Aley Chubeza #139, December 17th-19th 2012

Multiple receipts…

If you received multiple receipts on Sunday, we are very sorry. In all honesty, I have no idea what triggered them. Perhaps some update in our invoice system? But these are certainly not new documents that require your   attention, since we did not issue receipts this week. Kindly delete and ignore them…

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Using our Order System and an Important Request

More and more of you are now using our web-based order system, for which we are extremely grateful. (Those of you who haven’t yet given in a try, go ahead! It really is simple and easy to activate.)

But…

Sometimes you cancel a box or ask for additional products in the “comments” box. Please refrain from doing so. We only see these requests on harvest day and by then it is too late to order additional products or cancel a delivery.

You can make all these changes yourselves- canceling a box, changing the frequency of deliveries or adding the additional products, via the web-based ordering system.

Should you have difficulties with it, drop us an email or give us a call and we will do our best to explain and help.

Thank you in advance!

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A Warm Winter at Chubeza

Winter is nearly here:  Friday, the 21 of December, is the beginning of the meteorological winter. This is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year and the longest night. From this Saturday on, the nights will be getting shorter and the days will be longer till the equinox in three months time. And yes, we have had some evidence of the impending arrival of winter: our field has received some nice rain which saturated the earth, made your vegetables muddy, and fattened them up almost overnight to become real winter vegetables, juicy and chubby!

But the temperature refuses to descend to its wintery level. Although Mohammed lugged in three carts of eggplants last month and announced, “last eggplants till springtime,” for some strange reason, we’re still harvesting eggplants and black-eyed peas who simply refuse to succumb to this mild winter. Last month, our lettuce blossomed due to the warm weather. At this time we usually plant winter lettuce varieties that can handle low temperatures, but the warm days they met surprised them, causing them to grow a pole of pretty inflorescence and preventing their harvest, of course.

We cannot rely on the not-so-low temperatures, because we know there might be surprises. Thus our spinach (as are its fellow greens), sensitive to frost, is covered in a thin geotechnical material protecting it from frozen nights, though none have arrived yet, and taking advantage of the warm days to shoot up and grow. Which is why your boxes contained huge spinach leaves, as big as Swiss chard. If you’re not sure what they are, give them a bite. They’re really delicious, even a little sweet at the edges. Definitely worth a nibble.

This week we shall sing the praises of spinach, beginning with a rousing rendition of:

I’m Popeye the Sailor Man
I’m Popeye the Sailor Man
I’m strong to the fin-ich
Cause I eats me spin-ach
I’m Popeye the Sailor Man

The origins of spinach, a member of the Amaranthaceae family, are in central Asia: Afghanistan, North India, Uzbekistan, Southwest Asia, and perhaps Persia. For years it was grown in the Mideast, in the central Orient and in China. A Chinese seventh-century source coins spinach “the Persian herb.” It migrated to Syria and Saudi Arabia and from there to North Africa. In the eleventh century, the North Africans Moors brought it to Spain and introduced it to the Europeans. As a popular plant in the Holy Land, spinach is mentioned in the Mishnah and Talmud as a vegetable used for cooking and in soup.

Spinach provides a good opportunity to discuss the power of culture, of colorful stories and folk tradition vs. the power of exact sciences. Like many vegetables, spinach began its culinary life as a healing herb, used to treat constipation and digestive problems.

In Tractate Brachot, Rav Chisda says: “A dish of spinach is good for the heart and for the eyes, and even more so, for the intestines.” I am always amazed at how precise folk medicine is without having the scientific tools to actually examine the medicinal herbs it recommends. Years of experience, perhaps, together with knowledge which is passed on from generation to generation, maybe even a tad of intuition or spiritual abilities, all come together to provide good health advice. For I am pretty sure Rav Chisda never entered the chemistry lab or studied biology or botany, and yet, he hit it right on the spot. Spinach is one of the richest antioxidant sources, especially high in lutein, which contributes to healthy eyes and can also reduce the danger of arteriosclerosis, heart disease and cancer. The high levels of oxalate are those responsible for its beneficial ability in regulating bowel movements (more about the health virtues of the spinach later).

The next thing I thought about while studying spinach is its best friend, Popeye the Sailor Man, a comics and cartoon figure created in 1929 by Elzie Segar. When Popeye encounters trouble, he wolfs down spinach straight from the can, gaining immediate, incredible strength which he usually needs to save his beloved Olive Oil from the enemy, Brutos. Popeye was hugely successful on TV and in movies. To this day he is a regular in American comic strips. This rough and ready sailor upped the consummation of spinach by 30% in the U.S.

And the funny thing is, Popeye started out on a mistaken conclusion. The comic figure belongs to a time in which spinach was considered to be a strength-giving vegetable, based on research conducted in 1870, in which a decimal point typo erroneously attributed its iron content to be ten times the actual value… But here comes the power of storytelling and the one-eyed sailorman. If you conduct a short survey among your friends and ask them which vegetables are richest in iron, they will probably name spinach among them. After all, science or no science, no one wants to mess with Popeye…

Read some more about Popeye the Sailorman and his journeys in the Holy Country (in Hebrew).

The story of spinach and iron is even more complex. Spinach is actually rich in calcium and iron (not ten times richer, but still…), but our ability to absorb these elements from spinach is rather limited, as the oxalate binds them together, preventing their absorption in the body.

But spinach boasts other advantages. Beyond the lutein mentioned previously, spinach is rich in vitamins K, A, C, beta carotene and folic acid. It is rich in chlorophyll, which contributes to protection from cancer-inducing substances (lung cancer, for instance.) It contains Quercetin which is an antioxidant, an anti- inflammatory, and a specific enzyme that assists in lowering blood pressure. Spinach juice is the best vegetable juice to prevent cancerous cells.

As for its nutritional values, take a look at this week’s tips which focus on the different ways to take full advantage of spinach.

Those of you who would rather not drink spinach juice can use the juice for kindling paper… In the 18th and 19th centuries, paper dipped in spinach juice was used for firecrackers, as it burns well (perhaps due to the oxalate acid?). And yet another interesting use of spinach: Sony is examining the potential use of spinach greens in the image-creating technology of new TV’s. Perhaps spinach will once again assume its role as a famous TV star…

There are two groups of spinach varieties: those with prickly seeds, considered to be more resistant to cold weather, and the smooth-seed varieties, which deal better with warm temperatures. The hybrid varieties we have today are suitable for different climates.

Another way to differentiate spinach types is by the leaves: there are the crinkled curly leaves (savoy spinach) and the flat, smooth ones, and there are some intermediate varieties (somewhere between smooth to crinkled.) The variety we’re growing is a hybrid with smooth leaves, suitable for winter seeding (September to March). It can be harvested earlier as small baby leaves, or you can wait to pick great big leaves in bunches.

In Israel, spinach also grows in its wild form, from the center of the country to the north, in wintertime and spring (i.e., it starts growing now). Wild spinach greens are soft and milder, and usually taste more refined. In northern markets, you can buy it fresh, and in Galilean restaurants it is a major ingredient in local dishes at this time of the year.

Here at Chubeza, as the spinach season prevails, Mohammed takes some bunches, secretive and smiling, and after a few days brings us “fatirs” of spinach, za’atar and scallion that smell and taste delicious!! I even found a recipe for you this week. Mohammed’s fatirs do not contain cheeses, but do include Za’atar (the fresh kind). Highly recommended!

Some Tips

  • The iron in spinach is soluble; giving the water you cook it in some iron content with other soluble minerals. Reuse it!
  • In order to enjoy the folic acid contained in cooked spinach, it’s best to steam it instead of cooking it in water. Cooking for approximately 4 minutes will cut the folic acid levels in half.
  • Spinach loses most of its nutritional value after a few days. Even the refrigerator cannot prevent the loss of folic acid and cartonoid. It looks great and tastes fine, but has less nutritional value. In the Chubeza boxes, you receive spinach picked that very same day or a day before, so your spinach has a longer life expectancy than the supermarket’s. But use it quickly!

May this week bring about much good for us all–to our hearts, eyes, and digestive track, as well as the rest of us…

Have a wonderful week, and a pleasant and cold winter!

Alon, Bat Ami, Ya’ara and the Chubeza team

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES (BESIDES SPINACH, OF COURSE)?

Monday: Lettuce, cabbage, celery/celeriac, tomatoes, Swiss chard, parsley, cucumbers, spinach, scallions/leeks, sweet potatoes, fennel (small boxes only)

In the large box, in addition: beets, broccoli/eggplant, kohlrabi, daikon/turnips

Wednesday: cabbage. Kohlrabi or fennel, beets, leeks or scallions, turnips or daikon, parsley or dill, cucumbers, spinach or New Zealand spinach, kale, celery or celeriac, tomatoes

In the large box, in addition: sweet potatoes, tatsoi or arugula, peas or broccoli or Jerusalem artichoke

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SPINACH RECIPES:

FATIR (Filled with Spinach and Cheese)

From the blog dvarimbealma.com

Dough:

5 cups white flour

7 T “shimrit” (yeast)

½ cup sumac

1 T. sugar

1 t. salt

125 grams melted better (1¼ packages)

1 cup warm water

Filling:

600 grams fresh spinach

1 onion chopped thin, thin, thin

3 celery stalks

1 T. cinnamon

Generous amounts of sumac

½ freshly grated nutmeg (or 1 t. ground nutmeg)

200 grams 5% Tsfati cheese (or something saltier)

50 grams pecorino

50 grams kashkaval goat cheese

2 T chopped walnuts (optional) (or substitute any other variety of chopped nuts or whole pine nuts)

Generous amounts of salt and pepper

Preparation:

Place flour, yeast, sumac, sugar and salt in a large bowl. In the center of the bowl, pour the water and the melted butter, and knead well. The success of this dough depends to a large extent upon the kneading you give it, to generate small air bubbles. After many years of experience, I’ve come to the conclusion that successful kneading involves separating the dough into four small balls and kneading each one very well.

Blend all the dough balls together, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise for around 1½ hours till doubled in size.  After the dough has risen, prepare the filling:

Chop the onion and the celery into small cubes. In a large skillet, sauté with olive oil. Add spices.

Wash spinach very well in a lot of water to remove the sand that these leaves always contain. Then toss wet leaves into the skillet and let them wilt a bit. Do not let spend too much time on this phase, since the spinach will be going into the oven.

Turn off the flame.

Grate cheeses into the skillet and mix into the dough.

Pinch small balls from the dough (around 3 centimeters in diameter). Roll each ball into a flat square. An 8×8 centimeter square will give you a small fatir; a 15×15 centimeter square will give you a giant-size fatir.

Place in the center of each square approximately 1 T of filling for a small-sized fatir, and more for larger ones. Using your hands, squeeze out the liquid in the filling before placing inside the dough.

Close the stuffed pastries into thirds by folding each opposite corner of the square, and fold the edges into the two sides of the triangle that’s formed. Clamp the edges well with a fold, and press with a fork to secure.

Bake for approximately 20 minutes at high heat.

Spanakorizo – Greek dish od rice and spinach

Italian spinach malfatti

Spinach bread

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