Aley Chubeza #275, January 11th-13th 2016

mipri yadeha1Tu B’Shvat is nearing, and Melissa of Mipri Yadeha offers holiday baskets from the best of Israel’s products: organic dates, naturally dried raisins, carobs, nuts in their shells, and of course, her home products: naturally dried fruit and fruit leather with no additives, in a wide range of amazing flavors (clementine, fennel, apples and dates, guava and more.)

Each basket costs 60 NIS. Orders can be made via our order system beginning a week before the holiday. Happy Birthday, dear trees!

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Eat Your Broccoli…

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The Battle of the Broccoli fought between mother and child goes back in time to ancient lore. But it’s always interesting to argue that fathers, too, have paid some attention to their children’s eating habits, even in days gone by. 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 accordingly 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 from Turkey and the Eastern Mediterranean Sea region. The Etruski farmers (an ancient nation that came from the area of Asia Minor and settled in Italy) in Asia Minor grew 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 love to all the nations in the area with whom they conducted  commerce: the Greeks, the Phoenicians, the Sicilians, the Corsicans, the 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, in the beginning, 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.

In the European continent, broccoli proliferation took more time. Only in the 16th century did broccoli stamp its passport at the French border upon its entry with the prestigious entourage of Katherina De-Medici who emigrated to France in order to marry His Royal Highness Henry II. Turns out the French did not fancy the green immigrant. In France, 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 actually eat the young flower buds. Their flavor is a blend of 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 open (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 leaves, 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 leaves are harvested when they are young and tender. They are very popular additions to pasta or stir-fries. The mature broccoli leaves 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).

And 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 great contributions to good health. For one, broccoli lowers the cholesterol levels in the blood. Broccoli (as well as onion, carrot and cabbage) contain 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 some 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.

In addition, it is common knowledge that members of the Cruciferae family are warriors in the cancer prevention battle. Recent research indicates that a chemical component in broccoli can prevent the expansion of cancerous cells. The primary anti-cancer element is sulforaphane which was found – under laboratory conditions – to delay the growth of cancerous stem cells. Its course of action is similar to other anti-cancerous components that are used clinically, by actively disturbing the cell redistribution. Sulforaphane is even more prominent in broccoli sprouts.

So as not to impair the very valuable components of broccoli, take care not to overcook. Best to consume it raw, steamed or lightly cooked (3-5 minutes). Check our recipe section for excellent broccoli salads.

Hey, listen to your mother sometime.

Tips

  • Broccoli fares well in the refrigerator. Store it in a plastic bag in the fridge 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 ruin it.
  • When you cook/steam/lightly-fry 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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Have a great week with wonderful, happy news. And enjoy the wintery, smiley sun!

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

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Broccoli, coriander/parsley/dill, tomatoes, baby greens (mesclun mix)/lettuce, kale/spinach, cucumbers, kohlrabi/turnips, leeks/onions, cauliflower, fennel. Small boxes only: cabbage.

Large box, in addition: Daikon/baby radishes, Chinese cabbage/Swiss chard, celery stalk/celeriac, Snow peas/ sweet red peppers.

Wednesday: Broccoli, coriander/parsley/dill, tomatoes, lettuce/Chinese cabbage, kale/spinach, cucumbers, kohlrabi/turnips/daikon/baby radishes, leeks/onions, cauliflower, fennel. Small boxes only: cabbage.

Large box, in addition: baby greens (mesclun mix), beets/sweet red peppers, celery, spinach.

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 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!