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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Growing Food on Greek Islands Without Water

Q. Good morning
I am writing you from Greece , more precisely from Antiparos in the Cycladic where I have recently acquired 55 acres of land on the sea side, oriented towards the west.

I am reflecting on what to plant on this dry land where there is NO water.
You can buy water and storage in water tanks or decide to desalinate see water. But I don't want to have to water these trees in the future 
So I am looking for plants and for fruit trees that I can plant on this land without adding any water once the plants are established.

Olive trees, grapes for wine, fig trees, etc do well here without water once established.

Orange lemons etc... , peaches apricots ..., do well if you protect them from the wind and do provide some water during the summer. 

Do you have any suggestions on what additional plants I could plant that would not need any water at all during summer once established?

A. interesting project. My focus is more on the production of high quality fruit and vegetables for higher end markets. What you are asking falls more into the expertise of sustainable horticulture/agriculture, a form of permaculture. I think a lot of the techniques that you need to employ would be talked about more on permaculture Internet sites.

That being said, you are on the right track. Certainly those crops you mentioned, wine grapes, olives and figs to a lesser extent might fall into that category. That kind of production is a two-edged sword; usually the visual appeal of food crops grown under restricted water is not as bountiful and it doesn't look as good. The positive side, when you are successful these of fruits and vegetables are more concentrated in flavor and nutrition. 

I worry a little bit about finding the right location to grow these things or putting the right growing strategy together to make it successful. Then there are those "tricky" crops that require more water than you think such as dates and figs. They both like a constant water source close by so they can keep their "toes wet" or they won't bear fruit or the quality will be bad.

But here is a short list of some food crops that would either grow with restricted water or with poor quality water.
  • Wine grapes
  • Olives
  • Pistachios
  • Edible cactus (Opuntia spp.)
  • Mormon tea (Ephedris) medicinal
  • Yucca for starch of the root and stem
  • Pitayas such as Stenocereus
  • Cereus sp.
  • Parkia biglobosa
  • Corryocactus brebistylus
  • Goji Berry
  • Pomegranate
  • Tylosema esculenta
  • Carob
There are probably many more but I would need to dig. Perhaps some others might add to this list?


  1. Tylosema esculenta (marama bean) seams very interesting. It is high in protein and fat, even higher than soy beans, some say that it taste like roasted cashew. Any suggestions where I can get seeds?
    Palo verde and mesquite add to the list?

    1. Thanks for responding. This is the problem with some of the more obscure plants...where do you get them?

    2. Thanks for responding, Lena. That's the problem with some of these plants, if they are not mainstreamed in the commercial market, where do you get them? Like where is this guy going to get Palo verde and mesquite? Even a couple I mentioned, I am not sure he can get them.

    3. Thanks Bob for wonderful list suggestions! Now I am obsessed finding marama bean seeds, so I have to fly to Africa to search it in the desert.