A little over a year ago Minnie’s Dried Fruits & Vegetables introduced a range of solar dried fruits and vegetables to the Egyptian market. Produced in Egypt and made from seasonal products, the healthy snacks have become a favourite for many.
Dried fruits and vegetables are not new to Egypt; dates, apricots and molokheya are only a few examples of fresh produce regularly dried as preserves after the season is over. Minnie’s Dried Fruits & Vegetables takes this one step further with dried strawberries, apples, string beans and onions but a few of the products that are produced by this initiative, just over a year old, and headed by Menar Meebed.
“It all started when I wanted to make healthy snacks for my grandchildren,” Meebed said. “I dried fruits at home at first but after reading and learning about drying fresh products I discovered there was a lot more possible.” To educate herself further Meebed traveled to India to take a course in drying produce on a larger scale. When she came back to Egypt she had a plan.
“I own a piece of land in Dahshour and I have always wanted to find a way to help the women in the village find economic independence. Together with my enthusiasm to produce healthy snacks it all fell into place” Meebed explained.
“In India I was introduced to a system of drying that involved a drying tunnel that functions completely on solar energy. We have more than enough of that here, so we installed a drying tunnel in Dahshour and started work,” she told The Daily News Egypt. “In the beginning the women of the village were not that interested in my project, only one woman joined me, but after two weeks another woman expressed interest and right now we have eight full time employees, six women and two men.”
Most of the vegetables are local, having been grown on the land where they are dried, and they are all produced with safe agricultural practices. The produce is meticulously cleaned, peeled and sliced and then laid out to dry in the tunnel for 48 hours.
“We use no chemicals, preservatives or colourings in our products, at any step of the process,” Meebed said. “Our packaging is recyclable and our drying tunnel has zero carbon footprint. I started this because I wanted to come up with healthy snacks, and this is still the case. Even if the scale has become a bit bigger than originally thought,” she laughed.
Meebed has started a Facebook page and issues a newsletter each month introducing the picks of the season and recipes to really get the best out of her products. “People don’t realize sometimes that the dried vegetables can be used in other ways than adding them while cooking. The aubergine slices for instances are great with some hummus as a snack,” Meebed explained.
There is yet more room for expansion, as Meebed has seen over the past year. “The market in Egypt is increasing and I am now exporting to the Emirates as well. There is interest from Italy and the UK but I am not ready for that yet. I want to grow the business in a sustainable way. Part of the purpose of Minnie’s Dried Fruits & Vegetables is creating an economic future for the women in the village so I want to make sure we are ready before we expand further.”
From dried cherries, mangoes, oranges and banana slices to herbs, soup-mixes, tomatoes, coloured peppers and shredded onions, Minnie’s Dried Fruits & Vegetables offers a delicious and healthy alternative for snacks worth checking out.