A Place for Vegaholics


The war in Syria has been devastating for farmers and the country’s position as the bread basket of the middle east.  Fortunately the Syrian seed bank has been safely smuggled out of the country and the vast gene pool is now in deep-frozen security in neighbouring countries and the seed bank in Svalbard, Norway.  However, I believe it is important to conserve as much as we can of Syria’s food heritage by growing their vegetables and sharing the seed with others who appreciate their special eating qualities. This year I am growing fava beans, courgettes and cucumbers from my small collection of seed I hunted down during  a visit to the country at the start of the civil war in 2011.Syrian fava in basket wideThis basket of blackened pods, when shelled becomes a basket of delicious fava beans.Syrian Fava shelled 1
A total of 1.2 kilos from just 24 plants. This bean came from a farmer near Aleppo.  Fava beans are man’s first cultivated crop and have been grown in Syria since the dawn of civilisation in the Tigris Euphrates valley some 10,000 years ago. This bean is a direct descendant – not forgetting, it is delicious too.  This what the plant looks like as the pods swell and ripen.Syrian Fava bean 18712
As well as beans I am growing two wonderful Syrian courgettes. This dark green variety is from seed I found on a market stall in ancient Damascus.  Syrian dark courgette2I am growing on a fruit for seed having hand pollinated to ensure it is true.  It will get even larger and is not for eating!

Syrian green courgette ripening

I hand-pollinated the female flower on the right with the male flower on the left to grow on my second Syrian courgette which is a truly delicious pale green variety that was grown commercially in Syria.  The seed company Al Shibli based in Aleppo and now I fear no longer functioning.

male and female courgette flower cu

This is the result.  I am hopeful that the variety is open pollinated and not a hybrid as it has both sexes of flower.  Next year I shall grow again to check and if so will include them in my library to share.Syrian pale courgette ripening
I also bought some commercial cucumber seed from Syria Future Seed, again a company no longer in existence.  This variety is open pollinated and the crop this year from seed I saved in 2014 is prolific and utterly delicious. Sweet and tender small tear-drop shaped cucumbers that I hope to have more seed of in 2016.



2 years ago 4 Comments Short URL

Author: Adam

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  1. Peter Samsom says:

    Just found your site through HSL and I really like the idea of growing some Syrian vegetables. I tried to grow Aleppo peppers last year but didn’t manage to get any of the seed to germinate (2 different growers, 2 sowing each). Maybe Northumberland just wasn’t warm enough!

    • Adam says:

      Dear Peter,

      Sorry not to get back to you sooner. I only have a the giant Syrian fava available now as I have run out of Syrian Small. Northumberland might be a challenge but these beans should be OK. If you want some can you grow them in isolation so they will not cross with neighbouring broad beans? email me if you want some or send an sae to my address on the website. Best wishes and happy gardening

  2. Nicki Wilkinson says:

    Hi, I’m just starting to support a Syrian family to settle locally. My focus is going to be gardening as I grow fruit and veg and the family are keen to learn to garden here. Whilst I’m happy to get on with the stuff I usually grow here with them it would be great for them if they could grow some veg they are used to and I think would make them really happy. I’m interested in learning where I can get any seed that is in this article please? It’s a great project and I’m sure the family will be happy to learn of it.

  3. susan Davies davies says:

    we have 3 syrian refugee families settled here in oswestry last summer I met two of the ladies today buying seeds in wilco.I grow lots of stuff so I am going to share some with them. interesting to read this article

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