November 23rd-25th 2020 – Fate and Genetics

In the spirit of Autumn revitalization, we are now delighted to present a new and very special manufacturer joining the Chubeza associates: Syndyanna of Galilee from Kafr Kana. Syndyanna of Galilee is a non-profit organization spearheaded by Arab and Jewish women working together to create social change. Collectively, the women are involved in the harvesting, packaging and Fair-Trade marketing of fine-quality prizewinning olive oil and other traditional products. All profits are channeled into cultivating social enterprises, empowering women, and cooperative efforts.
From now, you may add these distinctive Syndyanna products to your Chubeza box: organic olive oil, carob oil and za’atar spice mix. We invite you to try these outstanding products and also to plan a trip to the Syndyanna of Galilee Visitors Center in the industrial zone of Kafr Kana in the Galilee. There you can enjoy tasting the products, meeting the craftswomen and attending crafts and cooking workshops.
B’tayavon! Enjoy!
___________________________________

The people of Israel called the bread manna. It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey.

-Exodus 16; 31

Winter is tricky for us farmers playing the guessing game, studying the various forecasts and hoping “our number” comes up. Will it rain this week? In what quantities? Will it be dispersed evenly over many hours in gentle, moderate showers, or douse the earth in one furious hour? I’m thinking that this is what gamblers feel – placing their chips on Lady Luck, we take our cues from the heavy gamblers – cross our fingers, make vows, pray hard and hope the cards show rain. At this point, it’s a matter of fate.

At Chubeza, we actually grow an herb called “fate” or “luck,” and the opinions about it are exceedingly controversial. Introducing the “lucky charm of the field,” the Coriander, as the star of this week’s Newsletter which completes our seasoning-herb trilogy.

Fate can be favorable – and then it’s “luck” – or bad, which makes it “fatal.” Coriander fits this dichotomy, as it is a very fatal vegetable.

Almost every discussion about coriander begins with a sentence like “the world is divided into those who are crazy about it and those who despise it.” Like many foods, the “kill for” or “die of” attitude begins before the first bite, i.e., when the food’s scent is inhaled.

Coriander’s unique fragrance originates in very strong scent molecules from the aldehyde family. Some boast a fresh fragrant, while the others emit a soapy scent. Some of our noses identify their scent as fresh and green, while others interpret it as foul, soapy, dirty and disgusting. Till now, the difference was explained as an acquired preference, stemming perhaps in a childhood experience or some kind of initial encounter with coriander – specifically its fragrance. However, new research has examined fondness/revulsion of coriander using genetic variables, concluding that an actual gene is responsible for the creation of fragrance receptors of the aldehyde compounds. People with particular receptors will perceive the positive fragrance of coriander, identifying it as fresh and tempting, while others will identify it as an actual danger and recoil as if it were poisonous. The good news is that despite this congenital inclination, there is a chance to change, as genes are only partially responsible for the loathing of coriander, and even those who are born with it can change their preference.

I’m guessing that coriander’s Hebrew nickname, “the lucky charm of the field” was bestowed upon it by a member of the “ayes” group. The manna which the Israelites ate in Sinai is described as a “white like coriander seed and tasting like wafers made with honey.”  The Aramaic scholar Yonatan ben Uziel identifies the coriander seed as having given the manna its shape, making it one lucky herb thereafter. The name “coriander” originates from the Greek word for bedbug, Korianno, (perhaps because of their similar scent(. In America, coriander leaves are called “cilantro,” from the Spanish name for the plant.

Legends concerning the miraculous manna purport that when it was eaten, its taste corresponded with whatever the eater was craving at that given moment. The association with coriander may seem a little strange to some of you, but it is indeed a multi-talented seasoning herb. On the one hand, it adds a distinctive taste to salads and cooked items. On the other, it tones down the piquancy of spicy herbs, making it a mainstay of the Asian and South American cuisine. Coriander seeds are also a component in a magical delicacy, the sugarplum, which started out as sugar-coated coriander seeds.

Coriander belongs to the Umbelliferae family, sister to the dill, carrot, fennel and others. The family’s name was coined from the shape of its flowers, resembling small parasols or umbrellas. Little branches jut out of the main branch, and others emerge from them. It is an annual plant. Unlike the biennial parsley, which can be harvested many times before it blooms, coriander only allows a limited number of harvests (1-3, depending on the season) before growing a blossom pole. In wintertime this process is slower, and in summer we sometimes can’t harvest it fast enough before it blossoms.

Coriander originated in the Mediterranean Basin, but today it is an honored guest in almost every kitchen in the world. Coriander is generously sprinkled over dishes in Iran, Georgia, the Caucasians, in Morocco and Arab countries, plus certain places in Africa. And of course, coriander is having a ball in India, China and Thailand, and in Mexico you would be hard pressed to find a dish that does not contain coriander.

Coriander is one of those streamline-built plants where you can make use of all its parts: the leaves, seeds, branches and even its root. The root can replace garlic and is especially popular in the Thai kitchen, though it was once used as “bitter herbs” on the Seder plate. The leaves are the part you’re familiar with–the source of the dominant taste and smell, which is the bone of contention between lovers and loathers. The seeds, however, are not as strong. They’re sweeter and more aromatic, and they constitute an excellent seasoning herb for preserving and for slow-cooking.

Here is a look at the seeds, root and leaves:

       

If you don’t like lots of coriander, use it to season your oil. It’s milder that way:

Fill a jar with two cups of coriander leaves, lightly warm up a vegetable oil (canola, sunflower, safflower, olive), and add to the jar. Seal jar for two weeks, after which you can remove the coriander stems or leave them in the oil, depending on your preference. (If you plan to keep them in the oil, chop leaves very thin before you fill the jar.)

Julius Caesar’s soldiers used coriander seeds and leaves to preserve meat. Modern researches found out why it worked: coriander contains antioxidants that prevent the decomposition of animal fat. It also has components that prevent the development of worms, bacteria and fungi that spoil the meat.

Coriander arrived in Israel many years ago. It is mentioned often in Talmudic literature, making it clear that this was already a very popular herb during the Mishnaic and Talmudic eras. For expectant fathers and mothers, there is one source from Tractate Ktuvot that promises “fat and healthy boys” to mothers who eat coriander. One Thousand and One Nights tells of a merchant who was childless for 40 years and then became cured by drinking a potion that includes coriander… (Who knows?)

I found no scientific evidence to support coriander’s supernatural attributes in the realm of childbearing, but it definitely is high up there in the digestion kingdom. In folk medicine, coriander is known to ease insomnia and anxiety. Moreover, where digestion is concerned, coriander is a well-known remedy:  add coriander to legume dishes to reduce gas created by the beans. In conventional medicine, coriander seeds are used as a component in laxatives and to remedy intestinal diseases (indigestion, gas and the prevention of spasms in the gastrointestinal tract). For a medicinal tea, pour 1 liter boiling water over 5 tablespoons of coriander seeds, sweeten with honey, and let steep for 5 minutes. Drink 1-3 cups a day.

The prime medicinal use of the coriander is from ethereal oil extracted from the fruits of the plant. The main oil, coriandrol, is used to make vitamin A capsules and in medicines for constipation and to cleanse the stomach (for instance, before x-rays and surgery). The same quality that explained the Roman soldiers’ success in preserving meat is probably what helps kill intestinal worms, bacteria and parasitic fungus (like the infamous E coli). Recent research has found that while it is treating intestinal activity, coriander also binds itself to toxins and removes them from the body, making it efficient in cleansing the body of such toxic metals as mercury, lead and aluminum.

Another attribute of coriander has been known in folk medicine for years – it helps treat diabetes. Now there is scientific support. Research has found insulin-releasing and insulin-like activity in coriander. It has been proven to be Hypolipidemic, i.e., reducing the amount of fat in the blood, thus preventing bad cholesterol and assisting in the prevention of diseases of the blood vessels.

Tips and suggestions for cooking and storing coriander:

  • To keep a bundle of coriander fresh, do not wet the leaves. Place it in a sealed plastic box and store in the refrigerator for a week and more. Wash only before use.
  • Spices made of dried, chopped coriander leaves are scentless. But also tasteless. Use fresh leaves.
  • Coriander leaves and seeds cannot substitute for one another in recipes. They taste different!
  • Add coriander to a dish only at the very end of cooking. Extended cooking dulls the taste (unless that’s your intention…)

Having read the important and interesting qualities of the “lucky charm of the field,” coriander lovers can simply rub a leaf, inhale the aromatic scent and add it to any salad or dish. But perhaps some of the loathers will take the plunge (maybe while holding their breath) and add some of this wonderful manna to his/her plate.

May we celebrate joy, health and blessed showers!

Alon, Bat Ami, Dror and the Chubeza team

_____

 WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Swiss chard/kale, scallions/celery, slice of pumpkin/lubia Thai yard-long beans, cabbage/cauliflower/Jerusalem artichokes, cucumbers, tomatoes, kohlrabi/daikon/baby radishes, fennel/turnips, coriander/parsley, carrots, sweet potatoes. Special gift: arugula/red mizuna

Large box, in addition: Bell peppers/eggplant, beets, New Zealand spinach/bok choy/totsoi.

Fruit box: Bananas, clementinas, avocado, apples/kiwi, oranges/pomelit.

Wednesday: Swiss chard/kale, broccoli/cauliflower/Jerusalem artichokes, cucumbers, tomatoes, daikon/baby radishes, kohlrabi/turnips/beets, coriander/parsley/dill, carrots, sweet potatoes, lettuce. small boxes only: Slice of pumpkin/lubia Thai yard-long beans. Special gift for all: arugula/red mizuna

Large box, in addition: Bell peppers/eggplant, scallions/celery, New Zealand spinach/totsoi, cabbage/fennel.

Fruit box: Bananas, clementinas, avocado, apples/kiwi, oranges/pomelit/red grapefruit.