Aley Chubeza #11, March 8-10 2010

Pesach is around the corner, bringing changes in the Chubeza delivery schedule. Over the next two weeks we’ll include a printed schedule to hang on your fridge. For now, the E-version:

Changes in Schedule over Pesach:
No deliveries will take place over Chol Hamoed (Wednesday, March 31 and Monday, April 5.) Therefore:
Monday deliveries will take place on Sunday, March 28th, and then Monday, April 12th
Wednesday deliveries will take place on Wednesday, March 24th, and on Wednesday, April 7th.

Bi-weekly recipients: note that in the absence of Pesach deliveries, you will actually skip three weeks of delivery. If you wish to bring up your delivery dates, please advise ASAP.

If you wish to enlarge your box for the holiday, please advise ASAP!

Open Day:
In the Chubeza tradition, we cordially invite you to one of the two annual pilgrimages to our field. This year’s festivities will take place on Thursday, April 1, 17 of Nissan.
Open Day at Chubeza gives us an opportunity to meet, tour the field, nosh on vegetables and cook delicacies. Children have tailor-made tours, suitable for small legs and curious minds, creative activities, and a great open space to run free.

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And now, allow me a moment of pride: we’ve been working with Danny and Galit for over a year, offering homemade granola and cookies (after Pesach we hope to add another nice surprise from their kitchen). This week I encountered a rave review about them in the food section of nrg (in Hebrew. Scroll down to the end…) Reading it made me smack my lips with pleasure!

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Carmit from Tel Aviv sent me a message that is important to circulate, regarding the recycling and collection of electronic waste. In Israel, some 100,000 tons of electronic waste are collected annually. Not treated separately from other waste, it pollutes the earth and water sources with metal and toxics, each lethal to the environment and our health.

On March 16th, officially declared “Good Deed Day,” the Adam, Teva V’Din foundation, in a joint effort with local counties, will set up electronic waste collection points throughout Israel. The equipment collected will be sorted, cleaned and fitted, and working equipment will be distributed to needy families. More details and addresses of the collection points can be found on their website.

A great opportunity to add an ecological element to Pesach cleaning. (Thanks, Carmit.)
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A brief reminder: those who wish to order sprouted spelt bread from Yiftach (last baking before Pesach) can do so until this Friday, March 12. The bread will be baked a week later and arrive in your boxes on Wednesday, March 17, and Monday, March 22.
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And for dessert: This week you’ll receive sweet samples of a special date from Kibbutz Samar. We are happy to join forces with the southern kibbutz that raises this variety of date, nicknamed “Tamar (date) Toffee.

Enjoy them! They’re quite special and tasty. More details on the Samar website.

Five kg packages of Samar dates can be ordered through Chubeza at 90 NIS per package.
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Six Feet Under (Mud)

Last week on Monday we sank in quick-mud as we navigated the saturated field to pick vegetables for the boxes, trying to dodge the rainfall. It was one of the most difficult days, mood wise too, at Chubeza. A short tour of the field revealed a major erosion of the earth down the slope. Young plants had been badly damaged by heavy rain and hail; young leaves of Swiss chard, mustard, lettuce and tat soi that were almost ready to be picked had torn under the powerful rains; herbs were buried under the mud, damaged potato plants were trying valiantly to remain atop their mounds, but alas…
In his infinite wisdom, Alon decided to postpone a critical review of the field for two weeks. He is a firm believer in nature’s ability to heal itself, suggesting we take a deep breath, pull our legs out of the deep mud, and head to the packing area. Over the next two weeks, the field will dry up and recoup, and we can assess the real state-of-the-farm.

Though we resolved not to look until next week, we couldn’t help but steal glances at our dear ones to check their state. To our great joy, some of the beds were actually recovering (I must say that walking towards them in non-elephant-steps was also beneficial). At this somewhat stooped, somewhat encouraged point, I want to tell you about our situation in the field, in a winter that started out well and then moved from heat wave to storm.

Let’s start with the heat wave. Two weeks ago, I wrote about the three weeks of heat in the midst of winter, but at that point we couldn’t yet see some things that later became clear. The broccoli I said had such difficulty adjusting to the heat, decided to prematurely mature (his way of reaching bloom and seeds as quickly as possible upon identifying danger). Garden beds we thought would only mature now jumped the gun by 1-2 weeks. A ripening broccoli means that the very tight buds start opening and softening. Leaving them on the plant, especially during warm days, meant quick blossoming, i.e., no more broccoli but rather a bouquet of pretty yellow flowers (tasty, but not broccoli).
This is why over the past two weeks we had such great quantities of broccoli, and you received one each week. Sometimes the supply overtook the need, forcing us to wrap them up to store in the refrigerator. A pressured broccoli pick that races to the finish line means a less-resistant broccoli, one that is not as fresh and long-lasting as the Chubeza broccoli you know and love. This week Alon sounded the all-clear signal for the broccoli. We hope this new heat wave doesn’t set them into a renewed panic.

The heat, accompanied by moisture remaining in the air and earth, brought disease and fungus in the field. Most badly damaged were the garlic and scallion, with rotting roots and dried-up leaves. One of our ways to deal with such a fungus is to spray with a substance made of Australian tea tree oil, known for its cleansing and anti-fungus attributes for human beings and plants. Another solution is selective early picking of the green garlic, as I detailed two weeks ago.

The abundance of rain over the Purim weekend drenched the Ayalon Valley with huge quantities of water. This is a definite blessing. A wonderful blessing. Huge, heavy drops pounded the field for hours; puddles and little lakes formed in the surrounding fields. When this much water arrives at this stage of winter, when the earth is open and saturated, the water can gather, permeate and increase the underground reservoirs.

Except that in our field, in our little microcosm, this much water created so much havoc. Everything I write from now on is temporary. As previously noted, we hope that time and the life force will improve the condition.

The garlic, that faced a moisture-loving blight, was badly stricken and doesn’t look too good. A few weeks ago, we picked a small amount to make green garlic. Now we wonder how much will continue to grow, mature and be dried before the fungus takes its course. Meanwhile, we continue to pick green garlic and attempt to dry some at this early stage.

The hail and heavy rain damaged the leafy vegetables as well. Last week we planned to send you kohlrabi with leaves like the previous week, but there weren’t any leaves left to send. The lettuce, that had been ready to be picked, was picked after an internal conflict last Wednesday. We peeled away damaged outer leaves (sometimes many layers) and packed them in pairs. The new cycle of leafy vegetables (lettuce, tat soi, Swiss chard, spinach, mustard), almost ready for picking, was damaged and must recover, setting us back a few weeks. Next round’s cilantro and dill that had almost reached the right height for harvest were felled by the rain and covered with dirt by the erosion. By the time we found them, they were yellow from dampness and very miserable. We cut them down and await renewal.

Some of the young plants we planted last month were traumatized: many of them broke, above and beneath the earth. Last week we weeded and cleaned the garden-beds, and this week we’ll attempt to substitute new plants to complete the missing rows.

In the meantime, we are attempting to buy some of the vegetables in your boxes to replace the ones missing or delayed. This week’s lettuce, potatoes and carrots will probably come from other farms less damaged by the rain. It’s good to have small-farm farmers, colleagues who can help us out at this time. Most importantly, we are trying to keep our faith, and move ahead with hope (the potatoes are already looking better). These storms fill us with awe of natural forces. We bow our head in wonder at this amazing quantity of rain, and look thankfully and proudly at our Little Field That Could.

Next… a heat wave, and who knows what else the roller coaster of spring holds in store. We’re holding on tight, fastening our seat belts and hoping for the best.

May we all have a good week,
Alon, Bat Ami and the Chubeza team
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This week’s basket includes:
Monday: potatoes, cucumbers, cilantro or dill, fava beans, lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, celeriac, dailon, cauliflower, green garlic
In the large box, in addition: parsley root, cabbage, green onions or kohlrabi

Wednesday: Broccoli, cilantro or dill, tomatoes, celeriac, leek, carrots, green garlic, fava beans, potatoes, cucumbers, small boxes: cauliflower or cabbage
In the large box, in addition:cauliflower, cabbage, radishes, green onions
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Daikon- a Radish a Day

Over the past few weeks, the daikon is back in the boxes for its spring round. Since this is one of the vegetables that always sparks phone calls and e-mails (“what IS that white vegetable in my box???”), we’ll dedicate this part of the newsletter to this first-rate vegetable—and its radish relatives– with recipes contributed by Lobsang and friends.

daikon

First, let’s talk genealogy: Contrary to popular belief, the radish is a varied, colorful vegetable. Its range spans from tiny cherry-size to giant-size basketball radishes. Elongated radishes range from the tiny, finger-size to those measuring 60 centimeters long and 15 centimeters wide. These are species grown in the Far East, usually planted as spring plants and picked towards winter before the ground freezes. The colors also vary from red and purple radishes, through all shades of pink, yellow and green, to white. There are even black (Spanish) radishes, with a black peel and white inside.

The Chinese, Egyptians, Greek and Romans have been familiar with radishes for thousands of years. In the Mediterranean area, there is evidence that radishes have been grown from 2000 BC, with the oldest illustration of a radish on the pyramid walls over   4000 years ago! In ancient Greece the radish was revered, and golden icons of radishes were made for sacramental use to worship Apollo. Just to give you a sense of proportion, the beet was a runner-up and only got a silver icon, while the turnip icon was made out of lead. The Romans, too, wrote about radishes- round, elongated, small and large. Most of the radishes at this time were probably rather large, bearing a closer resemblance to the Far East radishes. Small radishes have only become known from the mid-16th century.

In Israel, the radish has been known from the time of the Mishna. Its seeds were used to produce oil for light, and it was raised as an edible vegetable. It was considered a delicacy that was served to kings and rulers all year long: “these are Antoninus and Rabbi, whose table never lacked radish, lettuce or cucumbers, neither in summer nor winter!” (Berachot, 41) This is in keeping with the simplicity of radish growing and its perennial growing season. It grows in hot Israeli summers, though it prefers the chill of winter, spring and autumn.

The radish is also one of the first crops Columbus introduced to the American natives. By the 1500s, it was already known in Mexico and Haiti. To this day, south Mexicans hold a radish festival in Oxaca. The event is called Noche de los Rabanos (“night of the radishes”) and is held on December 23, at the peak of radish season, in the center of town. This festival, probably initiated in the 19th century after Spanish conquerors had introduced the vegetable, celebrates local pride in the giant radishes growing from their earth. Homegrown radishes on display are unusually large, misshapen and crooked as a result of the rocky earth. These characteristics are well exploited for art: with talent and imagination, radishes are transformed to a host of characters, all made out of radishes.

While Europe was going for the pink-red round and small model, the East opted for big, and the species developed there are the pale and long. The daikon is a Japanese white radish. The meaning of its name is “large root” (kon- root, dai- large.) It looks a bit like a large white carrot (they also come in yellow, green and black.) There are huge daikons too, and smaller ones. Because of its size, the daikon takes longer to grow than regular radishes, but otherwise they’re grown in an identical manner.

In the Far East, radishes are known and valued, specifically as a digestive aid, and also to purify and relieve the air tracts. The daikon makes up almost 1/3 of the vegetables grown in Japan (by weight). They are usually preserved in great barrels and added to food as pickles. Daikon is also the grated vegetable served with sushi, near the pickled ginger.

We mainly use the root of the radish, or, more precisely, the neck of its root, but its green leaves and other parts can also be used. In China, a specific species of radishes does not develop a big root, but is grown for the oil extracted from its seeds. India boasts a species with an especially attractive name: rat-tailed radish, producing great pods with edible beans (20-30 centimeters in size!). In specific species, the seedpods can be picked while still green, preserved, and used as a substitute for pickled capers. In Egypt and the Far East, special species are grown for their leaves, not the root.

Since ancient times the radish was known as digestion aid, as the Mishna says: “Radish helps the food dissolve, lettuce helps the food digest, cucumber makes the intestines expand.” (Avodah Zara, 11) It is also named as a fever reducer that relieves the common cold. “The radish is good for the feverish.” (Rashi, Avodah Zara 28). Their long-renowned healing virtues are supported today by nutritional data showing the daikon and radish to be rich in vitamin C and digestion-aiding enzymes.

In an article in praise of the daikon, Rebecca Wood, a guru of whole natural food, writes that the daikon purifies the blood, improves energy flow, accelerates metabolism, purifies the kidneys and cleanses the lungs. She suggests regular consumption of daikon to prevent the common cold, flu and respiratory infections. Wood touts daikon as a remedy for hangover, sore throat, and edema, and even testifies it to be a cancer-preventer. Click here for her personal brew for treating asthma and respiratory ailments, tasty and useful.
And to top it all – the daikon is simply tasty. Its taste and texture are somewhere between the radish and turnip- its pungency is more delicate than the radish and its sweetness intensifies in cooking.

As comic relief, here’s a true story from a few years ago about the daikon as a local hero: In 2005, a huge daikon captured the heart of residents in the western Japanese village of Aioi after it broke through asphalt to bloom, despite difficult conditions.

daikon radish

After a few months, the residents were shocked to discover that an anonymous hand had amputated the stubborn root coined “the gusty radish.” The attempted radish murder opened the news broadcasts, with the gory details that the upper half of the vegetable had been found nearby. Local authorities announced that the amputated half of the radish was now immersed in water in City Hall, in the hope to keep it alive, perhaps make it bloom.

daikon radish beheaded

As to why so many people fell in love with the amiable root usually found on their table, a spokesman noted, “people disappointed from the difficult times drew solace from its earnest, strong will to live.”

Japan was not the only place that an anonymous radish influenced so many lives and brought about philosophical musing. A story by Shalom Aleichem, For One Radish tells of Yentl who became Natalia when she married Sashek (formerly Yakov) and lived the life of an assimilated madam in the big city, with occasional pangs of consciousness and longing for the little shtetl of her youth. One night she wakes up full of longing… for a radish: “I dreamt I saw a small dish full of precious, white, crystal pure radishes, salted with onion and fat. In my dream, my soul was craving, the radish was so good, so beautiful to the eye and soul…” Immediately, the servant is sent to the market to purchase a “precious, gentle and refreshing radish” and the voluptuous dish is prepared for the lady. Her husband, who returns from work early, is furious that a radish was allowed in his house, for it is a Jewish food. As it turns out, this radish was not at all innocent, evoking memories and strong feelings in them both until the inevitable ending. A fitting denouement for a radish in the starring role….

Tips for Storing and Using Radishes and Daikon:

To prevent radishes (and daikon) from becoming “dry as a radish,” they must be refrigerated. First, remove the leaves so that they will not draw moisture from the root. Afterwards, place the root in a plastic bag or in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
If, despite it all, the radish becomes shriveled and pathetic, place it in a bowl of ice water to revive the radish and restore its firm texture.
Daikon (and also radishes!) can be cooked–Some say that’s the best way of all.
A Japanese secret for cooking daikon: use rinse water from rice, or a bit of rice vinegar, to retain the daikon’s whiteness and moderate the bitter, sharp taste.
In cooking, peel the daikon to reduce the bitterness found primarily in the peeling and to prevent stringiness. The root itself is sweet and crunchy.
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Winter Recipes for a Heat Wave: Potatoes and Lots of Daikon

With our first batch of potatoes this winter, Gal from Motza sent me this recipe. I’ve  saved it for you till more potatoes appeared:

Homemade Potato Salad
Ingredients:
4-8 potatoes, depending on size
2 hardboiled eggs
2-3 scallions
Cilantro
Sharp-tasting olive oil
Salt (best with gray Atlantic salt)
Pepper, freshly ground

Preparation:
Cook unpeeled potatoes in salt water till soft but not crumbly. Peel and cut into cubes.
Add hardboiled eggs cut into cubes, scallion rings, and chopped cilantro.
Add generous amount of olive oil. Add salt and pepper, and mix.
May be served hot, cold or at room temperature. (Best when refrigerated overnight.)
Delicious addition: lightly cooked green fava beans

Hot Daikon and Carrot Salad
(What to do with all that daikon and those green onions)
Howard from Jerusalem writes:
I got this recipe from Elisheva Blum of Jerusalem.  We used to leave the daikon until last, not knowing how to use it, other than to throw it in soup.  We also usually have too many green onions.  This is a great and delicious solution:

Ingredients:
Daikon
Carrots
Green onions
1 T soy sauce
Olive oil (or sesame seed oil)
Honey
Ginger (optional)

Preparation:
Shred equal amounts of daikon and carrots.  Add chopped green onions.  Sauté in olive oil (or sesame seed oil, says Elisheva.)  Add 1 T soy sauce and a touch of honey.  We think fresh ginger would go well with it, but haven’t tried it.  Serve over brown rice.  We finished it all in one sitting.  Problem solved.

One link:
Braised Daikon

And now Lobsong’s daikon recipes—two variations of a similar base:

Daikon and Cheese
(I tried it and it was excellent!)

Ingredients:
Oil for frying
1 chopped onion
4-5 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 chopped tomatoes
2-4 daikons (depending on size) peeled and sliced into match sticks (2-4 cm. wide)
Garam masala (or other spice of your choice)
Hard yellow cheese, grated
Chopped cilantro

Preparation:
Saute onion and garlic. Add chopped tomatoes and continue to lightly fry for 3-4 minutes.
Add daikon sticks and spices and continue to cook for around 7 minutes.
Remove from heat. Add grated cheese and cover for 5-10 minutes to melt cheese.
Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve.

Daikon and Meat

Ingredients:
Oil for frying
1 chopped onion
4-5 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 chopped tomatoes
½ kilo chopped meat
2 daikons, peeled and sliced into rings (or any shape desired)
Black pepper
Water to cover
½ kilo dough (we mixed flour and water till dough was not sticky)
Chopped cilantro

Preparation:
Sauté onion and garlic, add chopped tomato and continue to lightly fry for 3-4 minutes.
Add meat, sauté/cook until meat browns.
Add daikon slices, season with black pepper and mix lightly.
Add water to cover and bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, prepare the dough, taking care that it is not sticky, but not over-floured.
Roll dough into a long pipe, then stretch it (in the air) into a very thin triangle.
Using your fingers, clip the dough into small pieces and drop into mixture boiling in pan.
Add water as desired—For a thick stew, do not add any water. For a thinner dish, add water and adjust spices.
Add cilantro last.

Aley Chubeza #10 – Purim

Purim Costumes for Flower Flirts

In a classic Nafoch Hu, Purim transformed our summer-in-the-winter into a rainy, stormy Purim, just like it should be. And like a Purim costume that makes us feel a little different for just one day, the winter-disguised-as-a-heat-wave wasn’t really summer, and the earth didn’t really dry up. Instead, one passionate bout of rain filled the farm with giant gay puddles, revealing that under that deceiving summer cloak, wintry drenches and mud would emerge to create one sticky, swampy place. We’re now gearing up for some very muddy harvest days ahead.

In honor of Purim, I collected some Purim spiel from previous newsletters, about costumes and tricks played by Mother Nature.

Flowers and animals dress up in nature all year long. They long ago discovered the power of imitation and make-believe. Contrary to the notion that a costume is only skin-deep, there are cultures, especially ancient ones, that consider dressing up and sporting masks to be powerful tools for gaining the preferred traits of the character they impersonate. Flowers prove the worth of this theory, big time. They dress up in a variety of beguiling ways and play a host of tricks to hit their very clear aim: the pollen, or rather, the fertilization. I mean, of course, seeds and continuity. Here are some of their schemes:

Some flowers choose costumes from the queen/princess/bride genre, so adored by girls of a certain age (and their proud mamas). They adorn themselves in pink angelic muslin and lace fluttering in the breeze, as if to say, “Hey, look me over, oh handsome butterflies (or flies/bees and other gnats… whatever is flying). Catch how pretty I am, how sensitive, how ladylike. Definitely worth a visit— perhaps a kiss?

pink flower3pink flower2pink flower1

Other flowers opt for the “super-hero” genre (Superman, Spiderman, etc.). They’re bereft of nectar themselves, but they dress up as their nectar-laden cousins in order to attract insects to drink from them–and if the insects just happen to pass some pollen on the way, would they mind terribly fertilizing them by pollination? There are some beautiful orchids, which are actually impersonators. The Iris group Oncocyclus (royal iris) employ the same tricky technique.

royal iris

Sometimes flowers don’t imitate their brothers, but rather the insects. The underlying psychological motive is that the insect, too, is searching for love. If a flower tricks the insect into thinking she’s his beschert, surely he will swoop down on the flower and ride off into the sunset. Take a look at the photos, and see if even you are confused:

The Fabaceae flower look like a butterfly (they are also known as Papilionaceae, from the French word for “butterfly”)

pea flower

The Ophrys (“Bee orchid”) looks just like a bee:

dvoranit

And the Daucus carota flower appears to be proudly flaunting a good-looking fly in the centerfold, just waiting for Prince Charming Fly to pay a visit:

carrot flower

May we all have a happy and cheerful week, carefree and filled with fun.

Alon, Bat Ami and the Chubeza team

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This week’s basket includes:

Monday: cucumbers, cilantro, potatoes, parsley root, carrots, tomatoes, broccoli, celery, daikon, kohlrabi, green garlic or green onions

In the large box, in addition: cauliflower, fava beans, parsley

Wednesday: broccoli, tomatoes, parsley, parsley root, daikon, kohlrabi, peppers, green garlic, carrots, cucumbers, celery.

In the large box, in addition: cauliflower, cilantro, fava beans

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Recipes for the Return of the Winter:

Lobsong’s Thantuk Soup

(As requested by Michal)

Ingredients:

  • Oil for frying
  • One bunch scallions (the bulbs)
  • Parsley root and celery root (most essential—these are the main seasonings)
  • Daikon
  • Tomato
  • Your choice of additional hard winter vegetables: kohlrabi, carrot, potato, etc.
  • Add leaves, if desired: turnip, daikon and radish leaves best enhance Lobsong’s soup.
  • If these varieties aren’t available, others can be substituted, but relatively coarse leaves such as kale or Swiss chard are best.
  • Lamb bones (optional)
  • Approx. ½ kilo flour
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Soy sauce/vinegar
  • Chopped scallions (the green part)

Preparation:

  • Chop all the vegetables into relatively small pieces
  • Heat oil on high flame, add chopped vegetables, cover with chopped leaves, and stir-fry for around 10 minutes until vegetables just become soft.
  • If using lamb bones, add them at this point.
  • Add water and bring to a boil.
  • Prepare dough: Mix flour and water to form a firm, but workable dough. Yield should be around 400 grams of dough. Roll into 4 or 5 hotdog-diameter strands. Using oiled hands, stretch and squeeze each strand repeatedly till achieving a long, 4-cm. wide noodle.
  • When vegetables are soft and the soup is almost ready, clip the noodles to 3-cm. lengths, using your fingers. Add to boiling soup, and continue cooking soup and noodles for an additional 2-3 minutes before removing from flame.
  • To serve: Drizzle several drops of soy sauce or vinegar, according to taste, and sprinkle soup with chopped green onions.

 

Ruti from Jerusalem requested suggestions for using the celery that’s been accumulating. In such a case, I usually prepare celery marinades such as these two recipes:

Marinated celery, hellenic style

Marinated Celery Salad

And two more hearty options from your box this week:

Kohlrabi Soup

Winter Vegetable Casserole

Aley Chubeza #9 – February 22-24 2010

A few messages: We will commence with a few words about one of our very devoted volunteers, Rachel Ben Chaim, who for the past year has reported every Monday, rain or shine, to put in a long workday.

Rachel is a Chi Kung instructor. For those of you unfamiliar with Chi Kung (or  Qì Gōng), this internal Chinese meditative practice incorporates slow, graceful movements and controlled breathing techniques to promote the circulation of chi (energy) within the human body, and enhance overall health. The conscious movement promotes inner calm, a good physical feeling and clear thought. The practice is simple and deep and can be adapted for all.

rachelThe practice generates changes in everyday life, in a broader sense: letting go, going with the flow. Chi Kung is appropriate for those who suffer from lack of energy and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS and FMS).

More details can be viewed here. From our acquaintance with Rachel, I can assure you that meeting with her will be an interesting, pleasant and professional experience. She can also be reached by phone at 052-3905694.

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And on a different, delectable note, we are pleased to introduce you to Yiftach’s Bread. I met Yiftach through Einat from Tel Aviv, a veteran client who discovered his bread and fell in love. And rightfully so, because it is a very unique product: sprouted spelt bread. The flyer he included with his bread is a paean to this special food, as you see:

Yiftach’s sprouted spelt bread is made of first-rate organic spelt grains that are sprouted in mineral water in a controlled and meticulous manner. They are ground by a special technique with natural sea salt from the Atlantic Ocean, without any additional flour, fat, sugar, yeast or leaven. The handmade loaves are baked at a low temperature. These elements combine to provide you with a primary loaf of bread, rich with the flavors of grains and fields, deeply fragrant and earthly-textured, tempting the palate and imagination and heightening the experience of savoring bread.

For further information, refer to Yiftach’s flyer, included in your box this week, and in an electronic form here.

Yiftach bakes his bread every two weeks. The process of sprouting and baking is a long, complex one, so it is recommended to order the bread a week in advance. To make it easier for you to calculate your order, Yiftach has prepared a table you can view here. For questions and orders (the first order can be made until this Friday, February 26), please contact me at 054-6535980 or by email.  

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And one last reminder: don’t miss our “gather and cook” session at Chubeza, led by Uri Mayer Chissik on Friday, March 5 at 9:00 AM.

We will begin with a round of introduction to edible wild plants and then proceed with a wild-plant cooking workshop.

Duration of workshop: 3 hours.   Cost for the tour, workshop and meal: 140 NIS per person, or 200 NIS per family.

Places limited– please register without delay! For details and registration: uri@mayerchissick.com or contact Uri at 04-6063699

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Venahafochu – A Heat Wave in the Heart of Winter

The past two weeks have been surprisingly hot days, especially since this is the middle of February! I heard on the radio that this has been the longest winter heat wave in 70 years! Where are the days of snow in Jerusalem on Purim? Of long underwear under rain soaked costumes? Of little Japanese parasols that become umbrellas and Indians with wet feathers? The optimistic weather report calls for a wintry Purim. Let’s hope…

We were divided in our attitude towards this heat wave. Some of us were happy (Lobsang, who recalled the blazing summer days when he nailed posts in the unrelenting Israeli sun, singing as he worked) and those who reflected with a shudder on how hot it will turn in four to five months (Alon Gilad kept mumbling, “We’ll sure miss this heat wave in August.”) I was very upset by the dryness, and deeply disappointed to have to turn on the watering system, as if we’d pulled out too early from some race that challenged our mettle to keep the sprinklers closed…

The field, too, was a little stunned by the fierce heat and dryness. As mentioned, we were forced to turn on the sprinklers, for the first time in three or four months. After a week of this heat, it became clear that the young plants needed water (the older ones already have deep roots and are able to reach the water that has accumulated at ground-level). Our new plants and the potatoes, that only entered the earth a week before the last storm, had to be watered 3-4 times weekly. The onions, planted in the hope that plentiful rains would encourage its growth, had to make do with artificial watering. On the other hand, it enjoyed the heat and began sprouting. Here and there we noticed a thin string, indicating a seed that bloated from the water and sent out its brave cotyledon (sprout, first leaf) to scout out the scene in the outside world.

Another spring sowing that was completed just before the rain was the zucchini. Our first zucchinis are the Baladi, introduced to us by Mohammed several years ago. These are the chubby, striped, delicious zucchini some of you recall from last year. They are planted first, in the beginning of February. Because, however, the planting should actually take place in the midst of wintertime, we mulch to warm it and cover the garden-bed with nylon row cover, creating a sort of warming tunnel. Sometimes it’s difficult to germinate the seeds due to an excess of rain during this time of the year. As you can probably guess, this year it was not a problem. We gave them a 10-minute drip every two days, and that sufficed. Many beautiful sprouts are already peeking out through the warm vapors that fill the little hothouse. Welcome!

Winter vegetables, on the other hand, are not exactly enjoying the dryness and heat, as you can see in your boxes. The cauliflower, cabbage, fennel and broccoli are smaller than their rain-swelled brothers of a month and two months back. The dryness is hard for them, the artificial watering doesn’t compare to the generosity of rain, and though the plants are holding in there, they are certainly not at their best. The heat, too, is hard on them. We laud their efforts, and join them in prayer that the rain comes this weekend.

The rest of the field is entering the spring regime: the agrils were removed from the leafy vegetables, a new plot was turned over, a new transport of chicken manure arrived and will soon be spread, and the pumpkin plots have been prepared, with a generous stripe of chicken manure in the center, mixed with the damp clods of earth. This week and next week we plan to plant our pumpkins, the Provence pumpkins and the precious Tripolian pumpkin. With them, we will sow their esteemed cousins, the Faccus, the cucumbers and the zucchinis. Spring is in the air!

Last Wednesday you started receiving green garlic. Green garlic is actually regular garlic that is picked a little earlier, at its younger stage. Its leaves are green, and it is not so pungent, though very special. This is a good opportunity to introduce you to an earlier stage of this great vegetable, and an opportunity for us to avoid spraying the garlic. Garlic is particularly vulnerable to an attacking fungus, and organic prevention dictates spraying it with a copper mixture. Copper is a natural mineral, which is why it is permitted for use in organic farming (albeit with caution, as it has a high level of toxicant.) For us, spraying with copper would be like failing ourselves: we strive to maintain a delicate balance between beneficial insects (carnivores) and vegetarian insects (who eat our vegetables) to keep the ecosystem strong and secure, and copper threatens the balance by harming to many insects. Thus we prefer to pick garlic earlier and offer it to you in form of green garlic.

green garlic

So far this year, most of the garlic is growing nicely, and the plots are relatively clean. We hope to wait as long as possible and pick as much of this great garlic, which will be dried in the field and stored in ventilated baskets in the packing shed for distribution to you during springtime and summer. The green garlic can be used for its green leaves/stems: use 6-15 cm of the base of the stem, from the part that’s closer to the head, which is particularly tasty and lush. Like the leek, the stem of the green garlic can catch earth between its leaves, so wash them well before use. Green garlic can be stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Like dry garlic, green garlic has a host of versatile uses: chopped and added to salads, made into spreads, added to sauces, blanched, lightly sautéed, added to omelets, bread dough, soup, quiches, etc. One stem of green garlic is equivalent to one or two cloves of dry garlic.

And some general information about garlic: long before its renowned virtue as a vampire repellent, garlic was used throughout the world. It is mentioned in the Bible, in Confucius’ Chinese writing, and for Chinese rituals. In Egypt, too, garlic achieved a laudable stature, and the pyramid-building slaves were fed lots of garlic– which they couldn’t seem to forget (“we remember… the onions and garlic” Numbers, 11:5). The Vikings and Phoenicians never embarked upon a voyage without stocking up on garlic. The Greeks gave great credence to garlic’s many virtues. Aristophanes recommended garlic to athletes and soldiers to bolster their courage. Garlic is said to banish evil: decking your door with wreaths of garlic will ward off witches and vampires. Add garlic to your horse’s bridle, and victory is yours. And, should you happen to encounter a bullfight, a strand of garlic ‘round your neck will protect you from the horns of the raging bull.

Before we close, we extend a bounty of good wishes and hugs to our Alon, Maya and Geffen, who were blessed with a beautiful baby boy this Sunday afternoon. Being born on the seventh of Adar is a great attribute (traditionally, the day of Moses’ birth and death), and also to be a boy among the Chubeza team’s babies (mostly girls) is no small feat. Much happiness, love and family time to you all!

Wishing you all a good week, which will hopefully be capped by rain,

Alon, Bat Ami and the Chubeza team

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This week’s basket includes:

Monday: lettuce, cucumbers, cauliflower, parsley, tomatoes, broccoli, celeriac, green or red cabbage, kohlrabi, green garlic, cilantro/dill

In the large box, in addition: radishes, leeks or green onions, spinach

Wednesday: broccoli, red or green cabbage, tomatoes, parsley, celery, kohlrabi, cauliflower, fava beans, lettuce, cucumbers, dill

In the large box, in addition: small radishes/daikon, green onions, green garlic

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Good Green Garlic Recipes

For our newest (green garlic) arrival, some tasty serving suggestions and also a green garlic pesto picture essay from Julia of Mariguita farm, a CSA farm in California.

Aley Chubeza #8 – February 15-17 2010

This week I cordially invite you to visit the farm for a different experience: not to explore the cultivated vegetables we grow, but rather the wild nature that surrounds them and the nourishment that it provides.

Coming soon is an open “gather and cook” session with Uri Mayer-Chissick, scheduled for Friday, March 5, 2010 at 9:00 AM. Following a round of introduction to edible wild plants will be a wild-plant cooking workshop.

Duration of workshop: 3 hours.

Cost for the tour, workshop and meal: 140 NIS per person, or 200 NIS per family.

Places limited– please register without delay! For details and registration: uri@mayerchissick.com or contact Uri at 04-6063699

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Umbrella or Parasol?

Last Thursday we were sweating at work. Not because we were thinning the parsley root or weeding the garlic, such easy and comfortable tasks, but mostly because of the scorching sun. It was hard to believe that only a week before, Alon and I had been so anxious over our young plants’ ability to withstand the frost and bitter cold rumored to be looming ahead. We’re no strangers to Israel’s capricious weather, yet we are constantly taken aback by the radical changes: one day we leave the house with an umbrella, the next day we need a parasol.

All these thoughts about umbrellas and parasols reminded me of the highly esteemed family flocking to the farm these days, the Umbelliferae‘s. This wintry-scented family includes the carrot, fennel, celery (leaves and root), parsley (leaves and root), parsnip, dill and cilantro, as well as other edible plants we don’t grow at Chubeza, like anise, cumin, caraway, etc. The family’s name was coined from the shape of its flowers, resembling small parasols or umbrellas. Here’s a look:

Umbelliferae flower

Each of these Umbelliferae’s consists of a few small umbrelliferaes called umbels, with tiny white or yellow flowers. And number five is their lucky number: each flower has five sepals, five petals and five stamens. Numerous insects are drawn to the nectar secreted by the myriad of flowers, and they pollinate the flowers. The sweet umbrella also attracts many cooperative insects, like ladybugs, parasitic wasps and predatory flies that hunt and consume insect pests on nearby plants. This nice crowd that visits our farm during wintertime, specifically at the blooming stage, encourages those omnivorous beneficial insects that are extremely important to our agriculture, based around creating a balance in the field and avoiding unnecessary crop spraying. After the early-blooming dill or coriander finish their job as a seasoning herb, we let them grow wild in the field: Aside from the pleasure we derive from their gentle fragrance carried in the wind, they greatly assist in maintaining the ecological system in the field.

This family is very diverse both in its functions and in the edible sections each plant features: roots (carrots, celery root, parsley root, parsnip); stems that are chubby (fennel) or long and crunchy (celery); herbs (parsley, cilantro, dill); and seeds (cumin, anise, coriander, dill, fennel, caraway.) But as in many families, certain members are truly toxic, like the Hemlock (whose potion killed Socrates). Some of the Umbelliferae’s, such as the seeds of the wild carrot, were used in old folk medicine as natural contraceptives.

The agricultural treatment of these family members varies from one another: the celery, celery root and fennel arrive at the farm from the nursery as young plants, and are planted in set, defined spaces. The rest of the family–carrots, herbs and parsley root — are sowed from tiny seeds, usually with our hand-seeder, and then we wait for them.

And wait.

And wait.

And wait.

We exercise much patience until we start catching site of our little sprouts, which resemble two thin tongues peeking from the ground. In the case of herbs, we usually don’t need to thin out the sprouts, but the carrot and parsley root receive a diligent, accurate process of thinning. We try to learn from experience, and although we have a merciful inclination to let as many sprouts live and grow, we need to be mindful of the wisdom to distribute fewer plants and allow them more breathing space. Otherwise the result is tiny carrots or parsley roots.

The years at Chubeza were a gradual and good learning curve in terms of carrot- growing. The parsley root is a young growth in our field, now in its third year, with each year bringing a new learning and improving experience. Especially in terms of weeding and thinning. This year we even learned from one planting cycle to another, and with every thinning we made sure to leave more space, to allow more breathing room and more area for the roots that remain in the garden bed. I believe you have been observing this evolution in your boxes, as these vegetables grow before your very eyes. In the first cycle they were very small, while we hope this last cycle will yield good-sized produce.

After they have matured, the celery and fennel are reaped at their base, while the carrot, parsley root and celery are pulled from the ground (sometimes with the help of the pitchfork). In contrast, the herbs are cut at different heights to allow their renewed growth. The cilantro and dill give us 2-3 harvests during a cold winter. The parsley, a biennial plant, can be harvested many times and hold up in the field for over a year!

These fellows beneath the parasol provide us many scents and aromas. Reaping the cilantro or fennel can be a very pleasant experience. Imagine that with every slice you make, the air is filled with one of these whole-bodied winter fragrances.

On this aromatic note, I would like to wish Lobsang a happy new year (Losar, the Tibetan New Year, falls on February 14th this year.) And a happy new year and a new agricultural happy, fruitful season to us all.

Alon, Bat Ami and the Chubeza team

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This week’s basket includes:

Monday: lettuce, green onions, beets, dill/cilantro, leek, tomatoes, broccoli/cauliflower, celery, red cabbage, kohlrabi/daikon, cucumbers

In the large box, in addition: fennel, mustard greens, parsley root

Wednesday: broccoli/fava beans, red cabbage, tomatoes, parsley, celeriac, Swiss chard/mustard greens, cauliflower, green garlic, leek, lettuce, cucumbers

In the large box, in addition: beets, green onions, fennel/kohlrabi

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To the Victor Goes—-the Parsley

The common parsley (Petroselinum crispum), which we nonchalantly sprinkle over salads or cook in soups, is associated in Western culture with such heavy-duty issues as life and death, wars and victories, romance and break-ups.

Parsley’s been present here in the Mediterranean for many years, originating in southern Europe and the Mediterranean basin. The spice is first mentioned in ancient Greece. The Greeks wore garlands of parsley to celebrate victory, and would scatter parsley leaves upon gravestones. They are also the ones who gave it its name, attempting to differentiate between parsley and its cousin, the celery. The title Petroselinum means “rock celery,” as opposed to heleioselinon – marsh celery (regular celery), which grows near water sources. Perhaps because it was a holy symbol of victory and death, Greeks never served parsley as food!

The first to actually use parsley in cooking are the Romans, but parsley owes its culinary victory to Italian princess Catherine de’ Medici, who married a Frenchman but refused to leave home without her Italian spices. From there, it was a short and tasty path towards parsley’s required presence in every kitchen in the area.  

Leaf parsley, as opposed to that grown for its thick root, has two types of leaves: flat or curly. Curly leaf parsley is often used as a garnish. The flat leaf is the more common one, used in cooking for its rich content of essential oil apiol which gives it a stronger taste.

In Greek mythology, parsley is tied to the story of baby Archemorus, son of the Nemean king Lycurgus, who was left alone by his nursemaid and bitten to death by a snake. When the nurse lifted the dead child, she found a parsley bush beneath, which legend said grew from the boy’s blood. In his memory, the Greeks established the Nemenean Games in which a eulogy was recited in memory of the dead child, and the winners were crowned with parsley garlands. This is how the parsley became a holy plant associated with honoring the memory of the dead. In the same context, parsley was dedicated to Persephone, queen of the underworld, who spends autumn and winter in the underworld and surfaces in springtime, spurring blossoming and renewal. Another underworld creature linked to parsley is Charon, ferryman of Hades, who carried souls of the newly- deceased across the River Acheron that divided between the world of the living and the world of the dead. To convince him to take the dead to the hereafter, it was customary to use parsley at funerals and bury it near the grave.

And in an altogether different function: Children on the island of Guernsey in the Channel Islands who ask where babies come from are told that they’re dug out of the parsley patch by golden rakes.

Parsley arrangements adorned festive tables in Greece and Rome. Wearing a parsley wreathe was considered helpful for freshening bad breath (even garlic breath), eliminating the scent of wine and for sobering up the intoxicated.

In one of his tales, Greek biographer Plutarch tells about the life of Timoleon, a Sicilian warrior from the town of Corinth, who set out to protect the city of Syracuse against the invading Carthaginians surrounding the city from the west. Timoleon was only able to muster 3,000 soldiers to face an army 10 times their might. When they climbed the hill to observe the Carthaginians, they encountered a convoy of oxen laden with parsley. The frightened soldiers saw this as cause for alarm, but Timoleon delivered an impassioned speech in which he proclaimed that the gods had sent them their victory crowns. Immediately, he made himself a crown of parsley, and his officers followed suit. Sure enough, the Sicilians braved the invaders, thanks to their skill and the patronage of a sudden rainstorm that blocked the armored and cumbersome Carthaginians.

Since she has been in this region for a good while and seen empires rise and fall, seasons change, and stars be born and die, Ms. Parsley has all the time in the world. She sprouts very slowly. In cold temperatures, this can take forever. Sometimes we’re almost dismayed when a month goes by with no sign of the parsley, but just then, right as we’re ready to give up, suddenly the soft green strings emerge. And as soon as it sprouts, it’s here to stay. Parsley survives heat and cold, sun and partial shade, continuing to grow green leaves even after many harvests– alive and kicking long after the cilantro and dill go to flower and seed. In contrast to the annual plants, she is a biennial, staying around for two years before blooming and seeding.

Parsley has always been popular in home gardens and in window boxes. Different reasons have been attributed to parsley’s growth, perhaps because the seeds sprout so slowly. In cold England, the belief is that the parsley seeds pay a few visits to Satan and back before they can sprout. This is why sprouting parsley seeds under glass is a good idea in cold weather, since it warms the ground and perhaps halts the visit to the underworld.

An ancient belief is that parsley only grows in homes where the woman is dominant. Or there are others who claim that parsley only grows for witches and cruel women (dominant or not)… Also, if your parsley has already sprouted and grown, don’t dare dig it out, as this will bring bad luck. Or- if you give someone your parsley, you give away your luck as well. So next time you move, try to find an apartment with a window box that holds parsley.

But aside from matters of luck, parsley is good for us. The first proof of this comes from my husband’s favorite childhood book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, with the story of hungry Peter Rabbit, a farmer’s nightmare: “First he ate some lettuce and some broad beans, then some radishes, and then, feeling rather sick, he went to look for some parsley.”

As a veteran of the western world, parsley is known as a rich source of a host of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C (three times more than citrus!), folic acid, beta-carotene – pro-vitamin A, potassium and magnesium. But lately it’s been glorified yet again, this time by the Asians: Japanese research has recently discovered a new vitamin, pyrroloquinoline quinine (or PQQ). The previous vitamin was discovered in 1948! This vitamin, which is most likely connected to the vitamin B group, is involved in encouraging fertility, and researchers believe it has other health advantages. Good sources of PQQ are parsley, green tea, green pepper, papaya, nato (fermented soy beans) and kiwi.

Herbs in the Umbelliferae family, among them our friend the parsley, contain phytochemicals, many of which have cancer- preventing attributes. These phytochemicals block hormonal activity that is linked to the development of cancer. Throughout history, parsley has been used to treat a variety of medicinal problems. It seems like the ultimate magic potent: drinking a parsley brew is good for treatment of indigestion, urinary tract infections and kidney diseases. For swollen eyes, it’s best to use a compress of brewed parsley liquid. Parsley helps lower both cholesterol and blood pressure; it prevents the formation of blood clots and protects against heart diseases and arteriosclerosis. Parsley eases menstrual pain and can be used externally for skin problems. In addition, parsley bolsters the immune system, acts as an antiseptic, helps purify the body from toxins and is good for preventing water retention, including edema and overweight. Parsley is helpful in preventing dysentery and is beneficial for the lungs, stomach, liver and thyroid gland. However, pregnant women and nursing mothers are cautioned not to consume large quantities of parsley or use parsley liquid, for it can stimulate the uterus and dry up the milk. We’re discussing large, medicinal quantities, not small pinches…

Tips:

  • Store parsley wrapped in paper in a plastic bag, refrigerated. The paper will absorb the excess moisture, and the plastic bag will keep it from over-drying.
  • Parsley loses vitamins in the cooking process. In order to coax the most taste and nutrients from parsley, add it only at the final stages of cooking or sprinkle fresh over prepared food.
  • Chewing parsley leaves after eating garlic eliminates the garlic smell from your breath (replacing it with parsley-breath…)

Recipes:

Parsley-Garlic Chimichurri Recipe

Parsley Pesto with Walnuts Pasta: Vegan Recipe

Taboule

Parsley Hummus with Whole Wheat Pita Chips

Garlic Parsley Mushrooms

And in preparation for Passover: Matzo Balls With Nutmeg and Parsley

 

Aley Chubeza #7, February 8th-10th 2010

The Winter Kinds

Last weekend’s nights were extremely frigid ones. With temperatures dropping close to Zero, it’s real winter everywhere. Our vegetables, of course, need to brave this weather, and though we worry about them and try to assist them in all possible ways, their main fortitude is in the way they cope with winter- they instinctively know how to adapt. This week I’ll tell you about some of the ways they protect themselves during these cold, rainy conditions.

One group of vegetables that easily confronts wintertime with maximum protection is the root vegetables. Botanically, they don’t belong to one family, but they all share a single survival strategy: burying themselves deep underground and covering up under a blanketing coat of earth. The carrot, beet, celery and parsley roots, various radishes, and potatoes all survive winter well, thanks to their thick, strong root that is well protected underground, bunkered up against the perils of hail, frost and other winter calamities.

In truth, winter is good for them. When the beets started maturing in autumn, Michal was disappointed. She had been waiting for the delicious beets she remembered from last year, and these- she pointed out – were anemic, not even sweet. We promised her those were autumn beets, and the cold winter would change everything. And aren’t we right! Usually the plant sends sugars to the stems and leaves to stimulate growth and development. But when it’s so cold outside, the plant “bunkers up” and drops its sugars to the most protected place, its underground secret hiding place: the root. And that turns the carrots and beets really sweet. The carrot, which grows within the earth and hardly ever sneaks a peek above, knows how to protect itself especially well. Extreme cold improves its taste, and I have been told that the very best carrots are those that survive a snowstorm.

If anyone can tell us about a vegetable patch in the Golan these days, I would love to hear!

Another wintery family that comes fully outfitted with a winter wardrobe ensemble is the cabbage family, complete with their own excellent accessories. The first, a pudgy physique: very solid, but also short, the type that won’t blow away with any wind. Their wide leaves are built to take advantage of each sunray that passes, using it to grow giant, strong, tree-like plants. Another of their amazing characteristics is the ability to use their big, wide leaves to stand huge quantities of rain without rotting. They do this with the help of a waxy cloak that covers the leaves. When the first raindrops fall, they are not absorbed into the texture of the leaf, but rather elegantly trickle downward to water the plant. Here are some descriptive pictures:

          

Now aren’t they beautiful?

At Chubeza, we cover our leafy greens which are less resistant to the extreme cold, winds and other winter damage– lettuce, kale, Swiss chard, spinach, parsley, garden rocket, etc.– with “Agril” row covers. These are made from a thin, spunbonded polypropylene fabric which is sunlight, rain and air-permeable and are spread over the plants with arcs and held down by homemade weights. The covers warm the sensitive leaves a bit and protects them from the hail. It looks like the Agril has done a good job over the past few nights, as our greens are safe and sound.

And last but not least, last week’s friend the fava bean, itself a strong and sustainable plant, grows throughout the winter and blooms towards its end. This year we seeded favas earlier, so they are producing around this time. But past experience has taught us to take special care to sow later rounds of fava, because this plant, which grows shoulder-high, can bend and even break during a strong storm or extreme frost. Such a threat exists specifically when the fava is already rising. When the plants are still young and relatively short, they are safer. Two years ago there was a serious bout of frost in the field, badly hurting the fava. The plant did produce new branches, which we used, but was still damaged. From that experience, we learned that during this time of the year, we should also have young, short favas that will recover easily.

Ruth from Jerusalem told me an interesting story about the impressive recovery of favas during a difficult wintertime (thank you, Ruth!): Some ten years ago, during a particularly harsh Jerusalem winter, Ruth and her family grew favas in a small community pioneer garden (in the late agricultural farm in Baka). That winter it snowed (B’Karov Etslenu!) and the fava, which had already grown quite high, completely bent over, with many of the stems cracking under the heavy snow. Initially it seemed like there would be no fava crop that year, but to their surprise and great joy, the stubborn, hardy fava reincarnated itself to produce new branches, resume its growth and make many precious, delicious fava pods!

So, with this happy tale of winter renewal, we send you wishes for a warmer week and a rainy, stormy, fruitful winter.

Alon, Bat Ami and the Chubeza Team

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This week in our box:

Monday: lettuce, carrot, red/green mustard greens, dill/parsley, tomatoes, broccoli, celery root, white cabbage, fennel, cucumber, red beets (only in small box)

In the big box, an addition of: kale, scallions, celery leaves, red beets

Wednesday: kohlrabi, green cabbage, tomatoes, parsley root, celery, mustard greens/arugula, beets, carrots, lettuce, cucumbers, green onions.

In the big box, an addition of: broccoli, fava beans, fennel/cauliflower

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Deep down under

 

There are many who think he’s evil, for some reason. In a futuristic comic strip titled Star Fruit Wars, there is a description of the battle the fruits and vegetables wage against mean old Celeriac, the evil celery tuber possessing super powers, who is trying to take over the world. But he only looks tough…

The celeriac has been described as the “vegetarian octopus,” but that description, too, is only skin-deep. On the outside, the tuber looks somewhat monster-like; rough, gnarled and usually dirty. But it is one of those creatures that harbors inner beauty which should not be missed, especially during its season — a rainy, cold winter. Those who like celeriac will grant it its due respect, and though it grows underground will affectionately call it a “celery head” (celeriac).

The celeriac, like its siblings the celery leaves, is a cultivated species. It was grown over the years by farmers vying for its thick root, thus seasonally selecting the celery variety producing the thickest, largest root. In its case, the stems remained short and thin, with a much more dominant taste than leaf celery– perhaps seeming inedible to many of you. In certain cases, the stems are also hollow like a straw (see tips for interesting uses…).

The celery grows slowly. It starts with tiny seeds that take their sweet time, 2-3 weeks, till they sprout. After this initial sprout, they need at least two months of devoted treatment in the warm temperature and protected environment of the nursery. Only after three months are they ready for planting. In our first year, we sowed celery ourselves in our plant hothouse, but the long process of tending to our “preemies” made it clear that we’d do better to buy the plants. Since then, we receive our toddlers at the age of three months, ready to leave their cube for the fruitful earth. Celery loves fertile dirt and lots of water. Originally it was a swamp plant, hence it adores humidity while in dirt and also during storage (see tips) — which is why in Israel it grows during wintertime. The Israeli winter is difficult and dry for the celery, which greatly dislikes water sprinklers. After three months in the nursery, it needs three additional months to ripen if picked for its leaves-stems. The variety that develops a thicker root is more patient, cuddling under the warm blanket of earth another month, as if unwilling to leave a warm bed to face the cold winter. A careful calculation will lead you to the conclusion that the silly little ball in your box these weeks started its journey from seed to tuber seven months ago!

The celery tuber tastes a bit like a cross between celery and parsley, similar to leaf celery, but sweeter and refined. Its history is similar to that of its swifter brother, the leaf celery. It too was cultivated from the wild breed that grew in European swamps, and east of the Himalayas. It was most probably domesticated somewhere in the Middle East, and was of medicinal value in ancient Egypt, China, Greece and Rome. Apparently, only in medieval times was it used as a vegetable, first described in Italian and Swiss botanical books from the 16th century, and gaining popularity in the 19th century. The celeriac is a very popular, widespread vegetable in Middle-Eastern countries and in Europe, but in England and its English-speaking colonies (U.S.A, Australia, etc.) it’s still relatively unknown.

In Israel, the celeriac is known mostly as a soup vegetable. In Europe, however, it is scalded, cooked or stuffed, or even served raw with some lemon juice to keep it from turning brown. In a classic French recipe, Céleri-Rave Rémoulade, it is served raw, cut into match-like sticks, dressed in lemon juice, mayonnaise and mustard. In Spanish Jewry tradition, it is a major component in the cooked salad (Apiu Ilado- see recipes). Celeriac goes well with potatoes, apples, lemon juice and cheeses. So try using it creatively: puree, make a quiche, grill it along with other root vegetables, slice thinly and fry in deep oil, like French fries, add it raw to salads- use your imagination!

 Celeriac Tips:

  • The hollow stem of the celery tuber can be sliced and used as a straw to quaff tomato-based beverages such as the Bloody Mary. The tomato juice that seeps through the straw will carry a hint of celery flavor.
  • The celery tuber can be kept well for 3-4 months if it is stored at a temperature of 0° -°5 in a moist surrounding. The moisture is important, as the tuber easily dries up.  Celeriac will not keep well in the freezer.
  • In order to facilitate peeling, the tuber can be cooked in its jacket and then peeled easily.
  • A peeled raw tuber should be kept in lemon juice or other acidic dressing to prevent oxidation and browning.

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Celeriac Recipes:

Smashed celeriac – Jamie Oliver

Celery root salad

Celery root soup – David Labovitz

Roasted Celery Root with Maple Apple Butter – Emeril Lagasse, Planet Green

Turkish celery root (Kereviz Kökü) – inspired by the book “Anatolian Feast”

Braised celery root (Apio Ilado) – 2 version, one from The Separadic Kitchen by Rabbi Sternberg, another from The Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Roden

Celerie-rave remoulade