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Summer fruits of the earth (2)

Fruit and veg are largely seasonal in Egypt – though the season may be considerably extended nowadays as some crops are grown under cover, and new varieties have been introduced. Still, the pick-up trucks loaded with produce that are stationed at strategic locations (like the roundabout!) near our home, or on the streets leading to Cairo’s ring-road, usually give you a pretty good idea of what’s in and what’s not.

You can have some fun doing the seasonal thing, and I enjoy the challenge of cooking according to what’s available. Come May, blink and you’ve missed the apricots, for example. But if you get it right, the jam is to die for!

More seriously, it’s also a salutary reminder of the reality of life for agriculturalists here. Just at the moment, the glut of tomatoes means the price is down to 50 piastres – yes, piastres – a kilo. That’s about 5 British pence or 8 US cents. Factor in the cost of petrol to transport them from the countryside and the question is, how can farmers hope to make a living? I’ve heard a figure of 40% of the population here living on less than $2 a day. Much of the poverty we see is urban, as we live and work in Cairo; but a journey into the countryside confirms at once that deprivation there is just as serious a problem.

Back to the tomatoes, and you might prefer to opt for organic.  That means a price closer to EG£10 for a kilo of the locally grown, and a trip to one of the smart international supermarkets around Cairo to find what you want. The tomatoes will come in a plastic tray, washed and shiny and covered in cling-film. Not warm from the sun, with splashes from the field, and tumbled into a plastic bag from a truck at the edge of the street.

Still, what price your seasonal produce?

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Magda #

    Living in Qatar, we are mostly stuck with imported produce, but fruits and veggies come here from many different countries in the region and the world, including Egypt, Jordan, Syria (not so much nowadays for sadly obvious reasons), Iran and Turkey, not to mention Holland, UK and the US. Since I am inclined to believe that the closer to us something grows, the better it tastes and the healthier it is (well, there are exceptions), I am often left with a question – which tomatoes/courgettes/peppers, etc. to pick, which ones are better, fresher, with fewer chemicals… Any thoughts?


    September 13, 2013
    • This is just the problem. Those flown in may well be fresher than those brought in by road, but then the carbon footprint is enormous. Think of those carrots! I’d like to think produce grown in Qatar is best, and it is available, if limited in range. Plus, I never found any locally-grown organic veg/fruit. Consumers in Qatar had very little meaningful choice concerning healthy food, as far as I could see. The situation is better here in Egypt – however, organic is definitely beyond the means of most people.
      Growing your own is another solution. You would be amazed how much can be produced on even a small balcony, outside the heat of summer. We had a great balcony garden in the 1980s, facing north so reasonably practical in most conditions.

      September 13, 2013

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