November 21-23, 2022 – know your onions

When summer is having difficulty clearing the way for winter, it can be used to your advantage. Hamatsesa now offers a sale on their summer drink – Mashukar, (at 8% ABV) in bottles of 350 ml.

Three bottles for 77 NIS: lemon verbena, mint with green tea or chamomile, black tea and lavender (while stock lasts)

Add through our order system: https://chubeza.easyfarm.co.il/

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Due to the showers predicted for the weekend (let’s pray hard!), the Shishiyarok festival at Kfar Bin Nun is postponed to next Friday, December 2nd.

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The onion is a fundamental vegetable in our kitchen, our culture and probably in human existence. We attribute it with having an inner essence cloaked in hiding, associate it with tears and sorrow, courage, audacity and eternal life. And on the other side of the onion – simplicity, the elementary basics of the common people. Of course, the onion has no clue of this. He’s totally indifferent to the big fuss, absorbed in tending to his own growth, making every effort to just be… well, an onion…

This season you will meet three of this prominent family: the dry onion which we harvested over the summer and stored in a dry space, the scallion (green onion) and leek, being harvested fresh and green as we speak. This week we meet the oniony part of the family, and next week we will discuss their aristocratic family member, the Leek.

The onion and its cousins are among the most ancient cultivated plants. Onions originated in Western Asia, and there is even evidence that they were raised in ancient Egypt. The Israelites craved it, “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost–also the … onions and garlic.” In ancient Egypt, onions received special treatment, serving as models in Egyptian art and offerings for the gods, in addition to being a basic staple of the common folk. For the Egyptians, the revered onion with its many layers represented eternal life, and was thus placed in the tombs of the Pharaohs. Traces of small onions were found in the eye sockets of Ramesses IV, and a basket of onions was considered a popular and respected funeral offering.

Conflict has always existed between the onion’s pungent odor and its taste. The aristocracy pinched their noses at the odor (but devoured the tasty onion nonetheless), while in India the Brahmins abstained as the common people consumed it greedily. Hammurabi’s Code notes a monthly allocation of onion and bread for the needy.  Alexander the Great viewed the sharp fumes of the onion as a sign of its power. An enthusiastic proponent of the “you-are-what-you-eat” school of warfare, he fed his warriors a steady diet of pungent onions to fortify their strength and courage. (Perhaps this was another reason the enemies fled his army…)

Our very own national poet Hayim Nahman Bialik sings the onion’s praises in his famous composition Knight of Onions and Knight of Garlic, as being the ultimate element to spice up a meal.

The onion is a geophyte (a bulb or onion plant whose propagation buds are underground). In order to create the bulb, the common onion (like the garlic) needs long days, and therefore it is seeded in Israel in the winter and thickens its bulb as the days grow longer. Young onions can be planted in autumn and harvested as mature onions in wintertime. The scallion and leek, however, have no plans to thicken their bulbs, which is why they can be planted or seeded all year round and consumed fresh and green without any storage. The advantage of planting the scallion as opposed to seeding it has to do with weeds: the leek and scallion do not develop a thick foliage, which is why weeds just love their bed, enjoying generous portions of sun when in its proximity. However, if they are planted (the plants come in groups of thin, green onion strings), you can preempt the weeds by a bit.

Planting as opposed to seeding is also advantageous because the plants can be precisely spaced while planting, allowing the onion a better growth process and sparing us the task of thinning the crop. Planting eliminates certain difficulties of seeding, especially during wintertime when sprouting is harder and seeds can be washed away by heavy showers.

The scallion has many names: In Australia it’s “shallot,” in England “spring onion,” in the southern US “green shallot” and in English “scallion.” This is an interesting name for Israelis, as it’s associated with the city of Ashkelon, the tumultuous port city that has passed from nation to nation throughout history, always an important and flourishing commercial center. The green onion, originating from Asia Minor and the East, probably arrived in Ashkelon along with other merchandise via the ocean or another commercial route, where it was adopted by the local farmers, who must have done an excellent job. The Romans loved the skinny Ashkelon onions, which they coined Askelonia, and the Crusaders adored their delicate flavor. Upon returning to Europe, the French termed them “eschalogne,” a title later shortened to eschalot. In Medieval England they were called scaloun, and later scallion. Their early botanical title was Allium ascalonicum, in reference to the Philistine port city.

The onion has always been a primary component in natural medicine. It is a fine source of Vitamins C and B1, chromium and dietary fibers. The organosulfur compounds grant the onion very strong healing powers, as does the quercetin antioxidant. Take a brief look at some of this fella’s therapeutic properties:

Diabetes: the onion’s organosulfur compound reduces the blood sugar level. By raising the level of insulin available to deliver glucose to the cells, the onion lowers the glucose level in the blood. The onion’s significant chromium content influences the stability of blood sugar levels. (The body’s chromium level depletes as a result of eating processed sugar and white flour).

Heart disease: the onion’s chromium content contributes to the reduction of “bad” cholesterol and boosts the good cholesterol levels. The organosulfur compounds reduce the risk of heart disease, obstructions and cardiac arrest by preventing arteriosclerosis and lowering blood pressure. The onion simulates the action performed by aspirin, thinning the blood and dissolving blood clots.

Viruses and infections: the onion serves as a natural antibiotic to fight bacteria (such as bacilli, salmonella, E. coli and others), worms, viruses and the common cold. Onion is recommended to treat excess phlegm and coughing. It reduces the swelling of arthritis and decreases the potency of asthma-causing allergens.

Chronic ailments: the onion contains antioxidants which fight free radicals, thus lowering the risk of cancer by destroying cancerous cells. Among these components are various phytochemicals including quercitine, which reduces the risk of intestinal and ovarian cancer, as well as prostate cancer.

Osteoporosis and bone strengthening: the onion contains amino acid compounds (or GPCS) that prevent the development of cells which break down bone tissue.

More details of the onion’s components and their attributes can be found in this article by dietitian Merav Mor-Ophir, with some recipes (Hebrew).

Several old-fashioned onion remedies:

For phlegm and coughing: Chop an onion to small pieces and mix with two tablespoons honey. Let stand for two hours. The resulting liquid is an excellent antibiotic syrup to alleviate phlegm and hoarseness, and ease coughing and asthma. (Note: This syrup is potent for only one day!)

Pain killing and relief of chronic infections and swelling: Slice an onion, add some salt, and apply to the aching area in a compress.

To eliminate worms: Drink onion juice (The worms will flee for their lives…)

For earaches: Drip onion juice into the ear, mixed with olive oil or almond oil.

The scallion is rich in vitamin A, folic acid and vitamin C. It supplies potassium, calcium, silica, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, sulfur and selenium. Scallions contain five to seven times more selenium than other vegetables. Selenium is an important mineral, where even a small amount is enough to strengthen the immune system and help protect the body from cancer and heart disease. The onion’s aroma originates in the sulfuric chemical compound it contains. For instance, the allicin typical of the onion family is an antibacterial material that fights germs, viruses and fungus, while assisting to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. And lest we forget, aside from it being an onion, the scallion is also green, and herein lies its uniqueness: it goes both ways! It contains healthy components from the Liliaceas, as well as green leaves that provide dietary fibers, vitamins and phytochemicals (lutein, beta carotene, vitamin K) characteristic of health-beneficial herbs.

Some tips:

* Onions keep well outside the fridge in a cool, dry place. Ventilation is important. Ideally, they should be placed in a wicker or plastic basket.

* Many people store onions with potatoes, but this is not a great combination (for either vegetable). The potatoes contain moisture and emit a gas which expedites onion rotting.

Wishing you all a week of health, rain showers (may they finally arrive!) and only good news,

Alon, Bat Ami, Dror and the Chubeza team

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Red bell peppers/green peppers/zucchini, parsley/dill/coriander, Swiss chard/kale/New Zealand spinach/winter spinach, long Thai lubia beans/green or yellow string beans/Jerusalem artichokes, lettuce/totsoi/arugula, sweet potatoes, onions/ scallions/leeks, tomatoes, cucumbers, beets/turnips. Small boxes only:  Baby radishes/fennel/kohlrabi/daikon. FREE GIFT FOR ALL: eggplant!

Large box, in addition: Cabbage/cauliflower/broccoli, celery, carrots, slice of pumpkin.

FRUIT BOXES:  Oranges/pomelit, clementinas, avocados, carambola*/pears, kiwi, pomegranates.

*We recommend leaving the carambolas (star fruit) out of the fridge to let them yellow and fully ripen till juicy. 

Wednesday: Swiss chard/kale/New Zealand spinach/winter spinach, parsley/dill/coriander, long Thai lubia beans/green or yellow string beans/Jerusalem artichokes/hot chilly peppers, lettuce, celery/totsoi/arugula, sweet potatoes, onions/scallions/leeks, tomatoes, cucumbers, turnips/daikon, beets/carrots.

Large box, in addition: Red long sweet peppers/eggplants, zucchini/slice of pumpkin, cabbage/cauliflower/broccoli.

FRUIT BOXES:  Oranges/pomelit, clementinas, avocados, red apples/pears/kiwi, pomegranates/banana.