All in the Family
This week we greet with gusto the amazing Broccoli, the last representative of the prominent Brasiccae family (“kings of winter”) to join your vegetable boxes this season. This diverse family runs the gamut of preferences and developments in plants: leaves, flower buds, and thickened stems. They all need fertile and fertilized earth, and in return they provide us with a heaping portion of health, nutrition and flavor. Not to mention beauty: take the cauliflower for example, with it shining white crown, or a purple or green rain-dotted head of cabbage, or Brussel sprouts which seem to be crawling up the stem to reach the top. This stunning pluralistic diversity is heartwarming – look at this family accepting each and every variation and tendency, manner of development, characteristic colors and precise flavor.
Granted, this branched-out developing took some time, during which each member of the family found the right rhythm to beat to. This happened mainly thanks to the curiosity and self-confidence of loyal farmers, during times when everything was much slower and patience was abundant (what other choice did they have?). Changes and developments were achieved by hard work and sweat of the brow, which perhaps led to a fuller, more significant satisfaction with the positive results.
Today’s pace of change and discovery is much swifter than it once was, but even in the distant, primitive past, farmers constantly refined their crops. Actually, many of the most amazing changes in species development came not as a result of structured research, but rather out of the simple act of a farmer choosing and collecting seeds from the plants s/he favored over seeds from less-desired plants. This straightforward action of promoting one plant over another had a profound effect on the improvement and change of a specific harvest or species. Long before wo/man understood the genetics of plants, their actions brought about small, slow variations in the crops, which compounded over time until they generated visible results.
The Brassicaceae family (or “cabbage family”) is a perfect example. All family members derive from one wild plant, the brassica oleracea, which originated in the Mediterranean area and resembles the canola in appearance. At some point after the plant was cultivated, people began growing it for its leaves. Since they consumed the leaves, it made sense to choose the plants that produced the largest leaves. As a result, those leaves became bigger and bigger, eventually creating the plant we now know as kale or collard. Kale’s botanical name is var. acephala, translating to “a headless cabbage.”
Others preferred plants that produced small, denser and more delicate leaves in the center of the plant at the head of the stem, hence advancing plants with those characteristics. Over the seasons, the process of compacting became more and more prominent in those plants, as they yielded a heap of dense, closed leaves on their heads. Over the years, it grew and evolved into a real “head of leaves” which we call cabbage, whose actual title is var. capitata, meaning “a cabbage with a head.”
Around the same time in today’s Germany, farmers preferred short, thick-stemmed kale. They ate the actual stem, and gradually, by choosing plants with a tendency for thick stems, the former cabbage began to alter its greatly-thickened stem. This turned into kohlrabi, which earned the name var. caulorapa, meaning “a stem turnip.”
Over the past thousand years, wo/man also developed a passion for the undeveloped flower buds of the cabbage and chose the plants that produced large-bloom heads. This is how we got cauliflower and broccoli, both different variations of an undeveloped cabbage plant. Cauliflower is var. botrytis, meaning “cluster,” for its resemblance to a cluster of grapes. Broccoli, which was developed in Italy, earned the title var. italica
And, as for the last member of this extended family: we each have our own individual taste, and apparently there were those (most probably the Belgians) who preferred plants that developed an assemblage of dense leaves along the stems. They chose and re-chose plants that produced this sort of leaf shape, and thus brought the world Brussels sprouts, titled var. germmifera “the cabbage with gems.”
In summary, this long, winding familial tale demonstrates that without a systematic education in genetics or plant propagation, but via a simple process of seed selection and a lot of patience, more than six distinctive vegetables have developed over the past 7000 years. Small, everyday miracles. They happen in the best of families.
May this week bring wonder, diversity, determination and faith that despite this very strange November weather we will soon be blessed with abundant rains.
Wishing the entire diverse family of Israel and it’s neighbors peaceful times,
Alon, Bat Ami, Dror, Orin, Yochai and the Chubeza team
WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES, ALONG WITH THE CABBAGE FAMILY?
Monday: Swiss chard/New Zealand spinach/kale/tatsoi, Lubia Thai yard-long beans/Iraqi lubia/Jerusalem artichoke, sweet potatoes, eggplant/red bell peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, cauliflower/broccoli, carrots, parsley/coriander/dill, lettuce/mizuna/arugula. Small boxes only: Baby radishes/daikon.
Large box, in addition: Cabbage/beets, scallions/celery, fennel/turnips, pumpkin/okra.
FRUIT BOXES: Avocados, bananas, oranges/clementina, pomelit, kiwi.
Wednesday: Swiss chard/New Zealand spinach/kale/tatsoi, Lubia Thai yard-long beans/Iraqi lubia/Jerusalem artichoke/okra, sweet potatoes, eggplant/red bell peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, cauliflower/broccoli, carrots, parsley/coriander/dill, lettuce/mizuna/arugula. Small boxes only: Baby radishes/daikon/turnips.
Large box, in addition: Cabbage/beets, scallions/celery, fennel/kohlrabi, slice of pumpkin.
FRUIT BOXES: Avocados, bananas/apples, clementina, kiwi.