the Gulf don’t even start growing crops until this time of year. “We’ve been growing all year,” says Elena Kinane, the farm’s founder. “Nobody would believe I have kale in October.”

And there's more than just kale. Kinane also has 20 types of tomato, nine kinds of cherry tomato and 10 varieties of aubergine, plus numerous types of pepper, okra, courgette, collard greens, spinach and more, all grown from naturally harvested seeds. Of these, 200 varieties of vegetables are available for sale; 80 percent of them heirloom and all of them organic and 100 percent chemical-free.

“We’re not trying to change the environment to fit the crops; we’re changing the crops to fit the environment,” Kinane says. “It is much more energy and financially intense to change the climate. Seeds and soil are living things; they will adapt.”

Greenheart Farms has had such success with its heirlooms that Kinane has completely done away with hybrid seeds for chillies, tomatoes, beans, lettuce and peppers, among other vegetables. Amaranth, a protein-rich green, is one of the most successful desert plants so far, she says, as is chard, red okra, a Hungarian wax chilli and Malabar spinach.

Read more at The National (Rebecca Holland)

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