Lebanon's Tout Berry Farms Pioneer Blueberry Farming in the Middle East
I’m a sweet tooth in the morning. But since devouring dessert before noon just seems plain sinful, I like to start my day with fresh fruit. There’s genuinely no compare to nature’s candy, and if it’s ripe, firm, and in season, it can be sweet as honey.
The arrival of summer coincides with some of my favorite fruits, and those are far and away berries. But has anyone else noticed how wildly the taste, quality and ripeness of berries can vary from batch to batch? The worst is that you pay a pretty penny for the imported types sold in small packaged crates, only to discover that inside, they’re mushy and overripe.
A couple of weeks ago, I learned of Tout Berry Farms, a family enterprise that grows 10 different berry ranges, from raspberries and blackberries to gooseberries, red and white currants and more. Tout Berry is considered to be the pioneer of blueberry farming in the Middle East, and that’s all thanks to Talal Nassreddine and Sarah Ezzeddine.
|50 blueberries translate to only 39 calories!|
Nassreddine owns a plot of land in Deir Koubel, near Aley, where, upon moving back from the US in 1998, he started experimenting with growing blueberries. But given that the local climate, water and soil differ vastly from the plant’s native environment -- North America -- Nassreddine rehabilitated his land and continued to cultivate his know-how of blueberry farming through field visits to California and college classes.
Three years later, Ezzeddine, an agricultural engineer who coincidentally lived 50m away from Nassreddine, joined the endeavor and has been committed to making Deir Koubel the capital of blueberry production in the entire region. At just 31 years of age, she has much to be proud of, and my taste buds can readily attest to it.
Tout Berry Farms’ beautifully indigo blueberries are robust, sweet and tart, exactly as they should be. They sell in 125-g containers and are pre-washed for immediate consumption. You can find them in nearly every boutique supermarket, like Aziz, TSC Signature, and Monoprix.
But prices do range from store to store, as retailers have the ultimate say in the price per crate. Fadi Fruits, located across from Spinney’s Jnah, sell them for 5,000 LBP each, whereas other shops tag them at up to 9,000 LBP.
|Pre-washed blueberries sell in 125-g crates|
The good news is that Tout Berry Farms – “Tout” means “berry” in Arabic – has developed a procedure to habituate blueberry plants, which will hopefully facilitate production of berries and thereby render them more affordable.
From an unbiased and purely taste-centric point of view, these blueberries are exceptional. Served plain, in a fruit salad, or with a flourish of whipped cream, they’re the ideal sweet fix for any time of day.
|Fresh blueberries with whipped cream|
|Fresh blueberries wonderfully complement other fruit|
The fact that they're chock full of cancer-fighting antioxidants, boost brain function, and promote healthy vision and a healthy heart, is merely one big added bonus!
Follow Tout Berry Farms on Instagram.