Aley Chubeza #243, May 4th-6th 2015

“Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee – thorn is artichokes, thistles are cardoon”

(Bereshit Rabbah)

The cultivated cynara, aka “artichoke” has been visiting your boxes for some time now. In the beginning, we harvested only a small quantity, but as time went on, the yield grew and expanded. Generally there’s not enough for all boxes, so every week we try to make that everyone will get the opportunity for a tasty introduction. After (what some call) the Original Sin, one of the signs of the change in the laws of nature is the verse quoted above, which – when paraphrased – is actually “if you can’t have the fruit of paradise, let them eat thorns…” Well, apparently it’s not such a terrible threat, as thorns can prove to be quite tasty…

The Fall from Paradise brings to mind a legend from Greek mythology about how the artichoke was created. Zeus, ruler of the Olympians, known for his weakness towards women, went to meet his brother Poseidon, God of the Sea. The brothers met on the beach of the Aegean Zinari Island, and Zeus could not but notice a young local woman gathering shells on the shore. Without hesitation, he began a vigorous courtship. The girl, Cynara, followed Zeus to the top of the Olympus and received the status of Goddess, under the one condition that she give up her previous life with mortals. In the beginning, Cynara thrived on the love and fame she received, but after some time she started missing her parents and her small native village. She escaped her lover for a few hours only to visit her parents and embrace them. Upon her return, Zeus was so incensed by her disobedience that he hurled her off the Olympus to earth. He placed her back in her hometown village in the form of an ugly, thorny bush – the artichoke, or “Cynar” in Latin.

Our artichoke is planted in a difficult area of the field, a stone-ridden plot we weren’t sure had enough fertile earth to grow vegetables. After some deliberation, we decided to try to plant artichokes there. We had high hopes for this perennial plant to thrust its roots deep beneath the stony layer, and to put its renowned endurance to use to prevail over the difficult earth. We planted the artichokes last year from cuttings (twigs cut from mature plants) and waited patiently…Last year the yield was very small, as the plants still needed to establish themselves and acclimate to the field. This year we are already harvesting nice-looking artichokes in nice-looking quantities.

The artichoke belongs to the Asteraceae family. Once it acclimates within the earth, the artichoke grows a great big thorny plant with a thick, hoarding root that can penetrate deep below, with huge leaves and the potential to climb to the lofty height of over two meters. Usually we eat the leaves of its thorny flower buds, specifically the soft “heart” at its core. A single plant can yield some 40 artichoke heads like this one:

Its brother, the cardoon (or artichoke thistle), is grown for its wide leaves, of which the edible part is the central juicy wide spine, which tastes just like…an artichoke. Here they are:

When the artichoke blooms, its purple thorny flower emerges from the familiar leafy inflorescence. It’s a beautiful sight, not unlike the artichoke’s cousin, the purple thistle. Here’s a glimpse of this glamorous beauty:

One of the ingredients responsible for the artichoke’s unique and somewhat bitter flavor is cynarin. This ingredient encourages urine flow through the bladder, thus preventing the accumulation of toxins and formation of gall stones. The artichoke enhances digestion and liver function. It helps  decrease the level of cholesterol, fats and sugar in the blood. Artichokes contain such beneficial antioxidants as vitamin C, Kapith acid and Pirolit acid that protect against free radicals and reduce the risks of cancer.

A major residue of these ingredients remains in the artichoke cooking liquid, so do not toss it out! Refrigerate the liquid and drink it to improve your health and digestion. L’chaim!

Usually we cook artichokes in water and dip them in a sauce of our choice, but there are more sophisticated ways to prepare this wonder vegetable: stuffed, pickled, cooked or quaffing a fresh salad. You can find an elaborate list of artichoke recipes on the Chubeza website.

Wishing you a week of finding flavor, nutrients and health even among the thorny thistles of life…

Shavua Tov,

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

_________________________

What’s in This Week’s Boxes?

Monday: Zucchini, garlic chives/artichoke/garlic, Swiss chard/New Zealand spinach, tomatoes, leeks, potatoes/bell peppers, celeriac/parsley root, cucumbers, parsley, lettuce, beets.

Large box, in addition: Onions/scallions, turnips/cabbage, thyme/mint

Wednesday: beets, garlic/garlic chive/artichoke, Swiss chard/spinach, tomatoes, lettuce, zucchini, cucumbers, parsley root, dill/parsley, leek. sweet red peppers – small boxes only, a gift of thyme.

Large box, in addition:cabbage/facus/carrots with greens, onions/scalions, mint. potatoes

And there’s more! You can add to your basket a wide, delectable range of additional products from fine small producers: flour, fruits, honey, dates, almonds, garbanzo beans, crackers, probiotic foods, dried fruits and leathers, olive oil, bakery products, pomegranate juice and goat dairy too! You can learn more about each producer on the Chubeza website. On our order system there’s a detailed listing of the products and their cost, you can make an order online now