Aley Chubeza #91, November 14th-16th 2011

Chubeza loves winter—and we love to remind you all that winter is the time for some good old-fashioned semolina porridge. Our millers from Minchat Ha’aretz will enrich your porridges with stone-ground spelt semolina, wheat semolina and rye semolina (and their whole-wheat flour is spectacular for baking!) Bon Appétit!

We’re waiting for a delivery of Brahi dates, now in season. Gili from Samar promised to send them soon. In the meantime, should you crave a sweet date, we recommend the delicious Dekel Nur variety now in stock.

Shoreshei Zion, the probiotic food manufacturers, joins our winter fest with healthy, healing & delicious sweets. Their “Raw Desserts” contain only pure, unprocessed, uncooked ingredients. Choose from:
~ Carob Mint Patties (Raw) ~ A patty created from a triple layer of Carob, Mint, & Carob. Carob is high in antioxidants & Mint is a wonderful digestive aid.
~ Carob Calendula Orange (Raw) ~ Our Carob Calendula Orange combination is both tasty & healing. Organic Calendula flowers have therapeutic properties & are protective and healing for the liver & kidneys.
~ Fiery Carob (Raw) ~ These are made to entertain that spicy side in you with Carob, Cinnamon, Ginger, & Cayenne; each having lots of health benefits.
~ Spirulina Carob Energy Balls (Raw) ~ Spirulina, a “Superfood”, is a type of blue-green algae loaded with protein, all the essential amino acids, & complex B vitamins.

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Our winter box is bursting with fresh greens and new root vegetables—which may be a little overwhelming for some… David Curwin started a Facebook group (English) to create a place for friends (for you!) to discuss what to make with the vegetables that arrive in your surprise boxes. This is the link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/289597317727672/

Thank you, David! B’tayavon! Keep us posted with tips and recommendations!

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Orange Treasures

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been facing a cucumber crunch, and the yard-long beans, cowpeas (lubia), eggplants and pumpkins are becoming sparse. The okra and mint will return only next year, and we will soon bid farewell to our regal summer corn. Yet our most dependable and abundant friend, firmly-rooted with us this season, is the orange representative of autumn, the sweet potato: sweet, healthy (even for diabetics), easy to digest (a wonderful first snack for your babies) and oh-so-yummy. This week we will sing her praises.

The sweet potato is a member of the Convolvulaceae family, related to the wild field bindweed, the Cuscuta (dodder), and sister to the lovely morning glory. Formally known as Ipomoea batatas, it is one of the only members of this large family that is edible, and definitely the only one to be industrially grown for food. Like other members of her family, she tends to send out tendrils and twigs all over. If allowed, she will climb all over the nearest fence, covering it with a layer of heart-shaped green leaves and beautiful light-purple flowers that open in the morning and close in the afternoon sun.

Prior to our June planting, we buy the sweet potato cuttings from Oded of Moshav Yesha, and receive a few bundles of damp sticks bound together with a rope. We place these bare branches into the two tall, wet mounds we’ve prepared in advance. It is such a wonder to see this plant grow every year, to watch sticks turn into a beautiful green carpet dotted with purple flowers, with delicious orange roots. Two years ago I prepared a newsletter with a photo display of how these sticks turn into sweet potatoes. Check it out.

Like other sweet potato growers in Israel, we plant the “Georgia Jet” variety, with a reddish-pink peeling and bright orange flesh. But there are many other types of sweet potatoes, varying in the color of their peeling (white, cream, brown, red, purple or yellow), their flesh (white, cream, yellow, purple or orange), their size and their shape. Here are some examples of the wide variety of sweet potatoes worldwide:

Years of careful selection of sweet potatoes by farmers and nature have made the sweet potato very strong and resistant (or at least tolerant) to diseases and pests. Sometimes the plants can be carriers of various pathogens that are not actively expressed and do not prevent the plant from growing or developing. Basically, the sweet potato hardly suffers from any difficulties, and usually grows nicely over a few months’ time.

After four months, we begin digging them out. First we fumble around, digging in one of the far corners to see what’s hiding down there. Are there any orange tubers? How many? How large are they? Do they seem healthy? Then, if they’re nice and ready, we start digging them out. Surprisingly, this year our sweet potatoes—like all others across the country–came out rather small. The cause is unclear. Perhaps it was the relatively cool summer, or maybe the slow process of impoverished potency of the cuttings. Over the past few years, sweet potato cuttings derive from other sweet potatoes and not from new tissue culture, as was the rule in the past. In any case, you’re receiving lots and lots of little sweet potatoes. Do not despair—at least it’s not hard to peel them. Many of the vitamins and dietary fibers are in the peeling, so don’t pare them—just scrub well. The sweet potato should be cooked immediately after being cut, as its skin will bleach and then oxidize once it comes into contact with the air. If you must wait, keep them in a bowl of water to prevent browning.

When harvest time comes, there is no urgency to dig them out at once and store– they are well-protected in the earth, even during cold winters, due to the warmer temperature underground. When the sweet potatoes are removed from the earth and need to be stored for a long time in a warehouse, they should be stored in refrigeration so they don’t get too cold. When the temperature outdoors falls lower than 13 degrees, the refrigerator drawer should be set at a temperature of 13-15 degrees so the sweet potatoes do not catch cold.

We keep our sweet potatoes in the packing house for a short time before sending them to you. Sweet potatoes that are mass-produced for industry and kept till the end of wintertime undergo a process called “curing.” They are pulled from the earth and warmed up in a room that is temperature and moisture-controlled. This process thickens their peelings and they grow scab-like skin to cover areas bruised during the digging-out process. These potatoes can be stored for longer periods of time.

This is also the reason that sweet potatoes should not be stored in your home refrigerator. As it grows primarily in warm seasons, the sweet potato does not like cold weather, and its taste will go bad if stored in the fridge. They should be stored in a cool, ventilated place, not in a bag or a sealed container, in order to prevent the accumulation of excess moisture. They do not have to be shielded from light like potatoes, because (like radishes and beets) they are roots that contain no chlorophyll, and therefore will not turn green. High temperatures will make the sweet potato sprout or ferment, which is why warmth should be avoided (unless you wish to make liquor).

The delicious, soothing taste of these sweet potatoes is especially joyful in the cold wintertime when you so crave a sweet vegetable. In addition, it is bursting with benefits for your health. The orange color assures a high quantity of beta carotene, which becomes vitamin A once consumed. Beta carotene is a multi-armed warrior for battling cancer, crucial for eyesight, strengthening your immune system, keeping your skin healthy and contributing to proper growth. Despite its sweet taste, the sweet potato is considered an “anti-diabetic” vegetable, recommended for diabetics because of its contribution to the balancing of sugar levels in the blood, and to reducing the resistance of the cell to insulin– perhaps because of its rich carotenoid content. The sweet potato also contains a nice level of vitamins C and B, potassium, magnesium, iron and dietary fiber. This team works to control blood pressure, strengthen bones and prevent osteoporosis, and allow for proper brain function and development of learning skills in children and babies.

In Chinese medicine, the sweet potato is recommended for weight loss. It strengthens the spleen, which, according to Chinese medicine, determines metabolism and our need for sweet foods and food in general. A weak spleen will create a strong need for sweets, and an inevitable weight gain. According to this approach, the body must receive naturally sweet food, i.e., there is no harm in a sweet diet, on condition that the quantity of sweets is limited, it is natural, and does not derive from processed foods like white sugar or sweets. A middle-sized sweet potato contains 150 calories (equivalent to two slices of bread), but it is very filling. Chinese medicine perceives the sweet potato to be one of the most balanced foods and therefore can be eaten by almost anyone. According to the Chinese, the orange color ties it to earth, making it a warming, strengthening food, suitable for winter.

Wishing you a rainy, wintery week, with yummy, filling and comforting sweet potatoes,

Alon, Bat Ami and the Chubeza crew

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What’s in our Orange and Green Boxes?

Monday: Arugula, beets, spinach or Swiss chard, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, tomatoes, cucumbers, dill or basil, carrots, corn, iceberg lettuce

In the large box, in addition: Cowpeas (lubia) or yard-long beans or pumpkin, daikon, bell peppers

Wednesday: cauliflower, iceberg lettuce, cucumbers, cilantro or dill or basil or parsley, tomatoes, red beets, green peppers or eggplants, mustard greens, corn, carrots, daikon or radishes or turnips

In the large box, in addition: Cowpeas (lubia) or yard-long beans or kohlrabi, arugula, green onions

And there’s more! You can add to your basket a wide, delectable range of additional products from fine small producers: granola and cookies, flour, sprouts, goat dairies, fruits, honey, crackers, probiotic foods, sesame butter and dried fruits and leathers too! 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 soon.

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Orange Winter Recipes

Sweet potatoes salad

Dulce de batata

Sweet potatoes rolls

Sweet potatoes falafel

Quiche with Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Sage, Red Onion, and Goat Cheese

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