They were as small as marbles hanging in bunches, their lime green nakedness caressed by the remaining dew from the night before reflect the early morning sunlight making it a memorable sight to behold.
A few months after the apricots have their season, the grapes season follows making the village of Wakan quite an eventful place not only for the residents who owned the farms but the caretakers who look after everything that grows on its terraced gardens.
Within the farm area of this village, the grape vines are properly looked after — arranged in rows and provided with areas to crawl on making it easy for the caretakers to pick the fruits once the harvest season arrives.
There are two or three different varieties of grapes that grow in Wakan but the popular ones are the small yellow-green berries whose flesh texture is crisp and can be delightfully sweet.
Grapes are actually grown all over Oman these days with the majority of the familiar farms found in areas like Jabal Akhdhar, Yanqul, and Ibra. Some farms in Muscat especially in Barka also have a few but the production is not quite as large as the mentioned areas.
Grapes provide a good variety for agricultural crops in the country. While many of the grapes found in the supermarket are imported from other countries some as far as Australia, between June and July, small provincial markets and even supermarkets are flooded with locally grown grapes. Efforts in the last 10 years have focused on the production of the black and white Vitis vinifera variety.
The search for Muscat grapes
In 2017, blogger Benjamin White flew all the way to Muscat hoping to find giant red grapes.
“I was looking forward to some top quality Muscat grapes — the big red ones — when I arrived in Muscat, Oman,” he reported on travel site insearchoflostplaces.com.
The family of Muscat grapes is a popular one all over the world. With around 200 grape varieties belonging to this species, it was understandable why White would automatically associate Muscat grapes with Muscat the governorate of Oman. It is, after all in the name.
Muscat grapes are known worldwide for their floral aroma. But the exact origin of Muscat grapes is hard to find and a number of speculations are being floated around of how it got the name.
An online discussion theorised that Muscat grapes were planted in Jabal Akhdhar where the mountain temperature was suitable to grow this kind of grapes. With Portugal colonising parts of Oman, they theorised that it would have been possible that through the port of Muscat, this grape variety was spread all over Europe. All of these, however, are mere speculation and no further research into the matter was made.
For White, however, his few days stay and inspection of a Muscat supermarket which yielded grapes imported from Australia made him declare instantaneously that “Muscat, Oman… (is a) beautiful city, but don’t expect locally-grown grapes.”
Had he invested more time and effort into doing proper research other than going to the supermarket in September, then he would have discovered that Oman produces satisfyingly good variety of grapes but since it’s seasonal, he would never find it at the supermarket in September.
For delicious grapes, go to Al Mudhaibi and Al Waqbah
Rashid al Habsi is a farmer in Al Rawdha in the Wilayat of Mudhaibi. In an ONA report made in 2017, he has claimed that they had been producing different types of grapes “including black, white and Al Lubnani, which is achieving remarkable success in its growing and quality.”
Other than Al Lubnani, local farmers, for several years, had also been growing the variety Al Taifi.
“I have allocated part of the farm to growing grapevines, and now the production is large enough and achieved a significant economic income that encouraged me to expand. I am currently trying to introduce the best varieties that can be marketed,” Al Habsi has shared.
Because the area of Al Rawdha has fertile soil and blessed with fresh water all through the year courtesy of the aflaj ancient irrigation system, they have managed to produce sweet, delicious varieties.-
He said, “The harvest begins in June and concludes by end of August” and explained that the pricing is a little bit costly but that they are “suitable given the characteristic of local grapes is of high-quality taste.”
Salim al Alawi, a farmer from Al Waqbah in Yanqul, also shared with ONA correspondent that they too produce good quality grapes since it is “one of the most important agricultural crops planted in the town.” The farmer added that they have different kinds coming in different colours, a seasonal production that everyone in the town looks forward to.
Al Alawi said that Al Taifi, the white in colour and usually are imported variety, is something they have grown successfully and are proud of in producing.
As for the farmers in Wakan, they too are proud of the variety they produce with one of the farmers attesting that “you’re going to remember it especially when it’s picked fresh.”
Oman Daily Observer has reached out to researchers from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and Sultan Qaboos University and will update the story of efforts being made on this front once information is made available to us.