July 20th-22nd 2020 – KING CORN – part I

Carol and Ido, the super bakers of Ish Shel Lechem Bakery, joyfully introduce these delectable products newly added to their menu:

  • In the Savory Department: Whole wheat spelt and olive oil sticks with nigella and sesame, long Abadi-style cookies, whole wheat, vegan and very addictive!

Ingredients: 100% whole wheat organic spelt flour, cold-pressed olive oil, organic whole sesame seeds, nigella, baking powder, sea salt.

200-gram package: 24.50 NIS.

  • In the Cookie Department: Teff Sugar-Free Cookies, sweetened with organic agave syrup and seasoned with cinnamon. The perfect biscuit to go with your tea or coffee (or summer shake), especially for those who avoid gluten and sugar. (Agave has a very low glycemic value).

Important: The Teff Cookies are baked in a gluten environment and include oats. Like all our gluten-free products, they are not recommended for celiac sufferers. Ingredients: teff flour, organic oats, tapioca flour, natural ground coconut, organic agave syrup, ground cinnamon, organic sunflower oil, baking soda.

~215-gram package: 35 shekels

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cornsky

For some time now, your boxes have proudly contained the king of summer, his royal highness The Corn. Every year it accompanies us from June to November, joins us as we bid the schoolyear farewell, enjoys our summer vacation and then goes back to school with us come fall. In essence, the corn crop begins to ripen in June, when the weather turns warm but still has an occasional breezy day, moves headlong into the intolerable heat of July-August and the heatwaves of September, breathes a sigh of relief in October, and makes certain that moderate weather has returned before saying goodbye in November. Now that’s what I call a king!

Corn is probably one of the first crops the Americans learned to grow. Approximately 7,000 years ago, some gleaners (probably Mayan women, or women of a neighboring tribe in Central America) noticed a spontaneous mutant among the weeds, a teosinte, with a cob that was longer and filled with seeds that were larger than your average ancient weed. Something sparked their intuition, and they tasted it – to their great delight. They also discovered that seeds which fell to the ground sprouted and became a mature plant that yielded more cobs. After some time, they learned that if they kept and seeded the better seed varieties, the next crop would be even more improved!

To your left is the olden corn, and to your right is its current cultured variety:

At the next stage, they (no longer gleaners, but now also farmers) discovered that if they grow corn, beans and squash, they could actually make a decent basic diet out of them. The plants also grew well together: the corn acted as a supporting pole for the bean to climb upon, and the squash grew on the earth as live mulch, preventing weeds and keeping in the moisture.

This threesome, which earned the title “the three sisters,” is an excellent example of the plant guild/community: a group of plants which become valuable when they grow together. The key to their success is the positive reciprocal relationship among them: each plant contributes to its neighbors, and receives from the neighbors in return. And just like human communities, a good plant guild is a more independent entity, stronger, healthier and easier to maintain than growing plants which are not connected to one another. This agricultural development proved to be so time-efficient that it gave the growers enough spare moments to build houses, weave rugs and baskets, develop astronomy and math, and of course – party…

Today, corn is one of the only crops which cannot reproduce without a human helping hand, as it requires the planting of separate seeds in order to sprout.

In various languages, corn was granted venerable names. The first to bring corn to Europe were the Spanish, who gave it a name from the native Taino: mahis in Taino, maize in Spanish. The meaning in Taino is “the seed that gives life.” The Latin name continued this theme, calling it Zea (“life giver”) Mays.

Only when the wonder vegetable emigrated to Europe did it receive its dull, listless name “corn” that was a generic term for grains (even salt grains, hence “corned beef”), and the derogatory titles “Turkey wheat,” “Turkey/Egyptian corn,” or “Indian corn.” Apparently they were not referring to the origins of the grain, but rather making a social comment that this was an uncultivated, wild, barbaric grain, as compared to “polite” cultured European grains.

The Hebrew name tiras was chosen based on the English “Turkey corn,” or the Yiddish equivalent Tirkishe VeitzenIn an old nature book, The Genesis of Learning, Baruch Linda describes “Turkey wheat” (חטי טורקיא) as “a grain with yellowish round seeds… each plant containing three towers, each tower or stalk containing two hundred and forty adhered seeds.”

So how did the Hebrew tiras derive from the Turkey? The word tiras is mentioned in the Bible in the books of Genesis and Chronicles. Tiras was Jefeth’s seventh son (Noah’s grandson). Scholars identified Tiras as the father of the Turkish nation (Tractate Yoma), which is why the “Turkish” grain was granted this name.

In a letter from 1912, Naomi Shapiro of the Kvutzat Kineret settlement described an agricultural summer festival of the day: “We left from Sejera at 5:00 AM in six carts with Hebrew and Turkish flags. Nature was impeccably beautiful and thus we arrived in Kineret within two hours, singing and clapping our hands… All sorts of vegetables were displayed from the various farms and moshavot, beans and peas and beets, tiras wheat, pumpkins, squashes, bandoras, cucumbers, grains and wheat – all neatly arranged…” Over the years, the “wheat” was dropped, leaving only the tiras.

Its lackluster name certainly does not reflect the sweet, positive nature of this wonderful grain, upon which the world of South American natives was once so dependent. And perhaps the come-down of the name from “life giving” to “wild grain” somewhat reflects the devaluation of this outstanding plant in the Western world.

Native Americans used the corn in a variety of ways. They ate it fresh or cooked, dried the cob and ground it into flour, ground the fresh kernels to make the moist corn porridge Polenta, decorated their homes with colorful corn, popped the kernels for popcorn, fed the cobs to animals, etc. Each part of the corn plant had its advantages and uses. The corn stem poles were used for building, fishing and more, and the corn silk to treat kidney ailments. They weaved mats and baskets and crafted masks, moccasins, and dolls:

Today, too, we are dependent upon corn in every realm, especially food: Almost every processed food contains corn, but corn of a very limited genetically-engineered variety that appears in its processed, worn and abused form, totally bereft of nutritional value, and of course, a product which demands an excessive exertion of energy.

We use corn starch for thickening and gluing, and corn syrup for sweetening. Expansion materials, emulsifiers, food coloring, and citric acid are all are derived from corn, as are most of the animal fodder in the meat industry. Corn also serves a role in the production of plastic and oil. (If you wish to learn more about corn and food in our world, I highly recommend Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma.)

But for all its many uses, there is nothing like simply sinking your teeth into a fresh ear of corn. There are those who do not trust the Kashrut of corn. They fear that tiny insects lying within the corn silk will find their way into the kernels, becoming impossible to detect and remove.  Dror once told me that he heard from a “Sunfrost” mashgiach (kashruth supervisor) how to deal with this matter. According to him, the bugs run towards the cob when they are exposed to light, as the corn is peeled and its silk removed. The solution is simple and creative: peel the corn in the dark! This way, the bugs remain in the silk and get tossed to the compost. You are more than welcome to try this out at home…

Wishing everyone a great week,

Alon, Bat Ami, Dror, Orin and the entire Chubeza team

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WHAT’S JOINING THE CORN IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Zucchini, lettuce, corn, melon/watermelon, cucumbers, tomatoes, New Zealand spinach/basil/Swiss chard, acorn squash/ Amoro pumpkin/ butternut squash/slice of pumpkin, parsley/coriander, eggplant/potatoes, scallions/onions.

Large box, in addition: Cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, lubia yard-long beans/okra.

FRUIT BOXES: Mango, bananas, pears, grapes.

Wednesday: Zucchini, lettuce, corn, melon/watermelon, cucumbers, tomatoes, New Zealand spinach/basil/Swiss chard, acorn squash/ Amoro pumpkin/ butternut squash, parsley/coriander, eggplant/potatoes, scallions/onions.

Large box, in addition: Cherry tomatoes, bell peppers/slice of pumpkin/okra, lubia yard-long beans.

FRUIT BOXES: Mango, bananas, pears, grapes.