Aley Chubeza 175, October 21st-23rd 2013

October

BY ROBERT FROST

O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes’ sake along the wall.

So there was a short Friday shower, ten wet minutes– a “teaser” for the real first rain, as yet absent on the horizon. However, autumn is certainly here, as indicated by this week’s heat wave, the cool mornings and late afternoons, the earth wet from morning dew, and the diminishing light. Or as Mohammed said this week, “The cucumbers just don’t feel like growing.”

Of course, the heat wave is helping out the summer vegetables, i.e., the eggplants, peppers, black-eyed peas, okra and corn, to give one last push, but the autumn vegetables have conquered your boxes: greens of all varieties have recovered and now decorate your boxes in dark verdant hues, alongside the root vegetables. The sweet potato is frequenting your homes, and last week she was joined by beets and carrots. The Jerusalem artichoke is beginning to show signs of emerging. We are holding our breaths.

This week I’d like to talk about these autumn-wintery root vegetables which serve as the plant’s “basement.” They are fortresses that stash nutrients, thickening and swelling in order to hold as much as possible. Within the group we call “root vegetables,” there are vegetables that aren’t really roots, but rather other thickened parts of the plant. The common denominator is that they grow close to the earth, sometimes inside the earth, sometimes cheek to cheek. The four we mentioned above (carrots, beets, sweet potatoes and Jerusalem artichoke) are indeed thickened roots, but the potato, fennel and kohlrabi, usually considered to be “root vegetables,” are in fact thickened stems. And the onion is really a tuber.

However, their proximity to the earth and their task as being warehouses makes them very rich in vitamins and minerals (stored in the plant for its own interests, but we end up the winners) and rich in hardy flavor. Sweet like the sweet potato, carrot and beet, or spicy like the radish. Interestingly, the temperatures affect the potency of the vegetables differently in different vegetables: cool weather makes the carrot and beet sweeter, but it’ll make the radishes milder. Go figure.

In Chinese medicine, the root vegetables are associated with the element of earth, where they grow and develop, and they contain its energy. This is why root vegetables are thought to fortify the body parts associated to the element of earth: the spleen and stomach. Just like earth, where the nutrients dissolve to water, feeding the plant, enabling its growth and development, these are the body parts which digest the energy-building food.

Interestingly, these vegetables begin filling up and are gathered (root vegetables are not “picked,” but rather gathered from the earth) in autumn, that transitional season, because the element of earth symbolizes the cycle of nature and the ability to change. The womb that nourishes, the grave that buries. Like the actual and metaphoric Mother Nature that provides nourishment, support and stability, growth, fertility: the one which gives life, the one you return to at your demise. A balanced earth allows support in times of changes, like our unstable autumn.

Read some more about the various root vegetables and their health qualities here.

And though the root is the reason that human beings expend effort into growing these vegetables, most of these root vegetables have excellent edible leaves. You can use the beetroot leaves just as you would spinach or Swiss chard (they are cousins, and they taste similar.) Add radish leaves to a salad, or as you would any other “green”– in soup, in a quiche or a sandwich, along with the radishes themselves. If you want to eat them fresh, use the younger and milder leaves. Chop the mild leaves very finely, grate radishes, add to butter with some lemon zest and salt, and you have a perfect spread for your bread. Their nutritious value, like other greens, is vitamins and iron. Kohlrabi and broccoli leaves are equivalent to kale and collards – very dignified leaves in the U.S. Southern kitchen, and may be used similarly.

But this year, veteran and adventurous Chubeza clients Genevieve and Bariff taught me something I didn’t know: sweet potato leaves are indeed edible! They read this article, in praise of cooking up sweet potato greens, and the courageous couple decided to act as our guinea pigs. Last week we filled a bag of sweet potato leaves (another one of those tasks where Mohammed wonders if I have finally, totally lost my mind) and sent them off to Tel Aviv.

 

Today I received a detailed report: “Our report is mixed. They are indeed tasty, with a minty type of flavor. We still prefer the classics like chard and kale, we even delight in chubeza greens. The sweet potato greens are also labor intensive, having to clear out all those stems. It is not something that will please Chubeza’s average membership, but it was an interesting experiment. I wonder if the same plants growing in a moist climate (Malaysia for ex.) grow bigger softer leaves?”

Any Malaysians out there to give us an answer?

A great thanks to our experimenters, but due to the outcome of the experiment, I don’t think we will be adding sweet potato leaves to your boxes in the near future.

May we enjoy a week of changes and transformations, deriving from a sturdy and nourishing foundation.

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

WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

The price of tomatoes skyrocketed this week. Since tomatoes are no longer growing in our field during this season, we are forced to supplement our supply with tomatoes we purchase from other organic hothouses. This week your boxes will contain a lesser quantity of these red (gold) beauties. We do hope that the tomato prices will quickly return to their normal range.  

Monday: Dill/coriander, peppers, pumpkin, tomatoes, radishes/beets, lettuce,    cucumbers, arugula, carrots, sweet potatoes Small boxes only: eggplants

In the large box, in addition: Leeks, lubia/okra, kale/New Zealand spinach, corn

Wednesday: radishes/beets, lettuce, cucumbers, peppers, cilantro/dill, sweet potatoes, carrots, eggplants/zucchini, arugula, pumpkin, tomatoes

In the large box, in addition: leeks, yard long benas/lubia/okra/green beans, kale/New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard, corn

And there’s more! You can add to your basket a wide, delectable range of additional products from fine small producers: flour, sprouts, fruits, honey, dates, almonds, crackers, probiotic foods, dried fruits and leathers, olive oil and bakery products too! You can learn more about each producer on the Chubeza website. On our order system there’s a detailed listing of the products and their cost, you can make an order online now!

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