December 10th-12th 2018 – Underground Treasures

Our field is almost completely wintery. A stroll among the vegetable beds reveals the many farewells we’ve bade over the past month to most of the summer veggies. Their dry plots in their final days have been transformed to fresh chocolaty loosened soil and rows of tiny sprouts or young plants beginning their lives in the field.

But at the outskirts of our field remains one last jungle-like plot, with tall tangled plants in faded green, dry yellow flowers and longer leaves of a brown hue. But don’t be fooled –just below, the exciting world of the underground is bursting with life – thickening, filling out, ripening, and sneaking into (at least some of) your boxes on a weekly basis:

Introducing the star of this week’s Newsletter, the incredible sunroot, aka Helianthus tuberosus, or better yet the very confusing moniker: Jerusalem Artichoke. But first, a clarification: the sunroot does look like ginger, but it certainly is not ginger!

We waited for them over six months, till the bushes dried up and wilted. Only then could we chop those down and begin pulling out the secret treasures buried below – delectable, satiating bulbs that will enhance every soup, quiche, antipasti or salad. And you don’t need a lot — they can be used just for a tasty touch of seasoning.

Here at Chubeza, sunroots are one of our younger products. After an experimental crop several years ago, we were pleased with the outcome. Actually, more than pleased. And ever since then, they have been steady autumn tenants.

This great photo from Gal’s blog, Ptitim:

In America, they’re commonly known as “sunchokes,” but actually the title “sunroot” is an accurate description, for the Jerusalem artichoke is in fact a species of sunflower which develops an edible root bulb. The origins of this delectable bulb are in the North American East Coast from Georgia to Nova Scotia, where it has been both growing wild and cultivated in Native American vegetable gardens for years on end. The bulb fully enjoys the American sunshine and rich, fertile earth, yielding farmers and gleaners its rich roots that abound with energy and sweetness.

The Europeans, who came to visit and stayed to conquer, tasted the sunroot and loved it. First to describe the bulb was French explorer Samuel de Champlain, who noticed it in a Cape Cod vegetable garden in 1602. He sent some sunroots to France, from where they meandered to England, Germany and Italy in the 17th century. The Italians termed it girasole, Italian for “sunflower.” Somehow the pronunciation was distorted to “Jerusalem,” and it stuck. The “artichoke” part came from the fact that it somewhat resembles the artichoke in taste.

Like any sunflower, the sunroot adores the sun and thrives during the summer. For Chubeza, this is the seventh summer we’ve watched its growth. I say “watch,” because from the moment we placed the bulbs in the earth until we plunged the pitchfork in to remove them, we really did not have much to do (aside from occasional weeding and watering). We were rather amazed at the beautiful strength of its growth, at its ability to joyfully grow wild and dare the weeds to even think of coming close. In our field, the Jerusalem artichoke is free from pests (moles and rats are their natural nemesis), which is why we could just step aside and simply watch it grow. Patiently.

Here it is going wild, blooming, growing. The Jerusalem artichoke in Chubeza:

  

And yes, it required much patience. The plant took its sweet time for at least seven months, growing, wilting and clandestinely swelling up its unique roots. Only come mid-October when the foliage had dried up did we insert the pitchfork to examine the situation, just to discover that we needed more patience. So we waited a bit longer, regularly sampling some to gobble up for lunch. Now, a month later, we are finally beginning to pull out all these yummy, distinctive bulbs. Welcome, gals!

Though it grows underground like the potato (even if it is more stubborn and recalcitrant than the spud) and has a similar caloric value, the Jerusalem artichoke is low in carbs. Instead of starch, it contains inulin, a fruit sucrose carbohydrate, soluble in water (which is how it stores its energy in the root bulb). Inulin aids in lowering blood sugar levels, making it recommended for diabetics (contrary to potatoes!). Inulin feeds the friendly microbes in the intestines and reduces the threat of a variety of diseases. On the other hand, it may cause gas, so if you’re first beginning to eat Jerusalem artichokes (known in America by some as “fartichokes”), start slowly to get the body accustomed. These bulbs are an excellent source of thiamine, iron, niacin, Vitamin B3 and potassium. Chinese medicine classifies the Jerusalem artichoke as a warming vegetable which strengthens the digestive system. A great winter vegetable!

And again, contrary to potatoes, they must be refrigerated, preferably in a closed plastic bag or sealed plastic container, to prevent them from growing soft. If you wish, you may peel it. If you don’t like peeling the knobby bulbs, here are some tips from Phyllis Glazer:

The Jerusalem artichoke turns black quickly after being peeled, so it is recommended to place it in a bowl filled with water and two tablespoons of lemon juice, or simply drop into milk and cook away. Soaking in water causes the vegetable to lose the B vitamins, which are soluble. Thus it’s best to peel them and give the artichokes a quick soak, or soak from time to time in a water and lemon juice solution while peeling. You can also scrub them well and cook them unpeeled (a young Jerusalem artichoke can be eaten with peeling) and then use the soaking water for soup or other type of dish. If the bumps make it hard to peel, steam the roots for several minutes to remove the peeling with ease.

Check our recipe section for a variety of suggestions for cooking and serving the amazing sunroot, but feel free to add it to other familiar and favorite recipes in your own creative way. It really enhances the flavor in nearly every dish. Bon appetite!

Wishing everyone a good and healthy week,

Alon, Bat Ami, Dror, Yochai, Orin and the entire Chubeza team

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Beets/fennel/turnips, lettuce/Salanova lettuce, sweet potatoes, kohlrabi, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, broccoli/cabbage, spinach/totsoi/kale, coriander/parsley, Swiss chard.

Large box, in addition: Thai yard-long beans/Jerusalem artichokes, celeriac/leeks, radishes/daikon.

FRUIT BOXES:  Kiwi, bananas, apples, oranges.

Wednesday: Beets/turnips, lettuce/Salanova lettuce, fennel/kohlrabi, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, broccoli/Jerusalem artichokes, cauliflower/cabbage, spinach/totsoi/kale, coriander/parsley, Swiss chard.

Large box, in addition: Sweet potatoes, celeriac/celery, radishes/daikon.

FRUIT BOXES:  Kiwi, bananas, apples, oranges.

December 3rd-5th 2018 – happy Chanukah!

We joyously open the month of December with the arrival of Kibbutz Samar’s delectable dates, fresh from the autumn date harvest. Great news for those of you who are already addicted and pining away for these incredible dates! And a great opportunity for those who have not yet discovered these mouthwatering treasures from Kibbutz Samar!

From their magic groves far down south in the Eilot region, Samar grows three amazing types of organic dates. Brahi, round, soft and very sweet, is popular in its fresh form as a yellow date. Samar attempted to dry it whilst on the tree, like they do with the other varieties, and discovered that as a dry fruit Brahi’s flavor and texture are incredibly distinctive. They nicknamed it “the date toffee,” and it is deliciously addictive. We also have Dekel Nur dates – elongated, darker and drier. They are not as sweet, and those of you who’ve adored Iraqi or Yemenite dates will be awash with nostalgia when you sit your teeth into them. Last but not least is the Zahidi – a small, round date, less sweet as the Brahi and very rich in dietary fiber. If you do not possess a sweet tooth, you will love the latter two. They are also excellent for baking and cooking.

The Samar dates can be purchased in 500 gr or 5 kg packages. Add them to your boxes via our order system now!

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And also – Asaf’s excellent fresh spice assortment now welcomes two new outstanding additions: grill spice for chicken and natural soup powder. Like all the other members of the team, they are made of quality fresh spices, millstone-ground with no additives. “Reach-Hasade” (the fragrance of the field) spices are hand-ground in a boutique factory in Netivot, packed in plastic containers. Kosher Mehadrin by Netivot Rabbanut. Order them via our order system.

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 CHANUKAH – DARKNESS, LIGHT & A WORLD OF AGRICULTURAL MIRACLES

 

 O Chanukah, O Chanukah,

Come light the menorah.

Let’s have a party,

We’ll all dance the hora!

It’s three weeks till winter will make its grand entrance. The skies are already growing darker in late afternoon, evening falls earlier and earlier, and the hours of darkness keep extending. We walk into the house and flip on the lights. But in olden times, darkness had a much more dramatic effect. Candlelight or bonfire flickers were the only way to break the blackness, and danger prevailed during the long hours of darkness. As fear gripped the heart, the best way to confront the anxiety was through community gatherings lit up for the occasion. Which is why in many cultures festivals of light are prominent during winter – Chanukah, Christmas, the Indian Diwali, Loi Krathong in Thailand and other light festivals are specifically celebrated during this time of the year, when the light wanes (like the Klausjagen in Lucerne and the festival of lights in Lyon).

Chanukah, our very own festival of lights, celebrates the victory of the tiny light over the great darkness, in this case – the Greek occupation that inflicted its culture on the Jewish occupants of the country. To break their spirit, Jews were forced to give up their religious and cultural liberties, and the Temple – their symbol of spiritual expression and sacred practice – was desecrated, defiled and rendered impure. The Greek statue placed in the Temple and the religious persecution prohibiting Jews from practicing their sacred rituals were enacted to proclaim the supremacy of the Greek culture and the defeat of local beliefs.

Antiochus the Greek saw his Hellenistic culture as far loftier than the local Jewish culture which he perceived as barbaric, and sought to create unity among the nations he conquered. After all, what is better than one strong, beautiful and divinely prescribed culture to bring about loyalty, bonding and unity?

Turns out, this didn’t actually work… The affront to culture and religion spawned a volatile rebellion, the conquering of Jerusalem by the Maccabees, purification of the holy Temple, and the return of Jewish rituals, leading to some 80 years of Hasmonean rule in Judah. When I was young, I was told this story as one that highlighted the victory of nationalism and religion. And perhaps, historically, that makes sense. But today when I return to the story, I can see the strength of the aspiration for autonomy and unique self-expression. A unification of culture cannot survive for long. We all need our identity and communal expression, and when a there’s a broad spectrum of identity and cultures – that’s when the great light prevails.

In our food as well, without that wide variation our vegetable salads, or any meal for that matter, would be very uniform and meager. In diverse places round the globe, many types of food and crops were developed and cultivated. Today, the synergy between them, without cancelling out one another, has created the marvelous wealth of our vegetable boxes. So in honor of Chanukah, I will sing praises to the liberty of raising homegrown vegetables that are varied and interesting, and tell the tale of agricultural culture worldwide.

In the beginning, wo/mankind were nomadic hunters and gatherers. They did not fence themselves in, did not build houses or work the field for agricultural cultivation. They moved from place to place, scavenging whatever they found along the way: weeds, grains, caryopsis, leaves, roots and fruit. Each season introduced additional crops, and people moved according to the weather, just like the migrating birds which spend their winters in warmer climates and escape the heat by drifting to cooler placer in summer. Seeds of grains, fruit and hard roots which can be stored for longer periods of time were sometimes preserved in preparation of harsh winters.

As people began settling down, they domesticated plants and animals by gathering the plants they enjoyed (not too bitter or toxic) closer to them to grow and cultivate. The earth surrounding their houses became rich in nitrogen, generated by animal and human wastes, which enriched the earth to make it extra-perfect for agriculture. Over time, human beings discovered the secret of plant reproduction: if you keep the seeds yielded by the crop, you can replant them in the soil and grow a new plant. The seeds from the more successful crops were kept from season to season, also according to their use – those with extra-large leaves, a big root or fruit; those tastier than others , sweeter or stronger flavored, and those which demonstrated strength and durability in face of pests and weather hazards. Thus humankind naturally, albeit with some intervention, developed species better adapted for his/her needs and uses.

In the ancient Land of Israel region, two types of vegetable agriculture were developed: Dry Farming – using no irrigation, only rainwater, and Irrigated Farming – assisted by irrigation channels in small square vegetable plots, sometimes within orchards among the lines of trees (very beneficial for some vegetables, lettuce for instance, who just love the coolness and shade of trees). Among the plots, a system of narrow channels was dug, and water from the closest springs was channeled for irrigation. A cloth rag or pile of dust served as the faucet opening and closing for the water supply. This system is very suitable to a hilly topography where gravity can be used to cause water to flow.

These ancient, wise farmers used their callous, veiny hands and small plots to grow a large variety of crops which enriched the soil and enriched its fertility. In addition, they used goat and sheep manure from the herds shepherded in the area to enable the rigorous growth and reuse of the soil from one season to the next and one year to the next.

In the Sataf Nature Reserve, situated in the Jerusalem hills (turn left at the roundabout at the top of the hill on the Ein Kerem-Mevasseret Road), there is a vivid example of irrigation plots in the ancient agriculture system.

In various places in the world, different types of vegetables were developed, resulting in the vast variety of vegetables we have today:

In the Mediterranean, a wide range of vegetables developed including root vegetables such as radishes, turnips, garlic, celery and onion; and such leafy vegetables as cabbage, beets, fava, asparagus, artichoke and fennel. Agriculture in this entire area contributed  a great deal of its knowledge and species to Roman agriculture, which traversed next to all of Europe where the species that manage well in winter were acclimated better in Northern Europe (beets, carrots and other roots, various leaves and the good ol’ brassicas).

In the river valleys of China, amazing agriculture developed. To this day, the area maintains a very high level of soil fertility allowing the growth of fast and high-yielding crops, while maximizing the recycling of organic waste. The Chinese contributed other leaf species such as Chinese cabbage, mustard greens, bokchoi, totsoi, mizuna (and many other greens), the giant radish, and of course – soy and rice. They were the ones who also developed the culture of sprouting, a crop which yields within a few days and offers a wealth of vitamins and enzymes.

An important third region is that of the Native American culture – specifically within the warm and rainy areas of Central and South America. They developed the warm weather veggies, specifically the Solanaceae (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers), and the gourds: various squashes and pumpkins, as well as sweet potatoes, corn and various beans.

From Africa we received melons, okra, watermelon and an abundance of fruits. From the regions of India, we gained cucumbers, black-eyed peas, as well as many types of spices, including black pepper, basil, vanilla and others.

Last but not least is the strawberry, which only arrived in the agricultural crops of the 16th century from the European forests. Thank goodness!

Today, we most definitely enjoy this ingathering of the exiles as it supplies us with a wide variety of dozens of different vegetables, subdivided into thousands of species and sub-species. A true song of praise to the autonomous liberty to create, cultivate, grow and taste. May we enjoy a holiday of colorful and illuminating lights, and Bon Appetit!

Our Thai workers are celebrating Kings Day on December 5th. Happy holidays to all!

Alon, Bat Ami, Dror, Yochai, Orin and the entire Chubeza team

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Cabbage/fennel/turnips, radishes/baby radishes/daikon, sweet potatoes/green bell peppers, kohlrabi, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, spinach/totsoi/kale, dill/parsley, Swiss chard. Special gift: mizuna/arugula

Large box, in addition: Jerusalem artichokes/beets, celery/celeriac, lettuce

FRUIT BOXES:  Bananas, apples, oranges, avocados, pomelit

Wednesday: Cabbage/broccoli, radishes/baby radishes/daikon, potatoes/orange or purple sweet potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, , spinach/kale, dill/parsley, totsoi/Swiss chard, mizuna/arugula/lettuce

Large box, in addition: Jerusalem artichokes/Thai long beans, fennel/turnips, beets/celeriac.

FRUIT BOXES:  Bananas, apples, oranges, avocados, pomelit.

November 26th-28th 2018 – The Enchanted Broccoli Forest

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Eat Your Broccoli…

The Battle of the Broccoli fought between mother and child has been here from time immemorial. But it’s always interesting to note that fathers, too, have paid some attention to their children’s eating habits, even in days of old. Rumor actually has it that Drusus, son of the Roman Emperor Tiberius, loved broccoli so much that he ate broccoli and only broccoli for over a month. After his urine turned green and his father scolded him, Drusus was forced to take a sad leave of absence from his favorite veggie.

Romans have always been the most loyal and ancient broccoli consumers.  The vegetable’s name is derived from the Latin brachium, meaning branch or arm, which aptly describes the way broccoli flower heads branch out. Broccoli has resided in Italy from the 8th century BC, i.e. almost 3,000 years, but it actually originated in Turkey and the Eastern Mediterranean Sea region. The Etruski (an ancient nation that hailed from Asia Minor and settled in Italy) farmers in Asia Minor raised crops from the Brassica family. We have no written history about them, which is why their culture and faith remain somewhat of a mystery to this day, save for several facts like their love for the Brassica family… The Etruskis bequeathed this affinity to all the nations in the region with whom they conducted commerce: the Greeks, Phoenicians, Sicilians, Corsicans, Sardinians, and of course the Romans, who immediately fell in love with broccoli and continued to develop its family.

In Roman cuisine, broccoli was a desirable gourmet platter, otherwise known as “the five green fingers of Jupiter.” However, the early broccoli varieties were leaner, forming less of a “head.” They were also purple and turned green in cooking. Over time, the Calabrese specie was developed, sporting a larger flower head, and remaining popular and widely grown to this day.

On the European continent, broccoli proliferation took more time. Only in the 16th century did broccoli stamp its passport at the French border upon entering with the prestigious entourage of Katherina De-Medici who emigrated to France to marry His Royal Highness Henry II. Turns out the French were not impressed with the green immigrant: the esteemed chefs must have turned up their noses, exclaiming (read with a pronounced French accent): “Shame on him, that Levantine greenhorn! No class whatsoever! All those green curls out of control! Mon Dieu!!”

Broccoli is in fact a plant that arrives at the beginning of its blossom, and we essentially eat the young flower buds. If you leave the broccoli growing peacefully in the field rather than harvesting it, it’ll actually bloom. His head will spread open, and yellow and white florets will bloom from the dense green buds we eat. The flavor of these florets is sweet and spicy, but the stalks are fibrous and hardly suitable for cooking and eating. Here’s an example of a broccoli that passed its prime and is about to blossom (thank you, Chana, for all these beautiful photos):

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Not all broccoli flower heads are suitable for eating. Here in the Middle East, it’s not common to eat broccoli leaves, but overseas in Italy or the Far East, for example, there are broccoli species grown for their greens, like Rapini broccoli or Chinese broccoli. Usually they are species which do not grow a dense scalp like the broccoli flower head we know, but rather bloom immediately, a gentle bloom, and their greens are harvested when they are young and tender. They are very popular additions to pasta or stir-fries. The mature broccoli greens are used in a similar way to kale. Their nutritional value is quite high, and they are rich in vitamins (A, B-complex, C) and minerals (iron and calcium). This week, indeed, some Chubeza boxes will contain broccoli greens as an alternative to kale, Swiss chard or spinach.

Meanwhile, back to our initial question: is it really so important to eat your broccoli? Once again, Mom (and maybe Dad) is right. Big time. Broccoli is rich in Vitamin A, i.e. beta carotene, evident in its strong green color, as well as folic acid, calcium (a cup of cooked broccoli is equivalent to the calcium value of half a cup of milk) iron (10% of your daily recommended consumption) absorbed in the body with the help of Vitamin C (one cup of broccoli equals one orange, Vitamin C-wise!).  In addition, broccoli contains Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, magnesium, zinc and potassium.

But aside from its nutritional value, broccoli is gaining recognition for its important contributions to good health. For one, broccoli lowers cholesterol levels in the blood. Broccoli (as well as onion, carrot and cabbage) contains pectin fiber which binds to acids in the body, thus depositing more cholesterol in the liver and allowing less to be released into the bloodstream. Research has found that its effectiveness is equivalent to certain cholesterol-lowering medications. Broccoli is also rich in the mineral chromium which improves the function of insulin in adults who have a tendency towards type 1.5 diabetes.

And there’s more! It is common knowledge that certain members of the Cruciferae family, those responsible for the bitter flavor section of the family, are warriors in the cancer prevention battle. Recent research indicates that when chewing the plant, the Glucosinolates break down to important phytochemicals. Two have been particularly well researched: Indole and Sulforaphane. Both these compounds, which surface upon slicing, chewing or tearing apart the vegetable, have been found to delay the growth of cancerous stem cells. Their course of action is similar to other anti-cancerous components that are used clinically, by actively disturbing cell redistribution. Sulforaphane and Indole are even more prominent in broccoli sprouts. (While we’re on that subject, you can order broccoli sprouts and other excellent sprouts from Udi at Achituv via our order system).

The bitter (and spicy) characteristic of the broccoli and its relatives is also a result of the Glucosinolates, and more accurately – the mustard oil within it. These vegetables  most probably developed this feature as a form of self-defense: when a harmful creature or insect attempts to assault the vegetable plant by chewing, cutting or injuring it, one taste of the sharp, piquant flavor is enough to send the aggressor fleeing. Here’s one comic example of this kind of reaction from a common “human cub” in this hilarious flick. Fortunately, as we grow older, our taste buds develop the ability to deal with bitterness and even enjoy it (coffee, beer, broccoli…) Good thing, too, as broccoli and its family members are super vegetables that are tasty and healthy.

So as not to harm broccoli’s very valuable components, take care not to overcook. Though light cooking does have the advantage of making  more broccoli segments edible, it’s best to consume your broccoli raw, steamed or very lightly cooked (3-5 minutes). Check our recipe section (in Hebrew) for excellent broccoli salads.

Hey, listen to your mother sometime.

Tips

  • Broccoli fares well in the fridge. Store it there in a plastic bag to protect its nutritional value, especially the Vitamin C. Another possibility, albeit less popular, is to immerse the broccoli stalk in deep ice water (like a bouquet of flowers), covering the inflorescence with a loose plastic bag, and change the water daily.
  • Do not wash the broccoli before you refrigerate. Moisture will damage it.
  • When you cook/steam/lightly sauté the whole broccoli, begin with the stalks. They are harder and need more cooking time. Add the florets and leaves later (broccoli leaves are delicious and definitely worth a taste!).
  • Go easy on the cooking so the broccoli remains solid and its flavor is stronger. Best to steam, not to cook.

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Wishing you a good week, with lots of good news and happiness. Enjoy that winter-lit sun with more satiating rainfall over the weekend! Inshalla!

Alon, Bat Ami, Dror, Yochai and the entire Chubeza team

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WHAT’S JOINING THE BROCCOLI IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Potatoes/sweet potatoes, lettuce, kohlrabi/turnips/beets, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, spinach/totsoi, arugula/coriander/parsley, Swiss chard/ kale. Small boxes only: Jerusalem artichokes/Thai yard-long beans. Special gift for all: mizuna.

Large box, in addition: Radishes/daikon, celery, cabbage/fennel, green bell peppers/eggplant.

FRUIT BOXES:  Bananas, avocados, apples, oranges, clementinas.

Monday: Radishes/daikon, lettuce, kohlrabi/turnips/beets, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, spinach/totsoi, dill/coriander/parsley, Swiss chard/ kale. Small boxes only: Jerusalem artichokes/Thai yard-long beans. Special gift for all: mizuna/arugula.

Large box, in addition: Potatoes/sweet potatoes, celery/celeriac, cabbage/fennel, green bell peppers/eggplant.

FRUIT BOXES:  Bananas/pomelo, kiwi, apples, clementinas.

 

November 19th-21st 2018 – Magic spells in the field

Sometimes the combination of our expectation for rain mixed with the anxiety of it not arriving leaves us once again with a make-believe winter. Nothing has helped to date, so……the time has come to turn to witchcraft!

What we need is a book of incantations, brewing up a concoction of some thirsty clods of earth, dried up-snails, a few strands of tresses turned white from worry, summer vegetables (who just want to return their gear to the quartermaster and head off into the sunset), mix them all together, mumble some mumbo jumbo, and abracadabra – the heavens open up and shower us with a luscious, rainy, cold and satiating winter. True winter.

But in the meantime, we appreciate every droplet of rain in our field, cheering on the drop in temperature, hoping and praying and wishing for a blessed rainy winter. Joining in our hope and anticipation are the winter vegetables, including the very prominent Brassicaceae family. One branch in its family tree is the lovely mustard family and its members, the broccoli, kohlrabi and cabbage who have already visited your boxes. The cauliflower is on her way soon, along with their close cousins the very strong roots growing underground. If any vegetables can make magic happen, it is them! So in honor of the return of the Brassicaceae roots, I am re-posting a bewitched Newsletter. Cackle, cackle…

Radish, Turnip, Eye of Newt……………..

In a popular Hebrew book that my daughters love about five witches (by Ronit Chacham), radishes and turnips are major ingredients in the brew concocted for a spell cooked up by five very amusing witches. As it turns out, not only witches crave these vegetables.  Among us mortals and muggles, the turnip and radish (along with baby radishes and daikon) can be just as vital in a potion to ease the common cold, cough, mucous buildup, hoarseness, infections and other winter ills. Winter is the season in which the members of the Brassicaceae family (formerly the Cruciferae) thrive. They are cousins, not siblings, since the radishes belong to the Raphanus genus and the turnips to the Brassica genus, but today we will sandwich them all together (or stir them in the same cauldron) and discuss their common characteristics.

So we already know that they all belong to the Brassicaceae family, along with such members as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and kohlrabi, mustard greens, tatsoi and others. Its former name was the Cruciferae, after the shape of its four-petal flowers, which resembles a crucifix. Here are some examples:

 

Wild Mustard

Erucaria

Maltese Cross Ricotia

Wild Radish

The Brassicaceaes are a venerable winter family, and we eat various parts of their plants: sometimes the flower buds (broccoli, cauliflower), sometimes the stem (the thick part, as in kohlrabi) or the leaves (mustard, cabbage, tatsoi, arugula and others) and also the roots, to whom this newsletter is dedicated today: the radish, baby radish, daikon and turnip.

Truth be told, this is a populist division. The good parts of the turnip, daikon and radish are not only found underground – a number of parts of these vegetables can be eaten. For instance, turnip greens are very tasty, and some turnip varieties are grown specifically for their leaves, not roots. Leaves of the large radish are bitter and coarse, but the greens of baby radishes have an esteemed place in the culinary arts. The French add baby radish leaves to potato soup and to add a hint of pungency to salads made of steamed spinach.

Other varieties of radishes and turnips were developed in order to make oil from their seeds. These oils were used in the past, and Maimonides mentions them in discussing oils permitted for Sabbath candle lighting (see Mishnah Torah, Shabbat, Chapter 5, halakha 11).

Radishes and turnips love the cool winter climate, which slows down their breathing and expands the quantity of carbohydrates, a process which improves flavor. Unstable conditions will produce woody roots and a sharp flavor, and they will turn bitter in warm or dry weather. This is why in Israel they are winter symbols – the plants develop thickened roots and fancy leaf inflorescence on their crowns.

And now, some words on each of these vegetables:

The turnip is an ancient domesticated crop that was possibly grown in gardens of old in China, Greece, Rome, Egypt and also here. In kitchens throughout, it was a basic, common vegetable. Assaf the Physician (Assaf Harofe Ben Brakhiyahu who lived in 6th century Tiberias) praised the leaves and seeds of the turnip: “The leaves will be useful for all mental distresses and for malaria, while its seeds will be useful in treatment of pain and all sorts of ailments that lead to death.” However, even the juice produced from the root itself is known in folk medicine as beneficial in treating coughs, hoarseness, mucous buildup, and dryness of the nose and mouth. In natural medicine, turnip juice is used to treat malaise as well as kidney stones. In order to produce juice, one must press the root. Half a kilo of roots make one glass of juice. Half a kilo of squeezed leaves will make half a glass of juice.

At Chubeza, over the past few years we have been growing the familiar type of turnip, with a purplish stain on top, in addition to a special type – a white, round and very sweet turnip. Even confirmed turnip haters have got to try this one out!

The radish, too, is ancient and prevalent like the turnip. It is considered to be an appetite stimulant and to assist digestion. Take advantage of its refreshing flavor by serving a fresh radish salad between meal courses to cleanse your palates and prepare for the upcoming flavor. The radish’s medicinal virtues are similar to those of its cousin the turnip, beneficial in treating both respiratory and kidney ailments. In addition, turnips are friendly to pregnant women, known to intensify fetal movement (and not as fattening as chocolate) as well as decreasing gas. Soak swollen feet in a radish bath and feel the relief!

There are many varieties of radishes, differing in size, shape, color, and degree of pungency. At Chubeza, we grow radishes and daikons – the long, white Japanese radish. Take a look at several radish beauties:

small colorful radishes

Black radish

Daikon radish

Red radish

Instructions for Storing:

  • Radishes and turnips are roots, i.e., their function is to absorb food and water from the earth in order to supply them to the plant as needed. When picked, we disconnect the plant from its current supply, and the roots hurry to transform the material they accumulated to the plant’s leaves in order for them to continue to grow. The root itself will eventually become depleted. Therefore, when you receive a radish, turnip, or daikon (and the same goes for beets and carrots) with leaves attached, you must snip the leaves in order to preserve the root’s contents, to keep it fresh and firm for as long as possible.
  • It’s best to store root vegetables in a closed container to isolate them from the processes in the fridge and the materials secreted from other vegetables and food.

Radishes and turnips are great served fresh in a salad or sandwich, but don’t forget to use them in cooking as well. Yes, they can be baked and stir-fried, and they will warm your hearts by adding some coolness to this year’s sultry November.

Impatiently awaiting the rain, which may hopefully arrive at the end of this week. Keep your fingers crossed, like this Daikon fella from our field…

Alon, Bat Ami, Dror, Yochai and the Chubeza team

WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

This season is abounding with fresh, delicious greens. This week, we’re sending you a special winter gift of an additional green vegetable. Enjoy!

Monday: Eggplant/potatoes, green & red bell peppers, lettuce, radishes/daikon/baby radishes, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, broccoli/cabbage, spinach/totsoi, coriander/dill/parsley, Swiss chard/ kale. Special gift: arugula

Large box, in addition: Turnips/beets, Jerusalem artichokes/Thai yard-long beans, celery.

FRUIT BOXES: Apples, bananas, avocadoes, oranges, clementinas.

Wednesday: Sweet potatoes/potatoes, green & red bell peppers, lettuce/mizuna, radishes/daikon/baby radishes, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, spinach/totsoi, coriander/dill/arugula, Swiss chard/kale.

Large box, in addition: Turnips/beets/cabbage, Jerusalem artichokes/Thai yard-long beans, celery.

FRUIT BOXES: Apples, bananas, avocadoes, oranges, clementinas.

November 12th-14th 2018 –  A Tale of a Carrot

Autumn is positively here, the assortment of organic fruits is limited to bananas, avocados and citrus fruit, and the good news is – the price of winter fruit is far lower than summer fruit! This enables us to assemble an impressive fruit box for you at a much lower price.

Thus, starting this week, there will no longer be large or small fruit boxes, but one uniform-size box filled with juicy, delicious fruits. The cost: 70 NIS.

Have a happy, sweet autumn!

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You ask, “What is life?” That is the same as asking, “What is a carrot?” A carrot is a carrot and we know nothing more. 

     -Anton Chekhov in a letter to his beloved wife, Olga Knipper Chekhov (April 20, 1904)

Over a century has passed since that April 1904, and by now we can no longer say that “a carrot is a carrot and we know nothing more.” Countless research studies have been conducted to examine this basic veggie, so common and beloved, generating a wealth of information on the carrot’s healthy components and its ability to maintain our health and to spur healing.

But Chekhov did articulate a hint of the mystery lying in the root. What meets the eye as we stroll by the carrot bed is only its bad-hair-day hairdo and the edge of its scalp. But when we tug it out of the soil – voila! Orange happiness retrieved from the dark underworld…

Winter is its season. The carrot does not appreciate warm weather, but adores the cold. It can even grow under a blanket of snow. Now that the weather has cooled off a bit, the carrot has finally become a frequent guest in our field and your boxes. We seed several carrot beds every few weeks, and after several months pull out bed after bed of juicy orange corkscrew roots, week after week.

The carrot (Daucus carota) belongs to the Umbelliferae family, home to such vegetables and spices as celery, parsley, fennel, dill and cilantro. Various wild carrot species have grown in many areas in the world, specifically in the Mediterranean, South Asia, Africa, Australia and America. The origin of certain domesticated species is probably Afghanistan and Turkey. The Arabs introduced the carrot to Spain, where it spread to Europe. The first domesticated varieties came in a range of colors: red, purple and yellow-green. Later, yellow and white carrots were developed. In the 18th century, the Dutch grew orange carrots, which are today’s most common variety. In Israel, the carrot has been harvested from the beginning of the Jewish settlement. The Arabs used to grow dark purple carrots, which can still be found today to a small extent.

The wild carrot is known in English as “Queen Anne’s lace,” a name which originated in a fairy tale about how the wild carrot’s flower got its distinctive look: a sort of white lace embroidery, with a dark red-purple dot at its center. Legend has it that Queen Anne (wife of King James I), who reigned as Denmark’s queen in the 16th and 17th centuries, was an expert at lace tatting. One day she pricked her finger in the process, and a drop of blood rolled onto the center to create this special flower. Although the tale only appeared in writing some 200 years after Anne’s death, it could be associated with the 17th century custom for ladies to smartly adorn their hats with wild carrot flowers.

Carrots are usually biennial. At the end of their first year of growth, they develop leaves and a root. When the root is well-developed and the plant has received its necessary dose of cold weather, the next season leads to the development of a stem which grows rather tall. As the stem branches out, it produces peripheral branches which end in an inflorescence resembling an umbrella. The seeds remain in the dry fruit, one seed per fruit. They contain ethereal oil which provides their unique scent. When a carrot is grown for food, we are interested in its taproot, which is why it should be picked before reaching flowering and seeding – for by then the root is too old and becomes grainy.

The root develops in three stages, beginning right after sprouting when a long skewer-like root grows. At the second stage, the root thickens and becomes longer, gaining its orange color. At the third stage, the downward growth stops and the root only thickens.

carrot cut

The root consists of a central stele, the endodermis and the cortex. The endodermis is surrounded by tissue, which creates the inner cortex and the outer phloem. This tissue is rich in color substance and sugars. A carrot’s quality is determined by the thin texture of its central stele in comparison to the cortex tissues. In difficult growing conditions, or as the plant ages, the central stele becomes wood-like and the carrot is no longer fit for human consumption.

The carrots in your boxes were seeded three to four months ago. Never one to rush, the carrot sprouted slowly: first two long ears, the cotyledons, peeked out of the earth. Afterwards the plant actually grew “real leaves,” the type we can identify as carrot leaves, a true bunny gourmet treat.

carrots sprouting   carrot-sprouts1

  The carrot needs a lot of space to breathe and grow, in both length and depth and preferably from all four directions. But its seeds are tiny and hard to seed accurately and well-spaced. As soon as they begin to grow, we start thinning the plants and pluck out lots of tiny carrot sprouts to allow the remainder to grow nice, bountiful roots.

carrot thinning

The orange of the carrot is known for its medicinal qualities: research highly acclaims it as a cancer and heart disease fighter. Carrots maintain healthy eyes, fortify the immune system, protect your skin, and generally boost human growth and vitality. Its healing powers come from the yellow-orange caratanoid pigment group: the alpha carotene, beta carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin. 

Beta carotene, the most researched and popular pigment in the carrot, belongs to the carotenoid group, which becomes Vitamin A when consumed. For this reason they’re termed “pro-vitamin.” Vitamin A, aka “retinol” due to its benefits to the retina, plays a crucial role in healthy vision.  A Vitamin A deficiency can impair the function of the photo-pigments in the retina and cornea, causing blindness or night blindness. Vitamin A promotes skin health and epithelial cell growth, and in pregnancy contributes richly to proper fetal development. Current research indicates that Vitamin A is critical to the process of learning and memory, probably by enriching the area of the brain responsible for memory function.

Vitamin A keeps the immune system working, whereas a deficiency can increase the risk of acquiring viral infections. In infectious diseases, a Vitamin A deficiency can aggravate the disease and increase the mortality risk. In Chinese medicine, carrots are known to strengthen the spleen and blood in anemia. Medical research supports this as well, recognizing that Vitamin A is beneficial in absorbing iron and relieving the symptoms of anemia.

Proper Vitamin A consumption has been linked to reducing the threat of many types of cancer, including eye, breast, large intestine, prostate, skin and liver.

Carrots also contain falcarinol, a natural pesticide which the carrot probably develops against harmful fungi by delaying the creation of material which encourages fungus growth. In a like manner, falcarinol hinders the creation of components which foster the growth of cancerous tumors, thus delaying their development.

Carrots are also rich in excellent “traditional” nutrition components: potassium and such B vitamins as folic acid, vitamins C, K, E and dietary fibers. In short, it is full of great stuff. Give the carrot a place of honor in your menu!

Beyond the orange beta carotene, carrots come in rainbow colors. How beautiful are these?

Overdosing on carrots may cause carotenemia – a temporary yellowing of the skin, caused by excessive consumption of beta carotene from fresh carrots. This is not dangerous, only a little strange-looking, and it disappears several weeks after going cold turkey on beta carotene.

Carrot Tips

– If you receive carrots in a bunch, complete with greens, the best way to store them is by removing the greens. Otherwise they will draw water from the root and cause it to shrivel.

– Carrots should be stored in the coldest place in the refrigerator, in a plastic bag or in the vegetable drawer.

– The carrot is best unpeeled. You can lightly scrape the peeling, or not at all. The peeling is tasty and nutritious.

– Like the tomato, a cooked carrot is more nutritious and healthier than a raw carrot. The level of vitamin A rises as the cooking – and even a light scraping – breaks down the cell walls. It is best to cook carrots in a small amount of water, so the vitamins are not diffused in the cooking liquid.

Check out our recipe section for nice diverse ideas for carrot cuisine.

* Adding a small amount of oil to the cooking liquid will increase the absorption of antioxidants.

– It is recommended to combine carrots with foods containing vitamin E, such as peanuts, pumpkin, leafy vegetables and whole grains.

Wishing you a great orange week – in health, happiness and good living!

Alon, Bat Ami, Dror, Yochai and the entire Chubeza team

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Eggplant/potatoes, sweet potatoes, lettuce, radishes/daikon/baby radishes/turnips/ kohlrabi, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots/Jerusalem artichokes, Thai yard-long beans/red bell peppers, spinach/Swiss chard, coriander/dill, arugula/mizuna.

Large box, in addition: Celery, kale/totsoi, broccoli/cabbage/beets.

FRUIT BOXES: Bananas, avocadoes, pomelit, oranges, clementinas.

Wednesday: Sweet potatoes, lettuce, radishes/baby radishes, broccoli/cabbage/kohlrabi, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, spinach/Swiss chard, coriander/dill/parsley, arugula/mizuna. Small boxes only: Celery.

Large box, in addition: Thai yard-long beans/red bell peppers, potatoes/Jerusalem artichokes, kale/totsoi, beets/turnips.

FRUIT BOXES: Bananas, avocadoes, apples, clementinas.