Next week, post-Shavuot, Monday and Wednesday deliveries are as scheduled. However, in order for us to prepare for Monday deliveries before we embark upon the holiday, the order system will close for changes this Thursday, May 17th at 8:00 PM (only for the Monday 21.5.18 deliveries). Please keep this deadline in mind.
Thanks for your cooperation!
Gal of Kfar Bin Nun has joined our staff, and after Packing Day last week she sent us this cute little comic strip. Enjoy!
A stalk in the field bows in the breeze
The grains heavy in its fold
In the hilly distance, the day is ablaze
The sun a stain of gold.
Come round and liven up, children of the valley,
Grains have ripened to no tally
Wave the scythe, reap away
Harvest has commenced
The field of barley wears a wreath of joy
A wealth of blessed yield.
As it greets the gleaners timid and coy
Awaiting the sheaf is the field.
Come and dance along the lea
The grain rejoices its decree
As harvest has commenced…
(Shiboleth Ba’Sadeh, by Mattityahu Shalem in honor of the harvest festival at his kibbutz, Ramat Yochanan. Loosely translated by Aliza Raz-Melzer)
In honor of Shavuot, we were requested to bring a festive fruit basket to my daughter’s nursery. Devoted mother that I am, I started preparing it immediately. I remembered we had golden stalks of grain growing wild at the edge of our backyard, and I’d eyed them all winter with the thought of using them for Shavuot. I went out to the yard and found golden, though blighted, stalks, and when I tried to pick them I discovered why: every little movement of the ripe stalk made it fall apart and disintegrate. Try as I may, I was left time and again with a golden stem and empty stalk. Although the devoted mother in me was greatly disappointed remembering the strong, beautiful stalks that decorated the kibbutz dining hall of my childhood, I had to admire the wisdom of the wild wheat in my backyard, as well as the patience and devotion of the first farmers who domesticated it over 10,000 years ago.
Farming is a relatively new phenomenon in the history of human culture, commencing some 10,000 years ago, when man switched from hunting and gathering his food in the wild to becoming a deliberate grower of plants and animals he chose from nature. This era is considered to be an important turning point in the progress of humankind, leading to permanent settlement, the development of writing, and to a political structure. Without exaggeration, it is probably the cradle of our culture.
Wheat is one of the first things man learned to grow. He selected the wheat from the wild and turned it into an agricultural growth, to a domesticated plant. Wild wheat, the “mother wheat,” is the origin of all domesticated wheat grown today, and is still common in wide areas of the Land of Israel and its environs. We know many of the domesticated plants grown by man that still exist in their wild form. Just as there is a wild plum and domesticated plum, or wild and domesticated carrots, or wild and domesticated fennel, there is also wild and domesticated wheat. The wheat grows wild in the upper and lower Galilee, in the Carmel, the Gilboa, Judea and Samaria. It is dispersed from the north of Israel and Lebanon all the way to western Iran and Iraq.
The “mother wheat” was discovered by Aharon Aaronsohn, of the famous Aaronsohn family from Zikhron Ya’akov, who was an agronomist, botanist and geologist. In 1906, Aharon went on a journey in search of wild wheat. He embarked on this search because of one dried plant that was picked at the slope of Mount Hermon and had been preserved in a university in Germany for over 50 years, with no information as to its origins. After a long search, he found the first stalk of wild wheat on a mountainside in Rosh Pina. Afterwards, he found it growing in other places in Israel as well.
Aaronsohn was surprised to learn that the wild wheat is very similar to domesticated wheat, and thus wrote in his journal, “My doubts arose especially when I saw the fine development of the stalks and grains. I never imagined that the wheat prototype would so closely resemble our domesticated wheat, bearing grains that would satisfy any modern farmer. But actually, if it weren’t so, prehistoric man would never have noticed this wheat, and probably wouldn’t have attributed so much importance to it.”
Here is a picture of both: the wild wheat is on the right, the domesticated to the left. You be the judge:
But if the wild wheat is so satisfactory, why domesticate it? Why not just gather it wild in the field? The wild wheat is very similar to the domesticated, but there are still critical differences between them. The wild wheat which grows in the field has properties beneficial for the plant, but disadvantageous for man and farmer: after the grains of the wild wheat fill and ripen, the axle of the stalk (the stem in its center) breaks, and it disintegrates into small units. For the wild plant, this is an advantage: the small units are scattered in the area, and some, at least, survive over summer to grow during the next rainy season. But just imagine the frustration of past collectors (or present devoted mothers) who picked sheaths of wheat and took them home–and by the time they reached the door, the stalks had broken and fallen apart, leaving only a dry and grain-less stem to grasp. Another property that differentiates wild wheat from the domesticated version is that its grains are wrapped in a rigid shell-like skin and other wrappings, and are very hard to hull and separate. Thus, the grains are protected from heat and dryness, as well as pests and animals. But the reapers had to work extra hard to separate the wheat from the chaff, or to grind them without separating them and try to eat them this way.
Wo/Man wished to develop wheat that was suitable for his/her needs, therefore s/he selected and sowed only seeds from the stalks whose seeds stayed in place for long. Over thousands of years of sorting and sowing, the farmer achieved a new species that could only be separated from the plant by movement, beating and knocking, or what we call today “threshing.” In the process of threshing, the grains are also hulled from the chaff with ease. Wheat’s scientific name is Triticum from the word Tritum, Latin for “to rub, wear out.” Thus, wo/man turned wild weeds to domesticated wheat.
Domesticated wheat has additional agricultural advantages as well, which have made it a fundamental component of human nutrition. Wild wheat is popular in limited places in the Near East, which fortunately for us include Israel. Domesticated wheat, however, can grow in extended areas throughout all the continents: Europe, Asia, North America, South America and Australia. There is also a great difference between the volume of yield of domesticated and wild wheat: domesticated wheat produces a large yield of produce, because each stalk consists of many large grains.
If the domesticated “bread wheat” grew wild in nature, it would never survive: the stalks would fall on the ground without disintegrating, and the seeds would not scatter and hide among the clods of earth. In such a situation, it is most likely that animals (mice, ants and other wheat-destroyers) would find the stalks easily and consume the grains. The domesticated wheat is able to survive only because wo/man grows it in cultivated fields, waters and fertilizes the earth, eliminates pests, harvests and threshes it.
The process of wheat domestication was the first step. Next week I will write more about the “green revolution” and disclose more tales of the wheat as it evolved from wild wheat to the one we know and love today. In the meantime, we will conclude with hopes for good yields, abundance and tranquility.
In a beautiful and insightful article, Nissim Krispil writes about that the “stalk in the field bow[ing] in the breeze” which for modern humankind symbolizes peace and quiet, was considered in medieval times to harbor fears and evil spirits. The wheat harvest expressed a battle against this evil spirit. The last sheaf harvested was the crux of many rituals in various cultures. In some of the falach villages in Israel, it is customary to weave the stalks of the last sheath with colorful threads of wool, to be called Birkhat El Khasida (the blessing of harvest.) It is also customary to hang this creation in the wheat silo or on the walls of a house as a folk amulet against the evil eye.”
Wishing you all a joyous Shavuot harvest festival, and hoping, wishing and praying for tranquility and growth in our part of the world,
Alon, Bat Ami, Dror, Yochai and the Chubeza team
WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?
Monday: New Zealand spinach, melon, lettuce, cucumbers/fakkus, beets, tomatoes, potatoes, Swiss chard/kale, zucchini, cabbage/onions, cilantro/parsley.
Large box, in addition: Leeks/garlic, parsley root, acorn squash
Wednesday: New Zealand spinach/kale, lettuce, cucumbers/fakkus, beets, tomatoes, potatoes, Swiss chard, zucchini, cabbage/garlic/parsley root, onions, cilantro/parsley.
Large box, in addition: Carrot , melon, acorn squash.