Rare purple chillies, blue tea in UAE: Farmer grows the ‘impossible’ in desert

Meet the 23-year-old Emirati who has been passionate about farming since childhood — 'some things are meant for the soul,' he says

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Nandini Sircar

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Photo: Nandini Sircar/KT
Photo: Nandini Sircar/KT

Published: Fri 1 Dec 2023, 2:58 PM

Last updated: Sat 2 Dec 2023, 11:04 AM

A quaint pavilion at the Green Zone of COP 28 has a ‘special bloom’ of a unique variety of purple chilli displaying its splendour.

While red and slightly orange chillies might be familiar to UAE residents, this distinct chilli isn’t just about its vibrant colour or spicy kick; it embodies the narrative of the dedicated farmer who nurtured it.

Photo: the.organicfarm/Instagram
Photo: the.organicfarm/Instagram

Behind its unique appearance lies a tale of perseverance, care, and passion.

Saeed Alremeithi, a UNICEF youth Advocate at COP 28 and one of the 'youth farmers' present at the event said, “Some things are meant for the soul.”

While he is here to socialise, and share tips and seeds and saplings with inquisitive visitors he explained his “Organic Farm” at Al Ain is a childhood passion that started from his humble greenhouse, driven by a family-inherited hobby.

“My farm is in Al Ain in Suweihah. We started this journey three years ago in 2020. We initially only grew mint and some basic vegetables like sweet potatoes and melons.”

“But we had a proper irrigation system at home. I did all this along with my father who has been my biggest teacher. I learnt about different types of plants, understanding the farm and then I started going deeper than my father,” said the young man who has green thumb.

The 23-year-old is currently studying mass communication and political science at the UAE University and is also focusing on labelling his products and obtaining necessary approvals from governmental bodies. These efforts aim to elevate his homegrown business to a higher level.

“Now we have 30 products. We have pickles and salsa, cheese and cream and eggs and a lot of other things. All the products are produced on our farm using natural ingredients, except olive oil which is imported from Tunisia from a friend’s farm.”

Photo: Nandini Sircar/KT
Photo: Nandini Sircar/KT

The produce found on his farm can best be described as a rainbow of rare plants, as he strives to grow a variety of organic goods that others might deem impossible in the UAE.

Photo: the.organicfarm/Instagram
Photo: the.organicfarm/Instagram
Photo: the.organicfarm/Instagram
Photo: the.organicfarm/Instagram

He explains the goal of the ‘Organic Farm’ project is to produce healthy organic food that suits all tastes and is grown locally.

The project is characterized by establishing a comprehensive farm that encompasses the production of frankincense, various types of meat, grains vegetables, and the utilization of trees, palm trees, and agricultural waste.

“At COP 28 I am showing the variety of products I have at the farm. We have a unique purple pepper, papaya, rocket leaves, and a type of blue tea to show that we can grow different types of vegetables in the UAE.” He operates a physical site in Abu Dhabi’s farmer’s market along with an online store facilitating deliveries across the UAE.

Photo: Organic black tomatoes (the.organicfarm/Instagram)
Photo: Organic black tomatoes (the.organicfarm/Instagram)
Photo: Nandini Sircar/KT
Photo: Nandini Sircar/KT

“The popular belief is that we can only grow tomatoes here because the weather conditions are harsh. But I want to prove such people wrong. We can grow different kinds of vegetables here.”

Photo: the.organicfarm/Instagram
Photo: the.organicfarm/Instagram

Procuring seeds special from KSA, US and Canada

Saeed sources his seeds not only locally but also procures special seeds called “Halim” that he purchases from Canada, America, and Al Hasa in Saudi Arabia.

“KSA has some native seeds which go back to 50-60 years. We buy seeds from them as well as from other countries. I also grow black tomatoes and yellow zucchini which people prefer to buy from my farm. I feel organic farming is yet to gain popularity and is still expensive.”

Meanwhile, the youth who aims to make it big in this business one day, highlights learning, is a continuous journey.

“All along I embarked on a self-learning voyage and I have reached this far. Initially unfamiliar with planting techniques, I delved into agricultural knowledge, exploring organic farming through articles and videos that I used to watch for hours.”

He reiterates this newfound expertise encouraged him from a home gardener to a full-fledged organic farm owner today. “Now, my farm yields a variety of produce, from dairy products to vegetables and dried goods, and has 20 people working on the farm who are a part of my ‘work family’,” he added.

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