Aley Chubeza #41 – November 1st-3rd 2010

As the month of November makes its entry and we bid farewell to the month of Cheshvan, we are pleased to commence our Donate-a-Box project. To date, enough weekly pledges have been collected to donate a weekly large-size box to a needy family. We thank all our contributors! Your donation will be added to your monthly bill, beginning this month. We’ve also received recommendations of many additional families in need.  Those who wish to pledge a weekly contribution of 5-10-15 NIS (or more!), please e-mail or call.

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A Matter of (Green) Taste

Along the same theme we touched last week–and following my paean to leafy greens–I decided to move this week’s focus to taste buds. Most edible greens, our main characters of the day, carry a hint of bitterness. This bitterness is milder when the leaves are still young, ideally in the winter season. The bitterness level grows as the plant matures or the temperatures rise. This is because the plants need us, human beings and animals, but only on their terms: they would like us to eat their fruit, distribute their seeds, brush up against them and carry their seeds to new places, but they’re in no hurry whatsoever for us to eat their leaves. The leaves are the source of vitality and strength for the plant to keep growing, and eating them prior to seeding does not assist the plant, at least not directly. They understand they may have to sacrifice some of their leaves for food, but they prefer to try and protect themselves.

Thus, the leaves develop a bitterness, which sometimes signals to animals: Beware! Toxic plant alert! Young leaves and ideal seasons are less threatening to the plant, which is why it is less bitter then, but when it arrives to maturity and blossoming, it needs to muster all its strength to reach the final mission of creating seeds. That rules out any annoying nibblers. In times of distress, too, when the sun is strong, when there’s not enough water intake or when there’s a lack of nutrients, the plant’s survival mechanisms kick into place and turn the leaves bitter. For this reason it is harder to grow sweet lettuce in the summertime, and basil turns bitter as it grows older and blossoms. To protect the lettuce from bitterness, we cover it with shade cloths (and choose a variety that is good for summer growth). To prevent the basil from turning too bitter, we prune it before it blossoms.

And still, greens are bitter. Most of the leafy greens we grow are on the less-bitter side: the arugula can be pungent and the basil and kale somewhat bitter, but there are greens that are much more bitter (and very healthy), such as the varieties of chicory (chicory, endive, radicchio, escarole) or the edible wild dandelion and Sow thistle (Sonchus oleraceus) plants. Bitterness gets no credit in Western culinary culture. We favor sweet and salty, and are even willing to mix with sour, but we abstain from bitter, and for good reason: sometimes bitterness is indeed indicative of toxins. But not always. And though at Passover we eat bitter herbs to recall the perils we wish to avoid forever, we shouldn’t necessarily pass over a serving of bitterness on the tongue, or in the belly. Especially the tangy, tasty type.

Bitterness is the taste of base, alkaline, non-acidic. Our body needs a balanced level of acidity, and it constantly tries to regulate the level of acidity it receives from food. In order to maintain the proper balance for our body, we need nourishment that consists of 70% base and only 30% acid. An unbalanced diet containing excessive acid actually burdens the body, which works to neutralize the acid so as to balance the pH level—by removing alkaline minerals from the vital organs and bones. This can expose the body to disease and cause cumulative damage that may go undiscovered for years. It seems that the bitter has “basically” a positive side to it.

Sometimes when you look at Chubeza greens (especially during autumn and spring), you notice signs that various tiny friends had examined the importance of greens and were undeterred by the bitterness… Those are “high season” for crawling and flying insects, who hide in summertime from the heat and in the wintertime are turned away by the cold. They, too, know to derive the nutritious benefits of greens and visit our leaves quite often, nibbling away or just passing through.

Of course, we constantly receive questions or complaints about this. One asked, if a plant is attacked by pests, doesn’t it produces poisonous substances to fight them? The answer is yes and no. Distressed plants do develop specific materials to fight the pests (amazingly, neighboring plants that were not attacked sometimes develop the same defense materials), but human beings are built differently than insects, and these plant pest controllers are not poisonous to us.

Melissa and I discussed the subject and arrived at the conclusion that these tiny holes are actually good news, heralding autumn and the fact that things are going along naturally in the field. The holes you’ve been seeing were most probably created by caterpillars, that pupated after their nice large meal A few weeks later, they hatch and become butterflies beautiful to gaze upon, who make food for birds whose music is a joy to hear. In a field sprayed with pesticides where the leaves end up being nice and hole-free, toxins penetrate into the plant tissue. The insects that nibble on it are poisoned, as are the birds that eat the insects, and so forth along the food chain. We recall the book Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, describing the terrible silence in fields “clean” of animals, insects and birds. The holes are proof that the music of birds in our field is as hearty and harmonious as ever, and that we host a variety of species in our field and maintain a gentle ecological balance.

Have a look at all this beauty:

So after this musical interlude, and after the greens arrive in your home, it’s time to think about how to store them. While on the plant, they are nourished by a constant supply of nutrients and water coming from the roots and stem, keeping them fresh and vigorous. Having picked and disconnected them from their source of life, we want them to continue to maintain their vitality in your homes, for a week or more. So here’s the trick: of course, the fresher, the healthier, the better, so you should eat them as fresh as possible.

But, if you want to use them after a few days, treat them as you would a VIP:
– Do not wet them until used (or if you wash them immediately, for reasons of kashrut, make sure to dry them well)
– Wrap the leaves in a towel or thick paper towel
– Place the wrapped bundle into the bags you receive from us, and then inside even another bag so that they’re entirely sealed
– Now store them in the bottom, colder, part of the fridge

This way the towel absorbs the moisture and prevents the leaves from wilting, while the bag keeps them from drying up.

Now, let’s use them: one of the best ways is to make a “green drink”—a vegetable smoothie sweetened by dates or fresh fruits. They can be used in a salad or added to a sandwich. The die-hards point out that any cooking or heating causes critical loss of vitamins, which is why cooking should be prevented.  I maintain that greens can enhance a meal in many ways: steaming and stir-fried as pasta sauce, as an addition to rice or warm salad, as a wrap for stuffed vegetables, as a filling for dumplings or ravioli and baked in quiches or bread.

Greens are bursting with vitamins, but heating them, exposing them to air or “drowning” them in water will all cause the vitamins become oxidized, disintegrate and disappear from the leaf. This is why, in order to get the most from your vitamins:
– Refrigerate your greens prior to preparation.
– Wash them only before preparation, and only while whole, before cutting or slicing.
– Use them fresh, or cook for a short amount of time. Place them in boiling water only, stir-fry over high heat for a short time, steam in a small amount of water.
– Reuse the cooking/steaming water, where the vitamins melted.
– Cook in a covered pot or bake in covered pan.
– Eat soon after preparation.
– If you’re storing the plate, refrigerate shortly after preparation (even if it’s warm, do not wait for it to cool down).

Bon Appetite,
Alon, Melissa, Bat Ami and the Chubeza team
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This week’s basket includes:

Monday: radishes, cilantro, beets, lettuce, parsley, green mustard, tomatoes, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, sweet potatoes, spinach, potatoes

In the large box, in addition: green onions or leek, cauliflower or broccoli, lubia (cowpea) or yard long bean or okra

Wednesday: iceberg lettuce or tatsoi, parsley, cucumbers, green or red mustard, tomatoes, leek, rasdish or daikon, beets or turnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cilantro, one of the following: green bean / okra / sweet peas / lubia (cowpea) / yard long beans

In the large box, in addition: romaine lettuce, cauliflower or broccoli, eggplants

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MORE DELECTABLE RECIPES FOR GREENS

Greens Soup by Shira from Kiryat Ono, who says:

This week I found myself with six bags of different greens in my fridge, which had accumulated from my weekly boxes. In addition, this week I visited Jerusalem where I ate “kubeh hamusta” soup. It was a bit too sour for my taste, spurring me to attempt to create a soup (sans kubeh) to make up for this experience. The combination of these two occurrences inspired me to make the following soup, on a Friday afternoon in fall. It was a pleasure to cook and a delight to consume!

Ingredients:
–          4-5 scallions
–          2-4 small leeks (or one large)
–          4 T. canola/olive/sunflower oil
–          1 pkg. spinach/Swiss chard greens
–          ½ pkg. parsley (leaves only)
–          Purple beet leaves (the leaves connected to the beets)
–          Celery leaves (I had none to add, but the soup came out fine)
–          ¼ – ½ t. turmeric (depending on the amount of water)
–          ½ t. cumin
–          ½ t. Atlantic salt
–          1 t. brown sugar
–          4-5 small potatoes, sliced
–          Juice of half a lemon
–          4 garlic cloves

Preparation:
–          In a large pot, steam leeks and scallions with the oil. Afterwards add all the greens and continue to steam until they wilt.
–          Cover with water, add spices, salt and sugar and bring to a boil. The amount of water depends on the desired soup consistency.
–          Place over heat, and continue to cook on a low-medium flame for several minutes. Add potatoes, lemon and garlic and continue to cook for 30 minutes, till potatoes are soft.
–          The soup is at its best around a half hour after removing from heat. At that point, the flavors are blended to perfection. Those who like it on the sour side can add more lemon upon serving.

Michal from Jerusalem sent us this salad composed of roasted and fresh vegetables-from-the-boxes, based on a recipe from the Moosewood Cookbook.

Green Bean, Sweet Potato, Greens, Walnuts and Cheese Salad

-Cook green beans till they just begin to soften; then cool.
-Cut several sweet potatoes into halves. Cover with olive oil and bake in the oven. Cut each slice into cubes.

Salad ingredients:
–          1 pkg. arugula greens, chopped
–          ½ c. sliced parsley
–          sliced purple onion (or scallions)
–          sweet potatoes
–          green beans
–          pecans or walnuts, slightly chopped
–          Roquefort or Bulgarian cheese (optional)

Dressing:
–          ½ c. good-quality yogurt
–          1 t. mustard
–          2 T. white wine vinegar (or balsamic)
–          1 T. olive oil
–          1 T. honey or maple syrup
–          salt
–          pepper

and also:
Red radish and arugula soup

Beets greens curry with chickpeas

Aley Chubeza #40 – October 25-27 2010

Reminder: We’re now taking orders for Yiftah’s bi-weekly baking. Please send your orders by Friday. You can read about Yiftah’s hand-baked, sprouted bread products here. And here’s a link to a PowerPoint that Yiftah prepared featuring a glimpse of the special bread oven which he built and his very distinctive bread bakery facilities.

It’s not easy being a leafy green…

Writing about tatsoi last week opened the way for a host of questions regarding greens: Why are they so healthy? What do they contain? And how is this connected to the development and growth of the plants (for they grow their leaves for themselves, not necessarily for our salads…)?  And then, to ponder about how amazing is their intensity as energy providers on the one hand, and on the other, their fragility and gentleness after being picked; about the worms that puncture the leaves during this season (they too want to be healthy and thin), and about various greens in various cultures (each culture adopted different greens) and the fact that even with all the goodness and healthiness, greens always contain a touch of bitterness as well.

So I embarked upon some research, and today the newsletter will not be dedicated to one green, but rather to green thoughts (or really, colorful thoughts, as you will see) about leafy greens. I will attempt to answer my own questions, and some of yours as well, if you send any questions my way.

Let us begin with a short survey of leaves in general: the leaf is one of the plant’s organs, used primarily to absorb light and energy from the sun, and transform them into sugars. This is the process of photosynthesis, enabled through chlorophyll. The leaves are the energy suppliers to the plant- other parts of the plant (trunk, flower, root) do not contain chlorophyll and at times are not exposed to the sun, which is why their existence depends upon the energy (and the sugars) produced in the leaves. The leaf is constructed of two parts: the petiole and the blade. The blade is the flat and wide part of the leaf. Because of its (usually) wide surface area, it is the main worker of photosynthesis, and its tissue arrangement is tailored to absorb sunlight. The petiole is the narrow part of the leaf, that little point connecting the body of the leaf to the branch or the main stem. Leaves exist in nature in many shapes and forms: narrow and wide, short and long, tiny and huge, serrated, round, paper-thin, fleshy or feathery.

Most of the leaves are green, thanks to the chlorophyll pigments. Chlorophyll catches the sunlight, setting into motion the process of photosynthesis, which eventually produces the energy for plant tissues to grow and live. Chlorophyll may be the main pigment, but it is not the only one. Pigments like the carotenoids (which are yellow and orange) and the anthocyanin (a purplish-red) also catch the sunlight, yet they are not active participants in the process of photosynthesis. Instead they transfer their energy to the chlorophyll. Towards exfoliation, the chlorophyll production in the leaves is reduced, which is why the green color makes way for the orange and yellow carotenoids, speeding the pace of red anthoycyanin—and creating the stunning beauty of the foliage.

These pigments are the first of the good things that green leaves contain. Chlorophyll is the life engine of the plant, setting in motion the flow of substances, allowing it to grow and develop. Amazingly, the biochemical structure of chlorophyll is very similar to the structure that creates hemoglobin (the iron atom of the hemoglobin is replaced by the magnesium atom in chlorophyll), which is why when consumed, it is easily absorbed in the blood, cleaning and purifying it, and improving the health of the cells and the functioning of the entire body’s system. It delays the growth of bad bacteria and delays the absorbance of carcinogenic substances, all the while contributing to the renewal of healthy cells.

Carotenoids, as well, are very important to the life of the plant. They are a critical force in the process of photosynthesis: these yellow-orange-red pigments expand the range of light absorbance in the plant, increasing the pace and efficiency of the photosynthesis. Carotenoids are sometimes used as shielding pigments or sunscreen, protecting the plants from the possible damages of overly-strong radiation. In our body, too, they provide protection: as antioxidants that join the free radicals, preventing them from oxidizing and injuring more cells. Similar to their task in plants, carotenoids work in our bodies as well, as sunscreen and to protect our skin (lycopene in particular is known for this). One other famous carotenoid is beta carotene, which becomes Vitamin A once consumed, a very important aid to eyesight (specifically night vision), skin function, and mucous membrane tissues. This is also true for lutein, otherwise known as the “inner sunglasses,” shielding eyesight from radiation, and also protecting the heart and blood vessels.

Anthocyanins also provide UV protection. They act according to a beautiful regulation mechanism: the rate of their production in the plant expands and decreases according to their surroundings (light, temperature and earth) and the plant’s condition. The plant has its own chemical regulation mechanism, sending chemical messages to create if the plant is stressed or needs more protection (e.g., when its leaves are still young and sensitive). Anthocyanins are also efficient antioxidants, effective in fighting destructive   activities in the body.

In addition to these substances, green leaves are rich in folic acid. Despite all of my research, I could not find a description of the role of folate (folic acid) in plants and leaves, although its name derives from its impressive existence in these greens (from the Latin for leaf- Folium). However, the advantages for us human beings are manifold: folate, Vitamin B9, is critical for the production of new cells and for keeping them healthy.  It is most essential during pregnancy (for prevention of congenital defects) and for babies, as this is a time of quick and vast cell division. It is crucial for the shifting and rehabilitation of DNA, thus “rescuing” damaged cells that may develop into cancer.

One thing that prevents us all from gobbling a huge bowl of these greens is the need to actually chew their entire healthy texture, and to keep on chewing it, resembling a meal of hay. The reason for this is the abundance of fibers that fills the mouth. So indeed, sometimes it can make you want to bray, but these dietary fibers are our internal cleaning team, bound and determined to get rid of body waste. Almost all the toxins in our body, including millions of dead cells, arrive daily at the human sewerage, the intestines. In order to eliminate this waste, the body needs either soluble fiber or insoluble fiber. Our greens contain the second type. Insoluble fiber is microscopic, and looks like tiny sponges, which indeed they are: any of them can absorb a quantity of toxins of much greater size than its own size and volume. And after they adsorb the dirt, they let it out of the body. Like any cleaning task- this cleaning must be done regularly. If we don’t consume fibers, most of the poison waste will accumulate in our body, in the intestines.

One last word about waste: the body is like one big happy and untidy day: the toxins accumulate not only from breathing in dirt and pollution, non-digesting food, or consuming heavy metals and pesticides. A large quantity of poisons comes from the dead cells of the body itself. Every year 98% of the atoms in our body are exchanged, which makes for a large amount of waste. If the dead cells are not removed from the body, they may become the most toxic waste.

If this newsletter is sounding like propaganda for greens, I have not yet finished my diatribe! One last thing- greens contain Vitamins C and K, important minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and many others. This is, of course, dependent upon the earth in which they grow— earth that is poor in nutrients and insects may grow great big lettuces, but they will be malnourished (just as it is with humans…).

This is already getting to be rather long. I hope you haven’t despaired from my green leaf manifest. Next week I will ponder why they are so bitter, and what these tiny holes are all about. And how to keep all this good greenery fresh and nutritious for as long as possible.

In the meantime, for this last week of October, have a great week, with wishes for more autumn weather,
Alon, Melissa, Bat Ami and the Chubeza team

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This week’s basket includes:

Monday: kohlrabi or radish, cilantro, daukon, lettuce, corn, arugula, green beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, small boxes: eggplants or red beets
In the large box, in addition: pumpkin, spinach, eggplants and red beets.

Wednesday: spinach or Swiss chard, parsley, cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, green onions, radishes or daikon, red beets, arugula, sweet potatoes, corn.

In the large box, in addition: pumpkin, lubia (cowpea) or yard long bean or okra, tatsoi

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A RECIPE FOR EVERY GREEN: Some out of the ordinary, some more conservative, some for soup, salads, stuffed vegetables, pasta and even—mousse!

Last Friday I wolfed down an amazing casserole my mother had made from the greens that were left over from her weekly box. I thought I’d look for a proper recipe for a greens casserole, and then remembered that several months ago, at the very end of the spring greens season, Miriam from Rishon Lezion had sent me this outstanding recipe appropriate for all types of greens:

MUSTARD GREEN CASSEROLE

-Wash well, drain and chop the greens. Sauté 2 thinly-sliced onions in a pan, add the mustard green strips and steam for around 10 minutes.
-Afterwards, add salt to taste.
-In a separate pot, prepare the Béchamel sauce: Melt 50 grams butter and 1 T. olive oil, add 3 T. flour and mix well. Add 2 containers of whipping cream (shamenet metuka) and remove from heat while stirring, until the sauce is completely smooth.
-Mash in the greens mixture, and around 150 gm Bulgarian cheese 5% (g’vina Bulgarit me’udenet).
-Divide into two round greased baking pans and bake at 180C degrees till browned.
Enjoy!

Egyptian Swiss Chard Or Beet Green And Rice Soup

3 ways: Hot Wilted Greens, Greens Salad With Warm Pecan Dressing and Pasta with Dark Greens

Acorn Squash Stuffed with Chard & White Beans

Spinach Mousse

Aley Chubeza #1 – December 28th-30th 2009

Our first English newsletter is a cause for celebration–and a mark of maturity. It means we are sufficiently fluent in our “mother tongue,” which is Hebrew, as well as “farm language” – the language of vegetables, weeds, insects, earth microbes, raindrops, sunshine, and most of all- the language of the earth.
After five and a half years of writing in Hebrew (our first Chubeza newsletter debuted in April 2004, with our first box of vegetables) here we are, ready to publish in an additional language.
For me, personally, it signifies a sort of closure. My entrance to the world of organic farming came when I worked and farmed in California. My language of discovery and practice was English, and when I returned to Israel I struggled to translate the nomenclature to Hebrew.
The English newsletter would have never happened without Melanie and Aliza’s persistence (they’re editing and translating the newsletter), and before we even start, I would like to thank them in advance for sleepless nights in the race to translate each Monday’s newsletter in time…
Some of you have been breaking your teeth over the years reading our newsletters in Hebrew, but for others, this is a first introduction to our weekly message. For that reason, we’re adding a bit more background information about Chubeza and about us. The first newsletters will feature a brief look at our piece of land, the people who work it and the ideals behind “Chubeza.”

It all starts in the land

I first laid eyes on our field October 2003. The thorns were man-high, but in my passionate, blind love, I knew this was a sign of fertile land and great promise. The field was surrounded by a tree nursery that added greenery and some shade, and to the north were the hills of the Ayalon Valley, its fields and houses.

            Our field now numbers some 12.5 acres and is located in the fields of Kfar Bin Nun, on the Latrun-Ramle road in the Ayalon Valley. After six years in our first field, where the entire valley lay before our eyes, we changed our location to various plots within the Moshav– close to our modest packing house, peeking mischievously from  between the houses, adding grace, beauty, and an old-fashioned aura to the modern Moshav. Another plot, still young, is outside the Moshav; behind it is a natural grove which makes the view of the Nesher Factory in the distance a little more tolerable…

Some of the plots have been organic for the past two years, and another for only one year. It has undergone detox and is now taking its first steps in the chemical-free world as it transforms to being organic.

            After last year’s winter, we’ve started this one with a sigh of relief (bli ayin hara). The timely, gentle rains gracing our fields every few days are ultimately manifested in the quantities of mud in your vegetable box. Such is characteristic of this time of year, when hearty showers have already saturated the layers of land (may they continue till springtime!). This is typical specifically of our heavy earth, the Terra Rossa of the coastal plain of Judea– red, clay-like dirt that is rich in iron oxides. This type of earth is common in the hilly areas of limestone and dolomite. It contains a high volume of clay created by the erosion of these rocks, arriving here after being washed down from the hills and reaching the valley. The red soil, from which actual clay is made, is the thinnest soil entity (made from particles smaller than 0.004 millimeters). Just like when you wet clay, you get mud, when this soil gets wet it absorbs the water, drains slowly and becomes very muddy. Which is why it leaves a residue of mud on the vegetables. The advantage of the mud is that the Terra Rossa clay is also very rich and fertile earth: it absorbs various minerals, iron and potassium oxides and even nitrogen, which is why it can be found in nature in various colors. Once it dries (rather slowly), it shrinks and naturally crumbles into small clumps, allowing roots, water and air to penetrate. This is why clay is an ideal environment for growing almost all types of plants. It is porous, ventilated and hydro absorbent.

The earth of the Ayalon Valley is indeed fertile and high-quality. As Gabi, a veteran farmer, neighbor and close friend, says, “We have all the weeds in the world, plus a few more that are just ours alone…” Weeding is indeed one of our more common tasks, especially during wintertime–even more so, in a wet winter like this one, and specifically in new organic fields like the one we are now cultivating. As you will notice, root vegetables are an inseparable part of life at Chubeza (a major reason we named the farm after one of our favorite and most common edible weeds in the field, and in your boxes, every winter and spring).

We will now have some time for weeding, as we are entering a short recess in planting. Last week we completed our final planting and seeding for this period, and now, over the next month and a half, we will only be planting a new crop of lettuce and scallions. The rest of the vegetables will wait patiently while the Class of Pre-Winter will grow. In February we start planting anew.

Winter is a lovely time here at Chubeza. As Moshe Stavi (Stavsky), a chalutz, farmer and Hebrew writer beautifully describes Israeli winter, “The first rain brings relief to man, livestock and flora, and the heart sings in joy, anticipating the new life… here the word ‘winter’ symbolizes revival, invigoration and youth.” It is true–Our farm gladdens the heart this time of the year: plants decorate everything in dozens of shades of green, the brown earth is soft and saturated, and the air is full of movement and the buzz of life. Rainy days warm the heart, after-the-rain days are clean and beautiful and clear, and it feels good to warm up in the winter sun. Even hazy days, like the ones we had last week, are sweet because we know they precede rain.

Come visit us– we would love to host you in our winter. And we welcome your feedback to this newsletter!

Alon, Bat Ami and the Chubeza Staff

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This week’s basket includes:

Monday: lettuce, carrots, spinach, cauliflower, dill/parsley, tomatoes, broccoli, fennel, arugula, clemetines, cucumbers, small box only-red beets

In the large box, in addition: small radishes, mustard greens, kohlrabi, turnips.

Wednesday: cucumbers, mustard greens/kale, cilantro/parsley, tomatoes, lettuce, red beets, broccoli, kohlrabi, cauliflower/cabbage, carrots, snow/green peas-small box only.

In the large box, in addition: small radishes, turnips, leek, celery

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Each week we will aim to focus on one of the vegetables in your box (specifically the more unusual ones). In this first newsletter, we shall discuss the green leafy vegetables.

Wintertime brings many greens to your box: lettuce, garden rocket, chard, green and purple mustard greens, kale, spinach, tat soi and winter herbs (parsley, coriander, dill). What’s so nice about the greens is that they do not succumb to cultural sophistication and human technology (some say “not yet,” but I hope it’s for good): they’re absolutely seasonal and at their best during winter and fall. In the Israeli summer, most suffer terribly and require a lot of protection and spraying to guard them from pests and other woes. They also cannot be stored for long–they wither and dry up and spoil and play all sorts of tricks to indicate that their time is up and they must be eaten in season and fresh. How nice!

For those who are confused by the variety and quantity of greens in the box, let’s begin with an introduction:

Red leaf lettuce:

Romaine lettuce:

Tat soi:

 

Arugula

Swiss chard

                                                          

Green beet leaves

Flat mustard greens

Curled mustard greens

Purple mustard greens

Spinach

Kale

And now that we’ve met— some words of praise: the leafy vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, those elements that allow the plant to protect itself from solar radiation, diseases and contamination, and from harmful oxidization. They perform similar services for humans as well. Leafy vegetables are rich in lutein—an antioxidant from the carotenoid family, vital for optic health and an aid to cardiac and vascular health–as well as a cancer preventative. The dark, leafy greens are also rich in vitamin K, potassium, folic acid, calcium and magnesium. And what’s good is that these leaves succeed in doing the work much better than any food supplement. The timing and perfect arrangement of the dance each leafy vegetable shares create betters health—fortifying bones, heart and vascular system, muscles, the nervous system, balancing sugars in the body—for the human body as a whole.

Leafy vegetables belong to different families: spinach and the root vegetables beet and chard belong to the chenopodiaceous family; rocket, mustard greens of all types, kale and tat soi belong to the brassicaceac (cruciferae) family; lettuces represent the complex. Their tastes run the gamut—rocket and mustards are pungent, chard and lettuce leaves are sweetish, and the kale and spinach are somewhat bitter. Except for lettuce, where each head is detached from its base, we pick them all in a way that enables regrowth: from chard, kale, tot soi, mustard greens and spinach, we remove the large, older leaves from the plant’s circumference, leaving the young center to sprout. We cut the rocket, similar to herbs, and leave several centimeters from the stalk from which the plants grow anew.

It is highly advisable to consume the greens quickly: their nutritional value is highest when they are fresh. To keep them crisp and fresh after a few days or even a week or more—wrap them in a cloth or paper towel; then seal this well in a plastic bag. Keep the package in the colder, lower sections of the refrigerator. Our members have recommended keeping one sample leaf outside the towel to help identify the desired green from amongst the mummified wrappings on the refrigerator shelf….

The most well-known use for greens is in fresh salads—almost all, even the kale, will add taste and zest to a salad. The stiffer leaves can be sliced thin, but don’t give up on them! Greens can also be cooked—stir-fry them with other vegetables (add during the last few minutes of frying), blend them into quiches (use the more sharp-tasting greens cautiously), prepare warm salads or add them to pasta. Several more interesting uses are to dry the leaves to create crispy chips or to drain and blend them with sweet fruits and vegetables to create a delicious green beverage.

Recipes:

Gingery Sauteed Tat Soi with Tofu Steaks

Mustard greens with onions and more thoughts recipes

Pasta with tat soi

The 5 best kale recipes for everyday cooks

Balsamic-Glazed Chickpeas and Mustard Greens