Aley Chubeza #280, February 15th-17th 2016

Upgrading!

We are pleased to inform you that Chubeza’s Customer Relations efforts are making progress: this time in the area of bills and invoices. I know that some of you have been baffled in opening our invoices or understanding the two-invoice system. Moreover, our system was not secure enough to be able to trust it with your credit card details. Today, however, we embark upon a new era…

Our billing system has been upgraded and is now connected to the Ishurit Zahav system of CardCom, a secure system which encodes the details of payment with full safety. Soon we will graduate to an invoice program that will produce one comprehensive invoice which includes all your monthly purchases (taking into consideration the various VAT levels). The invoices should now be opened easily, with no further difficulties.

So, now that Chubeza has taken these giant steps, we need your help! Please visit your bill in our order system (instructions for using the order system can be found here), and click the “personal details” tab. On the bottom of the page, there should be a line saying (in Hebrew):הכנסת פרטי אשראי לחיוב חוזר: קישור לטופס מאובטח Click the link, then enter your credit card info. Now your card is encoded and saved in the secure system.

Only two weeks till the end of the month! We will be very grateful if you enter your payment details as soon as possible so we can bill your cards on time at the end of next week.

If you have any questions or could use some technical assistance, please call or email.

Thank you!

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A Wintry Sun

After many a cool and rainy week, we are now experiencing warm, sunny days with joyful rays of sun, although the sun disappears after a few hours in deference to cool temperatures. The earth in our field is already saturated and well-watered – six feet under – and the veggies are thankful to bathe in the good sun, giving hearty winter vegetables the exact quantity of warmth they need.

For us, this is perfect timing. After not planting for a month and a half, from beginning to mid-February is exactly the time we go back to plant the last winter rounds of celery, fennel, kohlrabi and more. And, too, we begin our spring planting. The first to go into the good earth is the zucchini, covered by clear plastic to warm and protect against cold times. This is the perfect week for them to get well acquainted in their beds.

Our greens, too, are loving the sun. The leaves are thirstily drinking up the sunrays, absorbing them in their bodies to generate energy for healthy growth. In their honor, and in honor of the month of Adar Alef, this week’s Newsletter is dedicated to our spinach contingent, one an actual spinach and member of the Amaranthaceae family, and the second, the New Zealand spinach from the family of coastal plants, who masquerades as spinach.

I decided to write about them again in response to the deluge of questions from you as to what these leaves are. Our response “Why, it’s spinach!” is met with such confused replies as, “but we thought spinach is the little green leaves on the long stem….??” So, here goes:

Meet Mr. Spinach:

spinach.jpg

The origins of spinach, a member of the Amaranthaceae family, are in central Asia: Afghanistan, North India, Uzbekistan, Southwest Asia and perhaps Persia. For years it was grown in the Mideast, in the central Orient and in China. A Chinese seventh-century source coins spinach “the Persian herb.” It migrated to Syria and Saudi Arabia and from there to North Africa. In the eleventh century, the North Africans Moors brought spinach to Spain and introduced it to the Europeans. A popular plant in the Holy Land, spinach is mentioned in the Mishnah and Talmud as a vegetable used for cooking and in soup.

Spinach provides a good opportunity to discuss the power of culture, of colorful stories and folk tradition vs. the power of exact sciences. Like many vegetables, spinach began its culinary life as a medicinal herb, used to treat constipation and digestive problems.

In Tractate Brachot, Rav Chisda notes: “A dish of spinach is good for the heart and for the eyes, and even more so, for the intestines.” I am always amazed at how precise folk medicine is without having the scientific tools to actually examine the medicinal herbs it recommends. Years of experience, perhaps, together with knowledge which is passed on from generation to generation, maybe even a tad of intuition or spiritual abilities, all come together to provide good health advice. For I am pretty sure Rav Chisda never entered the chemistry lab or studied biology or botany, and yet, he hit it right on the spot. Spinach is one of the richest antioxidant sources, especially high in lutein, which contributes to healthy eyes and can also reduce the danger of arteriosclerosis, heart disease and cancer. The high levels of oxalate are those responsible for its beneficial ability in regulating bowel movements (more about the health virtues of the spinach later).

The next thing I thought about while studying spinach is its best friend, Popeye the Sailor Man. When Popeye encounters trouble, he wolfs down spinach straight from the can, gaining immediate, incredible strength. The funny thing is, Popeye is the result of… a typo. In research conducted in 1870, a decimal point typo erroneously attributed its iron content to be ten times the actual value… But here comes the power of storytelling and the one-eyed sailorman. If you conduct a short survey among your friends and ask them which vegetables are richest in iron, they will probably name spinach among them.

And to complicate matters, though spinach is in fact rich in iron (not ten times richer, but still…) and also calcium, our ability to absorb these elements from spinach is rather limited, as the oxalate binds them together, preventing their absorption in the body.

But spinach boasts other advantages. Beyond the lutein mentioned previously, spinach is rich in vitamins K, A, C, beta carotene and folic acid. It is rich in chlorophyll, which contributes to protection from cancer-inducing substances (lung cancer, for instance). It contains Quercetin which is an antioxidant, an anti-inflammatory, and a specific enzyme that assists in lowering blood pressure. Spinach juice is the best vegetable juice to prevent cancerous cells.

There are two groups of spinach varieties: those with prickly seeds, considered to be more resistant to cold weather, and the smooth-seed varieties, which deal better with warm temperatures. The hybrid varieties we have today are suitable for different climates.

Another way to differentiate spinach types is by the leaves: there are the crinkled curly leaves (savoy spinach) and the flat, smooth ones, and there are some intermediate varieties (somewhere between smooth to crinkled). In Israel, spinach also grows in its wild form, from the center of the country to the north, in wintertime and spring. Its leaves are soft and milder, and they usually taste more refined. In northern markets, you can buy it fresh, and in Galilean restaurants this is a major ingredient in local dishes at this time of the year.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is the New Zealand spinach:

New_Zealand_Spinach

The plant’s scientific name is Tetragonia tetragonioides, and it belongs to the Aizoaceae family, characterized by fleshy plants that thrive along the seashores, in sands and dunes, and in the desert as well. It has been native to Australia and New Zealand for many years, where the aborigines and native Maoris would gather it for food. When the Europeans reached the continent, they were taught which plants were edible, enabling them to survive. They coined the local plants and animals used for sustenance (including the wonder-plant tetragonia) “bush tuckers.”

Upon his fleet’s arrival to the Eastern coast of Australia in 1770, Captain Cook was justifiably concerned lest his sailors contract scurvy, a disease caused by lack of vitamin C. At sea, the crew was nourished solely from preserved food, so whenever they reached shore, the captain would set out in search of good fresh leafy greens to boost their diets. In Australia, his botanist chef found the tetragonia, and after enjoying its taste and nutritious value, they brought it home to England.

The Brits, already very fond of greens, were delighted to receive this exotic plant, and by the beginning of the nineteenth century it was to be found growing in the best of English vegetable gardens. Afterwards, there came a period when the tetragonia was passed over for hybrids and other “advanced” plants, but over the past decades, in keeping with the worldwide trend for local, homegrown products, the venerable plant is experiencing a comeback. White-aproned Australian chefs now gather it in the fields or purchase it from gourmet farmers. In leafy-green-loving Asia, too, it was happily received, growing across Eastern Asia and used as a substitute for Asian greens in stir-fried vegetable dishes.

Though genetically unrelated to spinach, the New Zealand spinach received its name because it is used as a spinach substitute—but with one major edge over its namesake: Unlike spinach, which requires a cold climate and will not germinate in extreme heat or will bloom prematurely, New Zealand spinach is heat-resistant. On the other hand, it is very sensitive to cold, and frost will completely destroy it. This special relationship resulted in the New Zealand spinach becoming a good substitute for spinach during summer, while true spinach assumes the stage in winter, and does well in Israeli winters as well.

In Israel, the substitution game became even more complex, with a small link to our Chubeza as well. During the siege of Jerusalem in the 1948 War of Independence, in an attempt to find dietary solutions for the besieged residents, the idea arose to gather wild mallow (chubeza). Schoolchildren were organized to go out and gather mallow leaves, which were then passed on to Tnuva, which packaged and marketed them as “New Zealand Spinach.” Around the world in just a few words: a Jerusalem mallow, marketed as New Zealand spinach, serves as a substitute for true spinach (which has its origins in Iran).

And what’s it really like? Does it work as a true spinach substitute? The mildly salty taste of New Zealand spinach is similar to that of true spinach, but they do not look alike. The New Zealand mate’s diamond-shaped leaves are much smaller and fleshier. It can substitute for spinach in any recipe, and in some dishes can replace Swiss chard, with whom it shares a fleshy texture, definitely fleshier than that of the thinner spinach. This fleshiness allows it to retain more volume in cooking, thus when substituting for spinach or Swiss chard, use only half the amount of leaves called for in the recipe.

When you cook New Zealand spinach, separate the leaves from the coarser-textured stems that are harder to cook. It is not recommended to consume these greens raw: the leaves contain cartonoid antioxidants which are important nutrients, but in their raw form they are oxalates which complicate digestion, particularly for those with gallstones or kidney problems. To remove most of the oxalates for easier digestion, blanch the New Zealand spinach for a few minutes, and then wash the leaves.

At this time of the year, both varieties of these greens are growing at Chubeza. Sometimes you receive the winter spinach (as we call it), while at other times you get the New Zealand spinach and a chance to enjoy the “original” and its dressed-up counterpart…. You can find recipes for both these guys in the recipe section on our site.

Cut the spinach! And enjoy the sunny week,

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

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Some of the tomatoes this week look different from those you have become accustomed to. They’re good and tasty, but nonetheless they’re a little pale. Although the tomato bushes were hurt by the frost and their foliage was damaged, they are still strong and yielding fruit. Lots of fruit. In order to help the bushes survive, we lopped them from above and anxiously await their renewal from the sides of the stems. In addition, with the tomato plants bereft of foliage which protects the fruit from the damages of solar radiation, we stretched a shade-net over the tunnel in which the tomatoes grow. Though this net does protect from damage, it also creates an uneven ripening among the vegetables. Please accept these tomatoes with understanding and joy. Take a bite! They’re delicious and thirst-quenching. (Our thanks.)

Monday: Broccoli, coriander/dill/mint, tomatoes, lettuce, spinach/kale/Swiss chard, cucumbers/long Dutch cucumbers, carrots, onions, potatoes, baby radishes/purple radishes/daikon (long white radish), beets. Small boxes only: leeks.

Large box, in addition: Baby greens (mesclun mix), celeriac, cauliflower, cabbage.

Wednesday: Broccoli, coriander/dill/mint/parsley, tomatoes, lettuce, spinach/kale/Swiss chard, cucumbers/long Dutch cucumbers, carrots/bell peppers, onions, baby greens (mesclun mix), potatoes. Small boxes only: beets/celeriac

potatoes, baby radishes/purple radishes/white turnip, leeks, cabbage, fava beans/peas.

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!