Aley Chubeza #146, Febtuary 4th-6th 2013

With the month of Adar upon us, let’s hope it will bring joy and gladness to all!

Melissa from Mipri Yadeha is preparing a special, creative line of yummy products for Mishlochei Manot:

  • The Scroll of Esther–distinctive, hand-fashioned leather scrolls in a royal package: fruit leather in select flavors: lemon-mint, passion fruit, kiwi, apple-ginger, guava, pomegranate and more. 30 NIS per scroll.
  • * Leather Mishlochei Manot  – including four wonderful flavors: 10 NIS per package

 __________________________________

Happy families are all alike

-Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, Chapter 1, line 1

 

A Tale of One Family

Lately, I have been pondering the nature of changes and developments. Personally, I’m learning how much patience, time and slowly-measured tempo one needs to allow the changes we human beings undergo, and specifically those dealing with rectification: growth, opening up, connecting and healing. It seems that frequently, destructive actions are fast and immediate, whilst correction takes place at an excruciatingly slow pace, stone by stone, moment by moment, requiring persistence and forbearance as well as faith and hope.

These thoughts and recent joyful harvests brought to mind a newsletter I wrote some eight years ago about the beloved Brassicaceae family which has held an honored place in our boxes over these wonderful winter months. About the development, changes and slow difersification it has been undergoing over long years, thanks to the curiosity and confidence of loyal, devoted farmers. So here it is, a renewed version, dedicated with love to my Neta. These words were first written eight years ago, close to the day she was born and made me a mother. Happy Birthday, my sweet baby!

Every once in awhile, we hear about the scientific development of a new vegetable or other edible plant. It’s possible that the pace of change is much faster now than in the past, yet even in the distant, primitive past, farmers constantly refined their crops. Actually, many of the most amazing changes in species development came not as a result of structured research, but rather out of the simple act of a farmer’s choosing and collecting seeds from the plants he favored over seeds from less-desired plants. This straightforward action of promoting one plant over another had a huge effect on the improvement and change of a specific harvest or species. Long before man understood the genetics of plants, his actions caused small, slow variations in the crops, which compounded over time until they brought about actual results.

The Brassicaceae family (or “cabbage family”) is a perfect example. All family members derive from one wild plant, the brassica oleracea, which originated in the Mediterranean area and resembles the canola in appearance. Sometime after the plant was domesticated, people began growing it for its leaves. Since they consumed the leaves, it made sense to choose the plants that produced the biggest leaves. As a result, those leaves became bigger and bigger, eventually creating the plant we now know as kale or collards. Kale’s botanical name is var. acephala, translating to “a headless cabbage.”

Others preferred plants that produced small, denser and more delicate leaves in the center of the plant at the head of the stem, hence advancing plants with those characteristics. Over the seasons, the process of compacting became more and more prominent in those plants. Over the years, it grew and evolved into a real “head of leaves” which we call cabbage. Its actual title is var. capitata, meaning “a cabbage with a head.”

Around the same time, in today’s Germany, farmers preferred short and thick-stemmed kale. They ate the actual stem, and gradually, in choosing plants with a tendency for thick stems, caused the former cabbage to alter its greatly-thickened stem. This turned into kohlrabi, which earned the name var. caulorapa, meaning “a stem turnip.”

Over the past thousand years, man also developed a passion for the undeveloped flower buds of the cabbage, and chose the plants that produced large bloom heads. This is how we got cauliflower and broccoli, both different variations of an undeveloped cabbage plant. The cauliflower is var. botrytis, meaning “cluster,” for its resemblance to a cluster of grapes. The broccoli, which was developed in Italy, earned the title var. italica.

And the last member of this extended family: we each have our own taste, and apparently there were those (most probably the Belgians) who preferred plants that developed an assembly of dense leaves along the stems. They chose and re-chose plants that produced this sort of leaf shape, and thus brought the world Brussels sprouts, titled var. germmifera“the cabbage with gems.”

In summary, this long, winding familial tale demonstrates that without a systematic education in genetics or plant propagation, but via a simple process of seed selection and a lot of patience, more than six unique vegetables have developed over the past 7000 years. It happens in the best of families. 

Wishing us all a week of wonder and variety, of patience and faith,

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

__________________________

WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, parsley root, cucumbers, fennel or kohlrabi, parsley, leeks (small boxes only)

In the large box, in addition: cabbage, broccoli leaves, potatoes, radishes.

Wednesday: cauliflower, cabbage, cucumbers, potatoes, fennel, lettuce, fava beans or peas or beets, carrots, cilantro / parsley, tomatoes, radishes – small boxes only

In the large box, in addition: parsley root, broccoli, peppers, leeks

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, 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!

Aley Chubeza #5, January 25th-27th 2010

This week you’ll find in your box a new offer from Rona and the Yotav Dairy crew. Up to now you’ve been able to make individual orders from Rona, but today she is giving the opportunity to order a regularly delivered box at a specially-reduced price–and at the frequency you choose. Full details here and in your boxes.

After several introductory weeks, the English newsletter will now join its Hebrew sibling, appearing weekly as a translation (with some additions here and there.) Behind the scenes, we are working on our new bi-lingual Internet site to include an archive of   information on a host of vegetables and their recipes. In the meantime, we will continue focusing each week on one of the seasonal vegetables in the box, gradually building up the English-language archive.

_______________________

An Unwelcome Guest

This week we found many lovely little flowers growing amidst our carrot patch:

 

After our initial delight, we discovered that this pretty flower has not been so kind to the carrot, to say the least. More accurately, the chummy beauty was actually extorting the carrot’s water, nutrients and vitality. When we dug it up, it looked like this:

 

Of course, the deadly embrace made us think twice before we smiled at that plant again. Mohammed’s grim countenance added to our concern “This plant is called alouch in Arabic,” he explained, “If it attacks the fava bean, the plant won’t produce even one pod.” And all of a sudden, the beauty of this plant was only skin-deep; its cruelty shone through. We quickly went to check the rest of our crops and our concern intensified. Indeed, there is broomrape (Orobanche) in our fields.

The Orobanche is a complete parasite (holoparasite). A parasite is an organism living within or on top of another creature (the host) from which it acquires food and other materials necessary for its existence and reproduction. A holoparasite has virtually no chlorophyll and thus cannot perform photosynthesis, which is why it takes water and nutrients from its host’s tissues. Are you beginning to grasp the full problem here?

The tiny seeds of the broomrape or Orobanche (one quarter of a millimeter) can remain unseen and dormant in the soil for many years, even a decade, until stimulated to germinate by certain compounds produced by living plant roots. Broomrape seedlings put out a root-like growth, which attaches to the roots of nearby hosts, penetrates, and begins the process of fusion. Once attached, the broomrape robs its host of water and nutrients. By the end of the growth, the broomrape develops a light yellow stem that emerges above surface. By the time this stem appears, the host has already been damaged. Each of these plants produces hundreds of thousands of seeds; spread by water, wind, animals, farming tools, plant residues– anything that passes through the field.

Within the botanical term Orobanche are hundreds of species. In Israel there are around ten, most of which reside in natural habitats. In nature, hosts of the various broomrapes are scattered throughout varied plant and environmental conditions, which is why they only rarely meet the Orobanche parasites. Even when these encounters occur, usually only one of the parasitic species turns up, so the damage is not great. However, in farms the situation is quite different. The hosts are densely exposed, and the growth conditions are improved, enabling the Orobanche to thrive to the point where a collection of parasites cling to one host, strangling it till it wilts.

Four of the Orobanche parasites existing in Israel settle in fields and attack agriculture: the Orobanche crenata (bean broomrape) which parasites legumes, carrots and celery; the Orobanche cernua (nodding broomrape) which adores the solanaceae: the tomato, eggplant, potato and tobacco; the Orobanche cumana which latches onto sunflowers, and the cruelest of them all, the Orobanche aegyptiaca, Egyptian broomrape, that is willing to parasite everything: tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, sunflowers, peanuts and many other crops. The Orobanche we discovered on our carrots, and more recently, in the pea patch as well, is most probably the Orobanche crenata. Its damage to the carrot is characterized by a dramatic decrease in the sugar level, which nullifies sweetness and damages quality.

The broomrape is major pestilence in agriculture. Some of you may remember that last year we planted wheat in our rotating field that had previously grown sunflowers. One of the reasons we chose wheat is that the Orobanche, that adores sunflowers, cannot latch onto wheat, thus reducing the parasite in the field. For some crops, the broomrape is deadly. In northern Israel there are vast fertile areas where previously tomatoes were grown, now abandoned because of the Orobanche. Researchers are seeking solutions, including the usage of hardcore chemicals, but also in developing resistant species that can better withstand the Orobanche.

In organic farming, the main solution is solar disinfection, i.e., spreading a transparent plastic sheet over the ground in the peak of summer heat, causing the earth to reach very high temperatures, and the fungus, pathogens, weed seeds (and also some beneficial earthly creatures) to cook to death. The result is a disinfected and “clean” earth, just before the start of the fall planting and seeding. We don’t love this method, and hope that the variety we grow and the constant crop rotation (the fact that one type of vegetable replaces another) will aid in preventing the surge of Orobanche to the point of an epidemic.  

In the meantime, we decided to use a preventative method: we collect the broomrape flowers to remove as many seeds as possible from the field. Next season, we will not grow tomatoes and legumes in the contaminated areas in the field. Like good farmers, despite our concern, we put faith in the poly-cropping vegetable garden system, and hope for the best. Please keep pulling for us!

At the end of this week, the trees will celebrate their birthday and begin a new cycle of blossoming, ripening and great joy. The best birthday present for them – and for us – were the bountiful rains our area received this past week, with more wet abundance in the forecast. We wish our green friends a happy birthday, and many seasons of health, strength, flourishing and fertility.

Wishing us all a good week,

Alon, Bat Ami and the Chubeza team

____________________________________

This week’s basket includes:

Monday: lettuce, carrots, leeks, cilantro/dill, tomatoes, broccoli, beets, cauliflower, fennel, cucumbers, red or green cabbage.

In the large box, in addition: radish, celery, clementines

Wednesday: cauliflower/radish/carrots, red or green cabbage, tomatoes, dill, celery, broccoli, fennel, leeks, potatoes, lettuce, cucumbers.

In the large box, in addition: beets, parsley, spinach

______________________________________ 

Happy families are all alike

-Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, Chapter 1, line 1

A Tale of One Family

Every once in awhile, we hear about the scientific development of a new vegetable or other edible plant. It’s possible that the pace of change is much faster now than in the past, yet even in the distant, primitive past, farmers constantly refined their crops. Actually, many of the most amazing changes in species development came not as a result of structured research, but rather out of the simple act of a farmer’s choosing and collecting seeds from the plants he favored over seeds from less-desired plants. This straightforward action of promoting one plant over another had a huge effect on the improvement and change of a specific harvest or species. Long before man understood the genetics of plants, his actions caused small, slow variations in the crops, which compounded over time until they brought about actual results.

One of the processes emerging from this breeding was the domestication of plants. The slow, persistent plant selection conducted by ancient farmers led to a dramatic transformation in certain wild plants to produce plants with more desirable traits–which rendered them dependent on artificial (usually enhanced) environments for their continued existence. The practice is estimated to date back 9,000-11,000 years. Many crops currently cultivated are the result of domestication that occurred about 3,000-5,000 years ago. 

The Brassicaceae family (or “cabbage family”) is a perfect example. All family members derive from one wild plant, the brassica oleracea, which originated in the Mediterranean area and resembles the canola in appearance. Sometime after the plant was domesticated, people began growing it for its leaves. Since they consumed the leaves, it made sense to choose the plants that produced the biggest leaves. As a result, those leaves became bigger and bigger, eventually creating the plant we now know as kale or collards. Kale’s botanical name is var. acephala, translating to “a headless cabbage.”

Other farmers preferred plants that produced small, denser and more delicate leaves in the center of the plant at the head of the stem, hence advancing plants with those characteristics. Over the seasons, the process of compacting became more and more prominent in those plants. Over the years, it grew and evolved into a real “head of leaves” which we call cabbage. Its actual title is var. capitata, meaning “a cabbage with a head.”

Around the same time, in today’s Germany, farmers preferred short and thick-stemmed kale. They ate the actual stem, and gradually, in choosing plants with a tendency for thick stems, caused the former cabbage to alter its greatly-thickened stem. This turned into kohlrabi, which earned the name var. caulorapa, meaning “a stem turnip.”

Over the past thousand years, man also developed a passion for the undeveloped flower buds of the cabbage, and chose the plants that produced large bloom heads. This is how we got cauliflower and broccoli, both different variations of an undeveloped cabbage plant. The cauliflower is var. botrytis, meaning “cluster,” for its resemblance to a cluster of grapes. The broccoli, which was developed in Italy, earned the title var. italica.

And the last member of this extended family: we each have our own taste, and apparently there were those (most probably the Belgians) who preferred plants that developed an assembly of dense leaves along the stems. They chose and re-chose plants that produced this sort of leaf shape, and thus brought the world Brussels sprouts, titled var. germmifera “the cabbage with gems.”

In summary, this long, winding familial tale demonstrates that without a systematic education in genetics or plant propagation, but via a simple process of seed selection and a lot of patience, more than six unique vegetables have developed over the past 7000 years. It happens in the best of families. 

 _________________________________

Recipes:

 Alice Waters’ Spicy Cauliflower Soup

 Crispy Cauliflower with Olives, Capers and Parsley

 Broccoli Gratin

 Mushroom & Broccoli Quiche Recipe with a Gluten Free Potato Crust

– sent to me by Margie from Jerusalem

3 or 4 red potatoes, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 scallions, chopped
450 gram mushrooms, quartered
1 head of broccoli
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 c. soy milk (or whatever type of milk you have)
2 large eggs
2 egg yolks
Pinch nutmeg
up to1 1/2 cups cheese, grated (use whatever you have on hand)

1. Preheat your oven to 175 degrees. Slice the red potatoes very thinly – around 3mm thick. Layer them around a pie plate, starting in the middle and trying not to leave any spaces where the filling might run through. Pop in the oven for 15 minutes.

2. Begin heating the oil in a non-stick or cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Clean the mushrooms with a slightly damp cloth. Remove the stems and then quarter them with a sharp knife. Add the mushrooms to the skillet and stir frequently until they are golden brown.

3. While the mushrooms are sautéing, chop the florets off of the head of broccoli and separate into small pieces. Then use scissors to finely snip the green part of the scallions. Add the broccoli florets and sauté until they are bright green, and then remove the skillet from the heat.

4. In a medium-size mixing bowl, whisk the milk, eggs, and egg yolk together until they are slightly frothy. Season the egg mixture with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

5. Now it is time to construct the quiche. Your potato crust should be ready by now, so

evenly sprinkle 1/2 of the cheese over the crust. Then spread the mushrooms and broccoli over the cheese, and top with the remaining cheese. Finally, pour the egg mixture over everything else, and place the dish in the over for 30 to 35 minutes. When the quiche is ready, the center should be firm, and the top should have started to brown. (I probably could have left mine in a bit longer, but we were really, really hungry!) Take the quiche out of the oven, and let it cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before slicing.

Korean cabbage kimchee

 World’s best braised cabbage – by Molly Stevens

Aley Chubeza #3 – January 11th-13th 2010

The History of Love (of seasonal, healthy vegetables, of agriculture, and farmers)

Now that you’ve become acquainted with the farm and with us, the farmers, it is time to add the next piece of the Chubeza puzzle: our form of operation, “CSA,” Community Supported Agriculture. This Newsletter and next week’s will be devoted to the CSA mandate to forge a partnership, responsibility and reciprocity between farmers and consumers.

 When Ecclesiastes said, “To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven,” he was surely referring to this movement of partnership between farmers and consumers. And not just because farms grow vegetables in season and send fresh produce in boxes, but also because this model arose simultaneously and independently in both Japan and Europe– without either country being conscious of the other (in the pre-Internet era). It was the 1960’s, when an awareness of the dangers of modern farming was just beginning to emerge. Countries were losing farming viability and the wherewithal to sustain independent farming in an era of global market economy and low-cost imports. In short, people began waking up to agricultural problems that were threatening the mouth that consumes it, and began searching for answers. Japan became concerned with food safety, pondering whether the connection between artificial inorganic material and food was beneficial—an issue urgently driven by disturbing revelations on “Mina Mata Disease.”

It began in an affirmative, pastoral environment: in the 1920’s, a chemical plant was established in a small fishing village in the peaceful Mina Mata Bay. The villagers were convinced that the factory would provide support and boost opportunities for the residents. “Chisso Chemicals” started out producing fertilizers, and later expanded to manufacture material for the plastics industry. They released their industrial wastewater into the bay. The plant was a great commercial success, but eventually the residents of Mina Mata began noticing that for no obvious reason, their cats would become spastic, contort, and drop dead. Dead birds then started falling from the sky. Soon it was the people who were getting sick and babies were being born with dreadful deformities. The villagers suspected a connection between the chemical factory and these phenomena, since no such symptoms had existed before Chisso Chemicals arrived.

An exploration revealed that between 1932 and 1968, the plant released approximately 27 tons of methyl mercury into the bay, which bio-accumulated in shellfish and fish that were consumed by the local populace (including the cats and birds). This highly toxic chemical produced neurological damage, resulting in 68 deaths from mercury poisoning, including 22 miscarriages. The villagers demanded that the wastewater be banned from the bay, but Chisso superiors concealed scientific data they had amassed and claimed the mysterious disease was unrelated to their operations. Subsequently, they paid the victims’ families a small “indulgent” compensation, extracting a commitment that no legal claims be brought against the plant. Chisso continued to release the toxic water into the bay. Forty years later, some 4,000 people were diagnosed with “Mina Mata disease,” and the plant was obligated to compensate them. To this day, people living in the area continue to claim compensation from the company.

This episode, among others, caused more and more Japanese citizens to opt for organic food, but they encountered difficulties in this endeavor as well: on one hand, the increased import of agricultural produce posed a threat to local Japanese farming. On the other hand, forgeries and fabrications in labeling organic products sent consumers in search of an alternative. The solution: direct purchase from the grower, in return for his/her commitment towards the consumer. The first group organized in 1965 along the existing teikei (Japanese for “cooperation” or “joint business”) model. With reference to CSA, it is commonly translated as “food with the farmer’s face on it.” A small group of woman formed the first cooperative, and went in search of a farmer who would create a partnership of mutual support.

It is no surprise that this development took place in Japan, where a respect for health is integral in the culture. But beyond, the Japanese boast a tradition of co-ops, the first established in 1897! To this day, 14 million Japanese (some 22% of the population) are members of the cooperative Japanese consumers union, the largest of its kind in Japan. Japanese co-ops run the gamut from medicine and housing to insurance and education. Most teikei programs are partnerships between farmers’ co-ops and consumer co-ops.

Meanwhile, at the same time, across the ocean:

At the beginning of the 20th century the Anthroposophist movement was established, based on the ideology of philosopher, architect, and Austrian teacher Rudolf Steiner, and on his writings in education, medicine, arts, religion, economy and agriculture. I will only relate to his approach to agriculture, but for further information I suggest these sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthroposophy,  http://www.waldorfanswers.com/Anthroposophy.htm

The Anthroposophist relationship to agriculture is otherwise known as “biodynamic agriculture.” In 1924, Rudolph Steiner was sought out by a group of Central European farmers concerned with the deterioration of various plants and animals resulting from the use of chemical fertilizers. They requested that Steiner set out the foundations for applying anthroposophist tenets to practical farming. In eight lectures given in Silesia, Germany, Steiner characterized the optimal agricultural system as a complete ecologic system where people, animals, plants, microorganisms, earth, water and air exist in a dynamic balance and equilibrium. He also stressed an astrological element, in the influence of cosmic powers upon fixing stars and planets, to the fertility of the earth and the vitality of the metabolic processes in the earth’s organism and the kingdoms of nature. Practical use of these powers in agriculture enables the elimination of toxics and chemical fertilizers, aiming to provide agricultural produce with biological and nutritious quality.

Since 1924, biodynamic agriculture has developed in many countries, and the scientific research of Rudolph Steiner’s blueprint is carried out in institutes devoted solely to this pursuit.

Steiner also focused on “associative economics,” to create an alternative to competitive economy. Steiner’s model presents an economic order that cultivates reciprocation and communication between manufacturers, merchants, credit suppliers and consumers to deal with issues of fair prices, actual needs, reduction of poverty and expansion of social equality and environmental influences. A combination of the two approaches–biodynamic organic agriculture and an economy based on cooperation and reciprocation–served to create the ultimate model: a partnership forged between farmers and the non-agricultural community to confront these issues.

At the end of the 1960’s, the Buschberghof Farm, a German collective farm based on these principles, was established alongside a “collaborative agricultural community.” This initiative aimed to create a network of non-farmers who support farmers by giving loans and partnering. In Switzerland a similar process took place, influenced by the Chilean cooperative movement during the regime of Salvador Allende (1970-1973). In the 1980’s, agricultural partnerships and communities were established in Germany and Switzerland, influenced by parallel processes taking place in the U.S. The Buschberghof Farm evolved into an actual CSA.

The development of the CSA movement in United States was quite similar to that of their European counterparts. I won’t go into the details here, but for those interested, I recommend this very informative and interesting article about the origins of the movement, focusing on the nation’s pioneer CSA farms in Massachusetts and New Hampshire: 

Each of these two farms, by the way, is still operating as a CSA today, some 20+ years later. B’karov etzlenu!

 

Next Newsletter: The different faces of today’s global CSA Movement, and Chubeza’s commitment to stimulate this model in Israel.

_____________________________

This week’s basket includes:

Monday: lettuce, carrots, mustard greens / tatsoi, kohlrabi, cilantro, tomatoes, broccoli, potatoes, green cabbage, beets, cucumbers, spinach, fennel.

In the large box, in addition: cauliflower, green onions, first fava beans!

Wednesday: cauliflower, arugula/spinach, tomatoes, dill, green onions, broccoli, turnips, clementines, carrots, lettuce, cucumbers, potatoes / fennel.

In the large box, in addition: kohlrabi, beets, new fava beans!

_________________________

And Now to Our Featured Vegetable: the Kohlrabi

It’s a UFO! It’s a parachuting turnip! It’s a long neck trying to swallow something round and wide. No! It’s the kohlrabi, an amazing, if unassuming, vegetable in this week’s box.

(I even found this description somewhere: “Hold the kohlrabi root-side-up, and the stems will look like boiling wax dripping from the bulb…)

So our friend is rather strange looking, and that is because he is a very unconventional phenomenon in the vegetable world. We know vegetables that are the fruit of the plant, or the leaves, or the flowers or even the roots, but this time it’s the stem! True, it’s a little strange to think of a round ball-shaped stem, and the kohlrabi resembles other round roots such as his distant cousins, the turnip and radish. But to be honest, the only similarity between them is on the outside: botanically speaking, the kohlrabi is actually closer to the cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprout and broccoli. In the beginning of its growth, the kohlrabi looks a lot like the cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli or kale plant. It sprouts green leaves on an upright plant. But upon maturity, the kohlrabi searches for an individual identity, and suddenly its stem thickens, curves up and becomes ball-like until a round kohlrabi sits on the earth (not under it!), light green (or purple, depending upon the type), sweet and juicy.

For those of you who may not be acquainted with this vegetable, or perhaps once found it tasteless, or was put off by its strange shape, I have only one thing to say: take one out of the box right now. Find a small one, peel it and take a bite: it is juicy, sweet and delicate, and just wonderful!

Speaking of hot air balloons, the geographic distances the kohlrabi has traveled over the years wouldn’t shame any frequent flyer. Like the rest of its family, the kohlrabi’s ancestor is the wild cabbage, or curly cabbage, whose origins are very ancient. In the first century, Roman agronomists and cooks wrote about it.  Roman Emperor Karl the Great demanded that kohlrabi be planted in his kingdom. From Europe it traveled to north India in the 17th century, where it became a main component of the Hindu diet. From there, our vegetable migrated to Northern Africa, the Middle East, China and Africa, and later, to the United States–specifically, to the southern kitchen. To this day kohlrabi is a main favorite in Indian, Asian, German and Hungarian cookbooks.

The origin of its name derives from German: kohl=cabbage, rabi=turnip. But it isn’t really a hybrid of the two. The name was given perhaps because the vegetable belongs to the cabbage lineage, but looks like a turnip or a similar bulb. But that too is misleading, because the kohlrabi is neither a root nor a bulb. If you’ve ever seen a kohlrabi in the field, you can easily define the edible part, for it is sitting atop the earth, and is, in fact, a thickened stem.

Like the rest of its relatives, the kohlrabi is fond of a cool climate and grows in different seasons in different areas. Thus, while we Israelis are already receiving a second crop of this friendly creature, in California or in different parts of the U.S. they’re only now seeding it in the hothouses. In Israel, the kohlrabi will find it very difficult to grow during summertime, but where spring and summer are cooler, he enjoys sprouting, just like the cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower.

The kohlrabi is speedier than the rest of his family, because we don’t have to wait for the plant to flower in order to get to the edible part (like the cauliflower or broccoli) or for the leaves to close (like the cabbage.) As a matter of fact, the kohlrabi should be picked early, when it hasn’t yet matured. A big kohlrabi means it was picked too late, and its texture is liable to be fibrous. This is also the reason you sometimes receive tiny kohlrabies. The winter stopped their growth, but a longer wait would have harmed the juicy, crispy texture, which is why they were picked small. Kohlrabi comes in green or purple, although for both the inside is light green. 

So the kohlrabi is picked young, in some seasons less than two months after being planted. But it is in fact a bi-seasonal vegetable, meaning that in order to arrive at a complete growth cycle climaxed by seed production, it must undergo two growing seasons. In between is a rest period, or “incubation,” after which it will flower and produce seeds during the following springtime.

Kohlrabi can be eaten in any form. It is customary to eat it raw, which is why we will name other forms of consumption. The vegetable is delicious grilled or roasted in the oven or an outdoor grill. It is delicious cooked or steamed, not only in soup, stir-fried in butter or baked with salt, white pepper and sage. It can even be pickled. In Chinese-food recipes, it can substitute for radish or turnips and for water chestnuts. Its leaves are similar in taste to kale, and are great in soup, pasta sauces and stir-fries. 

Health-wise, the kohlrabi holds all the medical merits of the Cruciferae family. It has a much greater nutritional value than cabbage, is an outstanding source of vitamin C (one cup of sliced kohlrabi supplies the recommended daily portion), and like the cauliflower, is a great source of nutritional fiber. Kohlrabi also contains high levels of potassium, folic acid and calcium. In folk medicine it is considered to cleanse the blood and kidneys, as well as being beneficial for the lymphatic system and for digestion. Nissim Krispil writes of Moroccan Jews who make kohlrabi and honey juice to remedy hoarseness and mucus. In natural medicine kohlrabi is mixed with other vegetables to make a juice that treats asthma, improves lung function, sinus problems and the thyroid gland. Adding carrot juice will improve the taste of kohlrabi juice.

And a little joke before we turn to recipes: The American indexing society that is devoted to indexing, summarizing and building databases, awards an annual “Kohlrabi Order Prize,” named such because, “Just like the kohlrabi, no one knows who we are or what to do with us.”

But after this newsletter, you all do now!

___________________ 

Baked Kohlrabi

Ingredients:
4 kohlrabies
2 cups sweet cream (shamenet)  
1 t. salt, or to taste
½ t. white pepper
1 T. very soft butter

Preparation:
–   Peel the kohlrabi and slice into as many thick pieces as possible. Place in a deep bowl.
–   Mix the cream with salt and pepper and pour over the kohlrabi slices.
–   Mix gently until all slices are coated with cream.  
–   Grease a medium-size flat baking pan with butter. Add kohlrabi slices and level them on the surface.
–   Bake in medium oven (pre-heated) for around one hour or until the cream is almost steamed and the casserole is golden.
–   Turn off oven, and leave the casserole inside for another 10 minutes, until solid.
Serve warm.

 

Kohlrabi and Rocket Salad with Apples and Apple Vinaigrette: Recipe from “Shkedim” Catering. From www.eat2.co.il

Ingredients:
5 small kohlrabies
3 hard Grand apples
2 lemons
1 pkg. fresh rocket

Vinaigrette:
1 can apple juice concentrate
1 t. coriander seeds
½ t. mustard seeds
1 c. corn oil
½ c. olive oil
1 t. ground ginger
salt, pepper
walnuts for garnish

Preparation:
–   Peel kohlrabies and grate coarsely.
–   Core apples and slice into very thin crescents; soak apples in water with the juice of two lemons
–   Wash the rocket, dry and place on paper towel.
–   In a small pan, add apple juice concentrate, coriander, mustard seeds, and ginger. Bring to a boil, cook for 3-4 minutes, and cool.
–   When mixture is cool, place in blender. While blending, add corn oil and olive oil; add a bit of salt and pepper, and continue blending till mixture becomes brownish.
–   Place kohlrabi and rocket in bowl, drain apples from lemon mixture and add to bowl. Pour on the dressing, toss and serve.
–   Can garnish with shelled walnuts or cashews

 

Rumanian Kohlrabi Soup: Recipe from the book The Lowfat Jewish Vegetarian Cookbook–Healthy Traditions from Around the World by Debra Wasserman

Ingredients:
2 kohlrabies, peeled and chopped
1 small head of cauliflower, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
Small onion, peeled and thinly chopped
½ c. dill, finely chopped
½ c. parsley, finely chopped
2 T. oil
½ t. thyme or basil
salt and pepper
1 T. cornflower
11 cups water
½ c. lemon juice
425 gm. tomato paste

Preparation:
–   In a large pot, sauté kohlrabi, cauliflower, carrot, onion, dill and parsley at medium-high heat for around 5 minutes. Season.
–   Dilute cornflower in a cup of water and add. Add 10 more cups of water and bring to boil. Lower flame and cook covered for an additional 30 minutes.
–   Add lemon juice and tomato paste, and continue cooking on low heat for an additional 15 minutes

 

Kolhrabi Fritters

Ingredients:
4 kohlrabies, peeled and grated
¼ c. chopped scallions
2 eggs, beaten
2 T. breadcrumbs
1 t. salt
very hot pepper
¼ c. olive oil (for frying)

Preparation:
Drain grated kohlrabi well
Mix all ingredients (except oil) together in a bowl
Heat oil in large frying pan
Using a spoon, drop fritters in the pan
Fry 3-4 minutes on each side (depending on thickness) until golden

And, one last:

Stuffed Kohlrabi with Lemon-Tarragon Sauce