A reminder: we would appreciate your returning empty Chubeza cartons, as we recycle them for further use. Please leave them for the delivery person when he drops off your boxes (just slice the tape and flatten the carton for easy storage).
In tribute to those who are serious about baking even in the scorching summer heat, Minhat Haaretz is offering a summer discount on spelt flour (whole or 70%) and teff flour. You get a free bag for every two you buy (2+1).
Run straight to our order system to take advantage of these great Triple sales!
Writing about the old-time community service jingle for eggplants in last week’s newsletter reminded me (and stuck in my head all week long) of its parallel song in praise of juicy tomatoes. Remember it?
Fresh or cooked, you’re always hooked,
Absorbing iron quick as can be –
“I’m full of vitamin C,
To cure a cold,
just take me!”
The tomato proudly resides in your boxes all year long, but in summertime it’s in full glory and flavor. Sometimes its banality makes us take the tomato for granted, and in fact some time has passed since we last discussed it. So this newsletter and the next will be devoted to this fruit of love.
Let’s start with the family tree: the tomato belongs to the selenium family, along with fellow family members the eggplants, peppers, potatoes and… tobacco. Of course, there are many others in the extended family, including wild and cultivated ornamental plants totaling over 2,800 different species. The tomato is a tropical plant originating in Central America. The world’s first tomatoes probably grew in today’s Peru and Ecuador, where they were cultivated before migrating to Mexico to be raised by the Aztecs, who gave them the name tomatel. The habitants of America raised the tomato and realized its value. The Spanish were impressed by its beauty and brought it to Europe in the 16th century. Tomatoes of those times were yellow, thus the origin of its name pomodora – a golden apple in Italian, which became pomo dei Mori – the apple of the Moors, a name later corrupted by the French to become pomme d’amour – the apple of love. The Arabic name bandora probably derives from the Italian name. We will discuss the Hebrew name soon.
When the tomato was first brought to Europe, it was raised only as an ornamental plant. The women of 16th century haute couture adorned their hair with tomato blossoms for special occasions. Yet health experts of the time warned against the fruit, which they considered toxic. The golden tomato may have been forgotten, if not for two 18th century Italian priests who brought the red variety from South America to grow in their yard. Here, in southern Italy, red tomatoes met their first great success among the peasants. Thanks to their courage and willingness to try out many new vegetables that the aristocracy shied away from, we enjoy great vegetables today. The first mention in writing of tomato sauce was a recommendation by a Neapolitan abbot in 1778 for using this as a sauce for meat and fish (not yet pasta or pizza). However, the 19th century firmly belonged to the tomato: by then it was discovered worldwide – including via its the immigration to our country, with a little help from some French monks.
It is hard to imagine a kitchen without tomatoes, specifically the Mediterranean kitchen with its shakshuka, s’chug, Italian pasta and pizza sauces, as well as being an essential for Spanish, Provence, Greece and Turkey sea and land foods. It’s hard to believe that history mounted the tomato atop European tables only 200 years ago, and that it was completely unknown in the Western world before Columbus made his grand discovery… Even so, the tomato was not so warmly received at its initial debut, and an aura of controversy surrounds it till today. Reading about the tomato, you can find mention that it is lofty and exalted, healthy, essential and important, or that it is poisonous, harmful and even dangerous. So… where are we? Are we poisoning you with tomatoes every week, or saving your souls? Alas, the story of the tomato is neither black nor white. (It is, of course, red, yellow, purple, pink, green…)
As mentioned, the tomato belongs to the selenium family. Some of the plants in this family are in fact poisonous and pose a health danger. This poison is due to alkaloids that exist in different parts of the plant. Alkaloids are organic compounds of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen, usually plant-based in origin. They are considered to have an influence on the function of nerves, muscles and the digestive system. The problematic alkaloid in the selenium family is the solanium, which gave it its name, and exists in various levels in family members. The solanium content in edible selenium plants is minute, and is reduced by 40-50% with cooking, which is why most of us can consume it without any problem. And yet, macrobiotic nutrition is very wary of the selenium family, which is considered most problematic when the vegetables are green (green tomatoes, green peppers, etc.) or raw.
On the other hand, tomatoes contain lycopene, the pigment that gives them (as well as watermelons) their red color, considered to be a hue that piques appetite and desire. Lycopene is a very potent antioxidant. Scientists claim that it is one of the “predators” of free radicals which are very active in nature (free radicals are the harmful substances that accelerate the processes of aging and disease). Lycopene is beneficial in battling various types of cancer, particularly prostate, lung and pancreatic cancer. Together with other components of the tomato, it also reduces the danger of heart disease and stroke. Lycopene’s ability to act as an antioxidant also contributes to the healthy function of eyes, to brain cognition and protection against harmful sunrays. The tomato is rich in Vitamin C, which protects against heart disease, stroke, cancer and probably cataracts and complications of diabetes.
Yehiel Mikhal Pines, who worked with Eliezer Ben-Yehuda to revive the spoken Hebrew language, translated Liebesapfel (love apple) from the German to agvaniah, from the root ע.ג.ב- “to love, desire.” The Ben-Yehuda household was not particularly pleased with the immodest agvaniah title, and thus suggested the name badura, Hebraizing the Arabic bandura. Rav Kook preferred a “pure and clean” Hebrew name for the vegetable. Prompted by the red color of the tomato, the venerable rabbi suggested admonia as an alternative. Over various decades, the agvaniah and badura co-existed, each with its own fan club. In the end, love and desire won out, and agvaniah it was.
Most of the tomatoes we know are indeed red, but the full picture shows a colorful, wide, rich range of varieties. In most agricultural farms, a slim variety of tomatoes are grown, but there are organizations and individuals who work to uphold the heritage of the multitude of varieties of tomatoes (as well as other plants and vegetables). See this Mandala from the French Kokopelli Foundation website (thank you, Yiftah, for the link):
Tune in next week as we resume the journey of the tomato, focusing on it vicissitudes in our field, from the first days in the open field up to the challenging (albeit rewarding) growth over the past few years in protected growth structures. In the meantime, during these prolific weeks of ripe red riches, we will be regaling you with this yummy delight, including both cherry tomatoes and regular tomatoes! Take a look at our recipes for preserving tomatoes: drying them, making sauces, and even tomato jam.
We extend our deep condolences to Mohammed, Mohammadia, Majdi and Ali, on the passing of Mohammadia’s mother, Mohammed’s mother-in-law and Majdi and Ali’s grandmother. May her memory be blessed, and may the entire family be comforted in this sad time.
Wishing you all a good week,
Alon, Bat Ami, Dror, Yochai and the Chubeza team
WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?
Monday: Zucchini/bell peppers, slice of pumpkin/butternut squash, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, corn, Thai yard-long beans/cherry tomatoes/green beans, watermelon/Amoro pumpkin, New Zealand spinach. Small boxes only: onions/eggplant.
Large box, in addition: Onions and eggplant, parsley, acorn squash.
FRUIT BOXES: Banana, mango, grapes. Small box only: apples. Large box: plums
Wednesday: Slice of pumpkin/Amoro pumpkin, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, corn, cherry tomatoes, New Zealand spinach, acorn squash/butternut squash, onions, carrots/eggplant.
Large box, in addition: Zucchini/bell peppers, Thai yard-long beans/green beans/garlic/okra, parsley.
FRUIT BOXES: Banana, mango, plum, pear