When Time Out Kids wanted advice on planting our very own kitchen garden with the kids, we knew exactly where to turn. Managed by the hotel’s chefs, Jebel Ali Golf Resort has its very own bio-garden that is open to the public – not only does it serve the hotel’s many restaurants with fresh organic produce, but it also uses up much of the kitchen waste, recycling it for compost.
‘We would like to encourage people to come bring their families and come spend some time here,’ says the resort’s Executive Chef, Nicolas Smalberger, who explains that the garden is already a popular destination for schools in Dubai, with recent visitors including Jebel Ali Primary School and Al Noor Training Centre for Children with Special Needs. ‘People are very welcome to come and help out, especially now the weather is cooler, the kids can play, and the parents can try a cup of fresh herbal tea and chat with the team.’
The garden is regularly tended by the hotel chefs, including Gawdat Mohamed Ali Hassan, who has been nominated for Green Hotelier of the Year thanks to his efforts in keeping the garden organic. ‘The weather is perfect to start planting now,’ he says. ‘Kids can get involved with helping out, and the flavours you’ll get from what you grow is so different to what you’ll get in the supermarkets.’ We asked Nicolas and Gawdat to give us their tips on planting a kid-friendly kitchen garden.
Waste not, want not
‘There’s so much wastage from the kitchen that you can use to make great compost,’ says Nicolas. ‘All vegetable waste – the cuttings, old leaves, carrot tops – can be used. Just put it in a separate garbage bin in your kitchen.’ After separating the veggie waste, you’ll need to put it outside, either in a hole in the ground, or in a wooden box. Don’t use a plastic bin, warns Nicolas, otherwise it will just go rancid and sweat in the heat.
‘Then, you just have to mix it with the existing soil, add some sand and some water, and it just has to be left to compost for the next two months,’ says Gawdat. Keep it organic, there’s no need to add extra chemicals, he adds, it’s just a matter of patience. After two months or so, you’ll have a fantastic natural compost, perfect for giving essential nutrients to your garden’s plants and vegetable patch. Which leads us to…
What to plant?
It’s super-simple (and cheap) to grow from seed, advises Gawdat, and it’s a fun activity for kids of all ages to join in, too. Choose a spot that gets the sun for part of the day – you don’t want to plant the veggies where they’ll be dried out in the sun, but equally, plants need a certain amount of sunlight to grow.
Herbs are a good place to start, suggests Nicolas. ‘Basil, thyme, rosemary, lavender, oregano, coriander, rocca, dill, and parsley all seem to grow really well,’ he says. If you’re feeling more adventurous, try chilli, eggplants, zucchini and baby marrow, which all thrive in the warm Dubai sunshine, or you could even attempt lemon, orange, guava, mango and pomegranate. There’s no need to use pesticides to keep the bugs away, explains Gawdat. ‘Always water the leaves when you are tending the garden – the cleaner they are, and the less dust, the less you’ll be plagued by pests and the healthier they’ll grow.’
The Jebel Ali Golf Resort bio garden is open to the public. If you’d like to find out more, visit www.jaresortshotels.com