Aley Chubeza #69 – May 30th – June 1st 2011

Notifications:

Yom Yerushalayim, Shavuoth Delivery Schedule:

This Wednesday, Yom Yerushalayim, deliveries (including the Holy City) will take place as usual. We wish our driver safe, speedy deliveries!

Next Wednesday we celebrate the Harvest Festival of Shavuoth. Monday (June 6th) deliveries will remain on schedule, but Wednesday’s delivery will be moved to Thursday, June 9th . Chag Sameach!

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The receipts you receive by email at the end of the month cover all the boxes you received over the past month. Do not be confused by the notation of “quantity (1).” This does not mean that you only received one box; rather it indicates a general receipt for the entire month. (It is the only way our software enables us to list it.)

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In a different dimension of Global Farming, this week’s cucumber scare in Europe has carried serious ramifications. Cucumbers contaminated by the E. coli bacteria, were imported to Germany and other European countries, causing a massive outbreak of intestinal diseases and even death. I will try to elaborate on this next week, but for now I want to calm the Chubeza community by assuring you that our vegetables (and as far as I know, all of the organic vegetables in Israel) are absolutely, positively not irrigated with waste water. They are watered with the same water that flows through Kfar Bin Nun’s drinking faucets. We sincerely hope that that European outbreak will be checked, and that those who have been affected will enjoy speedy recoveries.

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Global-Local Farming, Part II: Is the Chard Swiss?

After I wrote about the New Zealand spinach last week, some of you wondered why it wasn’t in your boxes. Actually I missed it by a week. But never fear, the New Zealand spinach shall return, and I hope to send you a link to the recipes. This week, however, worry not. The protagonist of our newsletter is a perpetual member of your boxes. If some of you have become weary of searching for new recipes, or perhaps you need a reminder of its beauty and merits, this week’s newsletter is dedicated to the (almost) sole representative of the greens division during summer, the valiant Swiss chard (mangold or silka in Hebrew).

A few years ago a friend from Switzerland who is a member of a CSA there told me that when winter approaches, there are fewer and fewer crops that can be grown in the open field. By the end of the season, the boxes are filled with almost only Swiss chard, and more Swiss chard, and more…

In fact, Swiss chard is really not Swiss. Various sources claim it may have originated in Iraq or in the Mediterranean. Either way, it had to come from somewhere warmer than the Alps. The story of how it got its name always comes to mind when I encounter a recipe suggesting using only green leaves, without the thick white thick stalks at the center. But you will have to wait a bit for this story, while I give you some information about this green wonder.

Swiss chard is a sibling to the beet. While the beet grows a thick, juicy root and as an afterthought sprouts long leaves, the Swiss chard focuses its efforts on its very large leaves and its thick, crunchy leafstalk. The question is: why is this good for? Why have generations of farmers taken pains to select these big leaf plants? As you well know, the beet, too, has excellent cooking leaves. The answer is not in the leaves, which are indeed meatier, greater and stronger than the beet root leaves, but rather in the Swiss chard’s crunchy petiole (which can also be red, yellow or green).

Rainbow chard

Swiss chard was developed to calm the craving for another, more venerable vegetable, the cardoon, brother of the artichoke. The cardoon has big leaves with a wide leafstalk, just like the artichoke, but its flowers aren’t as soft as the artichoke’s. It blooms with tiny, thorny flowers. Its main use as food is in the petiole, which from the days of the Roman Empire has been eaten raw, cooked, baked, steamed or fried. Every place the Romans invaded, they brought along their culinary world, including cardoon recipes. But the cardoon, sensitive to frost (like its sibling, the artichoke), simply could not travel north to more frigid areas. Northern Europe needed a substitute.

Cardoon

The substitute for the southern cardoon is the Swiss chard. It, too, has a thick, juicy petiole that can be consumed raw, steamed, fried or baked. True, the taste is not alike. Cardoon tastes like artichoke while Swiss chard leafstalk tastes altogether different. But as we all know, we first eat with our eyes, so when the cravings get the best of us, we fall for the substitutes. Thus cardoon gave its name to the “chard.” But why is it Swiss? Some think it’s because a Swiss botanist named Coch gave the vegetable its scientific name, thus in tribute it was termed “Swiss.” Another story describes how when French chefs saw this northern substitute for their beloved cardoon, they ludicrously termed it “Swiss chard.” Either way, you won’t find much of it in Switzerland, but any Italian, Israeli or Moroccan cookbook is filled with options for this vegetable, its leaves and stems. And yes, do use the white parts. Do not toss them in the bin (see recipes).

Chard is frequently used as a substitute for spinach. Indeed, they are cousins who both belong to the Chenopodiaceae family. But the chard is stronger. The delicate spinach will not germinate or grow well in summertime. Chard, however, will survive even now, when the rest of the greens (kale, mustard, tot soi and spinach) have long since blossomed and wilted. In wintertime, as we’ve said, chard grows well, even braving the frost, where it freezes a bit but basically hangs in there. In general, it’s a very resilient plant. If you have chard in your garden that was frostbitten or attacked by aphids in springtime, just cut it to the base, leaving only the stump. The chard will renew itself and grow fresh, green and rejuvenated.

And if we eat chard, we’ll be just like it, with the good Lord’s help: strong, healthy and sturdy. Similar to its cousin the spinach, chard also contains vast amounts of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Among its other attributes, the leaves contain a high concentration of vitamin K, and a wealth of beta carotene (which becomes vitamin A in the body) and vitamin C. Chard boasts large amounts of magnesium, is rich in zinc and is a great source of iron, calcium, dietary fibers, manganese, vitamin B6 and vitamin E.

If you’d like to keep chard for longer than just a few days, wrap it (unwashed) in a thick paper or cloth towel and place it into a plastic bag or airtight plastic box. The towel will absorb the moisture, the plastic will prevent it from drying up, and the chard will remain fresh and crunchy for a week or more.

Bon Appetit to one and all,

Alon, Bat Ami and the Chubeza team

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Which Vegetables Accompany the Swiss Chard This Week?

Monday: Monday: lettuce, Swiss chard, cilantro, scallions, potatoes, leeks, tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, zucchini, beets

In the large box, in addition: fakus, eggplant, sweet red peppers

Wednesday: beets, zucchini, Swiss chard or New-Zealand spinach, tomatoes, scallions, parsley or dill, green beans, Romaine or iceberg lettuce, yellow peppers, red or yellow potatoes, small box: cucumbers or fakus

In the large box, in addition: cucumbers, fakus, leeks, carrots

And there’s more! You can add to your basket a wide, delectable range of additional products from fine small producers of these organic products: granola and cookies, flour, sprouted bread, sprouts, goat cheeses, fruits, honey, crackers. You can learn more about each producer on the Chubeza website. The attached order form includes a detailed listing of the products and their cost. Fill it out, and send it back to us to begin your delivery soon.

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A Host of Swiss Chard Recipes

Stuffed Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard Tart

Swiss Chard with Peppers and Garbanzos

Chard Feta Pasta

And….Three Recipes Using the Swiss Chard Stems!

Braised chard stems with oregano and chile

Baked Swiss Chard Stems Recipe with Olive Oil and Parmesan

Chard Stem and Potato Gratin

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