Aley Chubeza #273, December 28th-30th – bye bye 2015

This week marks the end of December as well as 2015.  At the end of this week we will be charging your cards for this month’s purchases and will update your bill on our order system by the end of next week. Make note that this month had five Wednesdays, so your bills will most likely be higher than usual. 

You may view your billing history in our Internet-based order system. It’s easy. Simply click the tab “דוח הזמנות ותשלומים” where the history of your payments and purchases is clearly displayed. Please make sure the bill is correct, or let us know of any necessary revisions. At the bottom of the bill, the words  סה”כ לתשלום: 0 (total due: 0) should appear. If there is any number other than zero, this means we were unable to bill your card and would appreciate your contacting us. We always have our hands full, and we depend on you to inform us. Our thanks!

Reminder: The billing is two-part: one bill for vegetables & fruits you purchased over the past month (the produce that does not include VAT. The title of that bill is תוצרת אורגני, “organic produce”). The second part is the bill for delivery and other purchases. (This bill does include VAT. The title of the bill is “delivery and other products.”)

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 A Family Tale

Last week we experienced the sudden loss of my father-in-law, Shlomo. Shlomo was a man of many faces, but most prominent were his tenacity and determination to always stand by the decisions he made, patiently, diligently and over many years, stemming from faith in himself and in the power of small steps in order to make that great leap towards the final goal.

His death made me think a lot about differences and development, learning how much patience, time and slow rhythmic pace must be devoted to the changes we undergo as human beings, specifically those dealing with repair: growth, opening up, connecting and healing. It seems so often that destructive actions are fast and immediate, while building and repairing require placing stone upon stone, moment by moment, demanding diligence and perseverance as well as faith and hope.

These thoughts brought to my mind a newsletter I wrote a decade ago about the beloved Brasiccae family that is in our boxes throughout the entire winter. It dealt with the transformations that the Brasiccae underwent over many years, thanks to the curiosity and self-confidence of loyal farmers. So here is The Brasiccae Newsletter, in an End-of-2015 version:

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

The Brassicaceae family (or “cabbage family”) is a perfect example. All family members derive from one wild plant, the brassica oleracea, which originated in the Mediterranean area and resembles the canola in appearance. At some point after the plant was domesticated, people began growing it for its leaves. Since they consumed the leaves, it made sense to choose the plants that produced the biggest leaves. As a result, those leaves became bigger and bigger, eventually creating the plant we now know as kale or 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. Over the years, it grew and evolved into a real “head of leaves” which we call cabbage. Its actual title is var. capitata, meaning “a cabbage with a head.”

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

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

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

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

Wishing us all a week of wonder and variety, of stubbornness, faith and determination.

Enjoy the dry sunny days till the blessed rain returns, hopefully soon!

We wish you all a happy new 2016 year!

Alon, Bat Ami, Dror, Yochai and the entire Chubeza team

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WHAT’S JOINING THE BRASICCAE FAMILY IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Broccoli, coriander/parsley/dill, tomatoes, Chinese cabbage/lettuce, fennel/daikon/red radishes, kale/spinach/ Swiss chard,  cucumbers, sweet potatoes, carrots, cabbage/cauliflower. Small boxes only: celery stalk/celeriac.

Large box, in addition: Kohlrabi, arugula/red mizuna/totsoi, beets, Jerusalem artichokes.

Wednesday: red/yellow bell peppers, cucumbers, cilantro/parsley/dill, Swiss chard/spinach/kale, tomatoes, broccoli, lettuce/Chinese cabbage, kohlrabi, carrots, beets/daikon/turnips, cabbage/cauliflower.

Large box, in addition: sweet potatoes/Jerusalem artichoke, fennel, celery/celeriac

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

 

Aley Chubeza #267, November 9th-11th 2015

Cool-rabbi

kohlrabi-faces

Often the kohlrabi is likened to an alien, perhaps due to its green color and outreaching arms. Truth be told, he is the son of a prominent family, the Brassicaceae’s, which count among their members some very well-loved vegetables like the cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. But even the best of families has its somewhat neglected “ugly duckling” of a sort. However, we’re here to tell you that the kohlrabi is by no means ugly, it’s delicious, and it chalks up a champion score in the medicinal value department.

So our friend is indeed rather strange looking, and that is because he is a very unconventional phenomenon in the vegetable world. We know vegetables that are the fruit of the plant, or the leaves, or the flowers or even the roots, but this time it’s the stem! In the beginning of its growth, the kohlrabi looks a lot like the cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli or kale plant. It sprouts green leaves on an upright plant. But upon maturity, the kohlrabi searches for an individual identity, and suddenly its stem thickens, curves up and becomes ball-like until a round kohlrabi sits on the earth (not under it!), light green (or purple, depending upon the type), sweet and juicy.

The origin of its name derives from German: kohl=cabbage, rabi=turnip. But it isn’t really a hybrid of the two. The name was given perhaps because the vegetable belongs to the cabbage lineage, but looks like a turnip or a similar bulb. But that too is misleading, because the kohlrabi is neither a root nor a bulb, but rather a thickened stem.

kohlrabi1

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

The kohlrabi is speedier than the rest of his family, because we don’t have to wait for the plant to flower in order to get to the edible part (like the cauliflower or broccoli) or for the leaves to close (like the cabbage.) As a matter of fact, the kohlrabi should be picked early, when it hasn’t yet matured. A big kohlrabi means it was picked too late, and its texture is liable to be fibrous. This is also the reason you occasionally receive tiny kohlrabies. Sometimes the winter stops their growth, but a longer wait would have harmed the juicy, crispy texture, which is why they were picked small. The good news is that small-sized kohlrabis do not have to be peeled, as their skin is very soft and delicate.

Kohlrabi can be eaten in any form. It is customary to eat it raw, but it’s delicious grilled or roasted in the oven or an outdoor grill. It is super tasty when cooked or steamed, not only in soup, stir-fried in butter or baked with salt, white pepper and sage. Kohlrabi can even be pickled. In Chinese-food recipes, it can substitute for radish or turnips and for water chestnuts. Its leaves are similar in taste to kale and can be used similarly and added to soup, pasta sauces and stir-fries. The stems are hard and unusable. Take a peek at our recipe section to get ideas of non-conventional ways to use kohlrabi.

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

kohlrabis

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

Kohlrabi favors a cool climate. We try to lengthen the season as much as possible and plant it at the end of August. But we’re always plagued by doubts whether it’s the right time, as the first round of kohlrabi in our fields finds itself trying to battle the end of summer heat. When the poor vegetable suffers heat stress, it is more vulnerable to insects and other problems. The white fly is a most annoying tiny aphid that is very fond of kohlrabi and loves climbing all over it.

The white fly has a special passion for the brassicas, literally strangling them with love. It situates itself on their leaves and totally blackens their faces. The pest is nurtured by the plant and weakens it, while secreting large quantities of honeydew, a sticky sugary substance that attracts the sooty mold fungi which covers the leaves in black and decreases their ability to undergo photosynthesis. When it hits the kohlrabi, the result is white tasteless fruit and a very small yield. (Thankfully, only a handful of you met such sad kohlrabis a few weeks ago.)

The good news is that as the temperatures plunge, the fly becomes lethargic. In the middle of September during our second planting round, two weeks after the first, there was much less harm. (Sleep tight over your winter slumber, Annoying Fly.) We’re delighted to report that Chubeza’s current kohlrabi yield is quite fine, and the vegetables are green, juicy and delicious. This is the present harvest of our cool-rabi, so give it due respect and make room for it on your plates. That kohlrabi overcame a great deal to reach your homes and make your hearts and bellies sing.

We’d like to take this opportunity to send our warmest wishes to Majdi, who became engaged last week; to Gabby, who became a grandfather to tiny little Avigail, and to Yochai, who celebrated his birthday last week.

May happiness and love shower our days, and may this week be a calm one!

Alon, Bat Ami, Dror, Yochai and the rest of the Chubeza gang

WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

We’re still short of tomatoes, but the winter vegetables are here in their glory to fill your boxes and soothe the tomato anxiety a bit. The tomatoes are coming soon!

Last Wednesday, a sweet potato problem arose. Evidently the rain, the dampness and the cold took their toll on some of our sweet potato stock, and the sorting process didn’t catch the faulty produce. For those of you who received rotting sweet potatoes, kindly inform us so that we can compensate you.

Our apologies for the mishap!

Monday: Curly lettuce/bok choy/mizuna, coriander/ mint (nana), slice of pumpkin, radishes, potatoes/carrots/tomatoes, Swiss chard/kale/New Zealand spinach, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, arugula/mustard greens, beets/kohlrabi. Small boxes only: leeks.

Large box, in addition: Eggplant/bell peppers, celery, Thai beans/Jerusalem artichokes, fennel/ turnips.

Wednesday: Tomatoes, Swiss chard/kale/New Zealand spinach, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, coriander/ mint (nana)/dill, fennel/ turnips/radishes, arugula/mustard greens, Curly lettuce/bok choy/tatsoi, beets/kohlrabi, Thai beans/potatoes/carrots, Small boxes only: leeks/garlic chive.

Large box, in addition: Eggplant/bell peppers, celery, Jerusalem artichokes, slice of pumpkin

 

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

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

Rumanian Kohlrabi Soup

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

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

Kolhrabi Fritters

Kolhrabi Fritters

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

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