August 3rd-5th 2020 – The Long-Fingered Lady

The Shana Bagina calendar and weekly journal created annually by Ilana Stein, artist and gatherer, walk you through the direct connection between seasons and local agriculture and gathering.

They serve as a unique, detailed guide to domestic Israeli gardening and nature, accompanied by beautiful illustrations, tips for home gardening and seasonal vegan recipes.

The focus of the newest (sixth!) edition, “Thinking Global, Eating Local,” is dedicated to our amazing local vegetation.

Now is the time to get acquainted with the nutritious local plants in our surroundings, and to enjoy their availability and nutritional value.

A Year in the Garden products include a hanging/tabletop calendar, a weekly journal, and magnets with seeding schedules. Take a peek at the beautiful charm of Ilana’s calendar right here

Prices:
Hanging/tabletop calendar: 75 NIS
Weekly journal – 85 NIS
Pair of magnets: 27 NIS
(prices reduced for purchases in quantity)

A beautiful and distinctive gift for your loved ones (yourselves included…). Add these stunning calendars to your order via our order system.

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Okra – No Joke(ra)!

The day okra appears in your boxes, you know that summer has arrived in full force. Because okra is a summer tale of a plant born in Africa, which migrated north to the Arabian lands and the Middle East before eventually reaching the American Deep South aboard slave ships. In every locale, it flourished in the great heat.

This is also a tale of family warmth – of memories from our mothers’ and grandmothers’ (and lately our fathers’ and grandfathers’) kitchen, of delicious dishes whose magic is so much greater than the actual ingredients. Here too, warmth is a central component.

In my family as well, okra is a family tale. My father, a full-fledged Yekke (Jew of German origin) is an avid fan of okra and he passed his legacy on to us. I, in turn, introduced the love of okra to my daughters, to the point where the one who discovers the first okra delivery of the season immediately announces with glee: “Okra’s here! Let the season begin!” When they were younger, they loved cutting off the pod and discovering the little “stars” that appear when slicing the okra horizontally. As they grew, they began to concentrate on the flavor as well, and even an extra large skillet with okra stir-fried in lemon and garlic does not last long in our home.

Okra likes to prance around using her fancy name “Lady Fingers,” indicating that she must be treated with gentle respect. Before cooking, the tip must be gently cut off, taking care not to hurt the pod. In olden times, when a groom’s family wanted to “check out” a bride, they handed her a knife, a pile of okra, and put her to work. If she was able to properly slice it, this was a sign she was gentle and skilled.

But to the harvesters, okra does not put on her dainty lady show. Okra bush contain etheric oil, and any brush against them causes a terrible itch, which is why okra is harvested wearing long sleeves and gloves. This crop is harvested in large quantities, and we visit the okra beds every other day so as to avoid finding ourselves facing a lady who missed her date with the manicurist and let her nails grow out of control… Harvesting takes a really long time, as the pods must be searched for among the tangled brush of foliage and then picked one by one. Very personal treatment.

But although she is royalty, okra is also one of the only crops which does not force us to kneel down before it. The bushes quickly grow taller, reaching an impressive height of 3 meters! At that point, it is already high above us and we must bend its flexible branches in order to reach its pods. Another thing that makes us happy when we harvest okra is the beauty of its flowers. Okra belongs to the Malvaceae family (along with chubeza, cotton, hibiscus and hollyhock). Not many members of the family are edible, but they are all rather beautiful. Our okra boasts large, lush yellowish flowers, with a vivid purple center.

Okra began its domesticated path in the world over 1,000 years ago in tropical Africa, in the Ethiopia-Eritrea-Sudan area, where it can still be found growing wild today. From there it crossed the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia and took off to North Africa, the Middle East and India. It is unclear how this journey occurred, and there are very mysterious periods within okra history, but it did become a unanimously-loved food in all those countries. Okra arrived in Europe, compliments of the Muslim Moors, in the 12th century. It made its debut in the new American continent via two sources: African slaves hauled to the colonies carried okra to Brazil and South America, while simultaneously French settlers, who knew it from Europe, brought okra to Louisiana. Over the past decades, okra became a vaunted vegetable in the Asian kitchen, specifically the Japanese. So one does not have to be Egyptian or Greek to hold this vegetable in esteem.

The local okra variety indigenous to Israel has small – even tiny – pods. Traditional wisdom is to steer clear of a pod larger than your pinky, as this is a sign of an okra which is over-mature and too fibrous. On the contrary, the green and red okra variety that Chubeza grows is the Thai okra: longer, bigger and a bit less slimy. Don’t be put off by the size ­– it’s simply a different cousin, but not any less amazing than other family members. If I dare say so myself, in many recipes it’s even better!

(Thank you, Dafna. for the beautiful picture)

But despite its beauty, some people are repulsed by the modest okra. The reason generally cited is its “texture,” or in other words: “that slimy stuff that oozes out when it’s cooked.” That’s a pity, because that “slimy stuff” holds the okra in its Cinderella state, still in rags, waiting to be discovered for all its charms. There are many ways to reduce the slime, which I will get to soon, but let us first discover the charms of Cinderella.

One of the most amazing things about okra is that it can be used in a great variety of ways, some of which aren’t fully utilized today. We usually cook, roast or fry the young pods (3-5 days old), which is, of course, great. They are rich in vitamins K, A and C, plus folic acid, calcium, magnesium and potassium. The dietary fibers aid in preventing constipation and in stabilizing blood sugar levels by slowing down the process of sugar absorption in the digestive system. Okra also absorbs cholesterol and removes stomach acids containing the toxins that did not pass through the liver’s filtering system. Its dietary fibers are unique in that they feed the good intestinal flora. As it matures, okra’s fibers grow more and more rigid (which anyone who ever tried to chew a mature pod can attest to) and hold an unfulfilled potential as raw material for the rope and paper industry.

Yet its assets are not only in the pod fibers, but also in its little seeds: the oil produced from them is quite healthy and unsaturated, with characteristics resembling the lauded olive oil. The tiny seeds contain vegetal protein, like soybeans, and they are rich in tryptophan and contain amino acids – a most important combination for vegetarians. Ground okra seeds were used in the past (and in some places, in the present) as caffeine-free substitutes for coffee, like the chicory root.

But if you still wish to reduce the slime level in cooking, there are several options:

– Leave the pod whole (cut off the stem, but do not open the pod)

– Prepare quickly and easily by stir-frying or frying, not by lengthy cooking in liquids.

– Combine with acidic foods: tomatoes, lemon juice or vinegar.

Another surprising and attractive use for okra is in arts and crafts. Okra pods make fanciful dragons, or can be cut horizontally to become delicate star-shaped stampers. Note the pictures:

This week is a week of holidays: our Thai workers celebrated Queen Day last Tuesday, and the Muslim’s Eid El Adha on Sunday and Monday. And today – Wednesday – we celebrate Tu B’av – a day of love and partnership. Happy holidays to all!

Wishing everyone a healthy, fresh and festive week,

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

_______________________________________________

WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Cherry tomatoes/potatoes/bell peppers, lettuce, corn, watermelon/melon/Amaro pumpkin, cucumbers, tomatoes, New Zealand spinach/basil/Swiss chard, slice of pumpkin, parsley/coriander, eggplant, onions.

Large box, in addition: Zucchini, butternut squash, lubia yard-long beans/okra.

FRUIT BOXES: Grapes, pears, nectarines. Small box, in addition: Bananas. Large box, in addition: Mango

Wednesday: Cherry tomatoes, lettuce, corn, butternut squash/melon/Amaro pumpkin, cucumbers, tomatoes, New Zealand spinach/basil, slice of pumpkin, eggplant, onions. Small boxes: potatoes/lubia yard-long beans/okra.

Large box, in addition: Zucchini/bell peppers, parsley/coriander, lubia yard-long beans, potatoes

FRUIT BOXES: Grapes, banana, plums. Small box, in addition: Nectarines. Large box, in addition: Mango

August 12th-14th 2019 – The Long-Fingered Lady

The myth is that people of Ashkenazi origin can’t tolerate okra and do not appreciate it, but as a descendent of a German father who can eat okra for all three meals daily, I can vouch for the fallacy of this myth. At our house too, okra is very much loved, and makes us happy every summer. Versatile as ever, okra can be crispy, stir-fried in lemon, tender in tomato sauce, roasted in the oven or chopped up raw to become little “stars” in a salad.

Okra likes to prance around using her fancy name “Lady Fingers,” indicating that she must be treated with gentle respect: Before cooking it, the tip must be gently cut off, taking care not to hurt the pod. In olden times, when a groom’s family wanted to “check out” a bride, they handed her a knife, a pile of okra, and put her to work. If she was able to properly slice it, this meant she was gentle and skilled.

But to the harvesters, okra does not put on her dainty lady show. The branches of the okra bush contain etheric oil and any brush against them causes a terrible itch, which is why okra is harvested wearing long sleeves and gloves. This crop is harvested in large quantities, and we visit the okra beds every other day so as not to find ourselves standing in front of a lady who totally forgot to trim her fingernails… Harvesting takes a really long time, as the pods must be searched for among the tangled brush of foliage and then picked one by one. Very personal treatment.

But although she is royalty, okra is also one of the only crops which does not force us to kneel down before them. The bushes quickly grow taller, reaching an impressive height of 3 meters! At that point, it is already way above us and we must bend its flexible branches in order to reach its pods. Another thing that makes us happy when we harvest okra is the beauty of its flowers. Okra belongs to the Malvaceae family (along with the chubeza, cotton, hibiscus and hollyhock). Not many members of the family are edible, but they are indeed rather beautiful. Our okra boasts large, lush yellowish flowers, with a vivid purple center.

Okra began its domesticated path in the world over 1,000 years ago in tropical Africa, in the Ethiopia-Eritrea-Sudan area, where it can still be found growing wild today. From there it crossed the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia and took off to North Africa, the Middle East and India. It is not clear how this journey occurred, and there are very mysterious periods within okra history, but it became a unanimously loved food in all those countries. Okra arrived in Europe, compliments of the Muslim Moors in the 12th century. It made its debut in the new continent, America, via two sources: African slaves brought to work in the colonial colonies carried okra to Brazil and South America, and simultaneously French settlers, who knew it from Europe, brought it to Louisiana. Over the past decades okra became a vaunted vegetable in the Asian kitchen, specifically the Japanese. So one does not have to be Egyptian or Greek to hold this vegetable in esteem.

The local okra variety indigenous to Israel has small – even tiny – pods. Traditionally you’ll be told to steer clear of a pod larger than your pinky, as this is a sign of an okra which is over-mature and too fibrous. On the contrary, the green and red okra variety that Chubeza grows is the Thai okra: longer, bigger and a little less slimy. Don’t be put off by the size ­– it’s simply a different cousin, but not any less amazing than other family members. If I dare say so myself, in many recipes it’s even better!

(Thanks you, Dafna. for the beautiful picture)

But despite its beauty and my father’s deep affection for it, some people are repulsed by the modest okra. The reason generally cited is its “texture,” or in other words: “that slimy stuff that oozes out when it’s cooked.” That’s a pity, because that “slimy stuff” holds the okra in its Cinderella state, still in rags, waiting to be discovered for all its charms. There are many ways to reduce the slime, which I will get to soon, but let us first discover the charms of Cinderella.

One of the most amazing things about okra is that it can be used in a great variety of ways, some of which aren’t fully utilized today. We usually cook, roast or fry the young pods (3-5 days old), which is, of course, great. They are rich in vitamins K, A and C, plus folic acid, calcium, magnesium and potassium. The dietary fibers aid in preventing constipation and in stabilizing blood sugar levels by slowing down the process of sugar absorption in the digestive system. Okra also absorbs cholesterol and removes stomach acids containing the toxins that did not pass through the liver’s filtering system. Its dietary fibers are unique in that they feed the good intestinal flora. As it matures, okra’s fibers grow more and more rigid (which anyone who ever tried to chew a mature pod can attest to) and hold an unfulfilled potential as raw material for the rope and paper industry.

Yet its assets are not only in the pod fibers, but also in its little seeds: the oil produced from them is quite healthy and unsaturated, with characteristics resembling the lauded olive oil. The tiny seeds contain vegetal protein, like soybeans, and they are rich in tryptophan and contain amino acids- a very important combination for vegetarians. Ground okra seeds were used in the past (and in some places, in the present) as caffeine-free substitutes for coffee, like the chicory root.

So what about that “slime”? It, too, can be efficiently used to thicken soups and other dishes (sometimes okra pods are dried and ground to be used for thickening, similar to gelatin) and some say it can be beneficial to heal wounds and soothe burns, like the gel inside the aloe vera plant.

But if you still wish to reduce the slime level in cooking, there are several options:

– Leave the pod whole (cut off the stem, but do not open the pod)

– Prepare quickly and easily by stir-frying or frying, not by lengthy cooking in liquids.

­_ Roast it! Rinse and dry the okra with a towel. Trim off the stems and tips, place in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil and some salt. Place okra on a foil-lined cookie sheet or oven pan and roast in a hot oven for around 15 minutes, stirring the okra every 5 minutes. Serve warm.

– Combine with acidic foods: tomatoes, lemon juice or vinegar.

Another surprising and attractive use for okra is in arts and crafts. Okra pods make fancy dragons, or can be cut horizontally to become delicate star-shaped stampers. Note the pictures:

This week is a week of holidays, the Muslim Eid El Adha, and the Thai Queen day. We’d like to wish happy holidays to our celebrating workers

Due to the holiday vacations, some young workers (on school break) came to help pack your veggies – thank you to Netta, Matan, Shahar and Talya!

Alon, Bat Ami, Dror, Orin, Yochay and the entire Chubeza team

________________________________________

WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Okra, lettuce/potatoes, onions, eggplants, cucumbers, tomatoes, Thai long beans, A slice of pumpkin, parsley/cilantro, cherry tomatoes, peppers.

Large box, in addition: Corn, Amoro/butternut pumpkin, New Zealand spinach.

Fruit box: Apples, grapes, pear. Small boxes: Banana. Large boxes: Nectarine.

Wednesday: Okra/potatoes, onions, eggplants, cucumbers, tomatoes, Thai long beans, A slice of pumpkin, parsley, cherry tomatoes, Amoro/butternut pumpkin, peppers.

Large box, in addition: New Zealand spinach, garlic/scallions, cilantro.

Fruit box: Apples, nectarine, pear. Small boxes: Banana. Large boxes: Grapes.

Aley Chubeza #306, September 12th-14th 2016

New Year Preparations – Changes in delivery dates over the holidays: 

During the week of Rosh Hashanah:

  • There will be no deliveries to those scheduled to receive a box on Monday, October 3rd.
  • Wednesday delivery will be moved to Thursday, October 6th and the ordering system will close (for that Thursday) on Wednesday, October 5th at 9:00.

The Week of Yom Kippur:

  • Monday delivery as usual (October 10th)
  • Wednesday delivery moves up to Thursday, October 13th and the ordering system (for that Thursday) will close on Monday, October 10th at 12:00.

During Chol HaMoed Sukkot:

  • There will be no deliveries, thus you will not be receiving boxes on Monday and Wednesday, the 17th and 19hof October.

On the week after Sukkot and Simchat Torah:

  • Monday deliveries move up to Tuesday, October 25thand the ordering system (for that Tuesday) closes on Sunday, October 23rd  at 9:00.
  • Wednesday deliveries as usual (October 26th)

If you wish to increase your vegetable boxes before the holidays, please advise as soon as possible.

Open Day at Chubeza
In keeping with our twice-yearly tradition, we invite you for a Chol HaMoed “pilgrimage” to Chubeza to celebrate our Open Day.
The Sukkot Open Day will take place on Thursday, October 20th, the 18th of Tishrei (third day of Chol HaMoed), between 12:00- 5:00 PM. The Open Day gives us a chance to meet, tour the field, and nibble on vegetables and other delicacies. Children have their own tailor-made tours, designed for little feet and curious minds, plus special activities and a vast space to run around and loosen up.  (So can the adults…)

Driving instructions are on our website under “Contact Us.” Please make sure you check this before heading our way.

Wishing you a Chag Sameach and Shana Tova from all of us at Chubeza.
We look forward to seeing you all!

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shana baginaAnd while we’re on the subject of the New Year, this is your last chance to order Ilana and Davidi’s wonderful Shana BaGina Calendar.

It is a Hebrew/English/agricultural/pictorial calendar, unique and beautifully made by Ilana and Davidi, old friends who are gardeners and collectors, cooks and talented dreamers. The calendar walks you through the year, describing in pictures and words the annual cycle in your home garden and surrounding nature.

Last chance!  Order the calendars now via our order system (under the “Chubeza Vegetables” category).

Further details and a sneak peak of the calendar are available at their website.

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fermentationEliezer of Shorshei Zion invites you to learn how to prepare your very own homemade probiotic food.

On Friday, September 19th, two workshops will be held:

Part 1 – 9:00-11:30: Probiotic fermented vegetables

Part 2 – 12:00-2:30: Vegan “dairy products” – We will learn to prepare vegan milk, yogurt, cheese and even vegan ice cream

  • Fee for one part of the workshop: 250 NIS
  • For both parts: 450 NIS

The workshop will take place at the Shorshei Zion factory: Hatzeva 3, Beit Shemesh

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The Long-Fingered Lady

The myth is that people of Ashkenazi origin can’t tolerate okra and do not appreciate it, but as a descendent of a German father who can eat okra for all three meals daily, I can vouch for the fallacy of this myth. At our house too, okra is very much loved, and makes us happy every summer. Versatile as ever, okra can be crispy, stir-fried in lemon, tender in tomato sauce, roasted in the oven or chopped up raw to become little “stars” in a salad.

Okra likes to prance around using her fancy name “Lady Fingers,” indicating that she must be treated with gentle respect: Before cooking it, the tip must be gently cut off, taking care not to hurt the pod. In olden times, when a groom’s family wanted to “check out” a bride, they handed her a knife, a pile of okra, and put her to work. If she was able to properly slice it, this meant she was gentle and skilled.

But to the harvesters, okra does not put on her dainty lady show. The branches of the okra bush contain etheric oil and any brush against them causes a terrible itch, which is why okra is harvested wearing long sleeves and gloves. This crop is harvested in large quantities, and we visit the okra beds every other day so as not to find ourselves standing in front of a lady who totally forgot to trim her fingernails… Harvesting takes a really long time, as the pods must be searched for among the tangled brush of foliage and then picked one by one. Very personal treatment.

But although she is royalty, okra is also one of the only crops which does not force us to kneel down before them. The bushes quickly grow taller, reaching an impressive height of 3 meters! At that point, it is already way above us and we must bend its flexible branches in order to reach its pods. Another thing that makes us happy when we harvest okra is the beauty of its flowers. Okra belongs to the Malvaceae family (along with the chubeza, cotton, hibiscus and hollyhock). Not many members of the family are edible, but they are indeed rather beautiful. Our okra boasts large, lush yellowish flowers, with a vivid purple center.

Okra began its domesticated path in the world over 1,000 years ago in tropical Africa, in the Ethiopia-Eritrea-Sudan area, where it can still be found growing wild today. From there it crossed the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia and took off to North Africa, the Middle East and India. It is not clear how this journey occurred, and there are very mysterious periods within okra history, but it became a unanimously loved food in all those countries. Okra arrived in Europe, compliments of the Muslim Moors in the 12th century. It made its debut in the new continent, America, via two sources: African slaves brought to work in the colonial colonies carried okra to Brazil and South America, and simultaneously French settlers, who knew it from Europe, brought it to Louisiana. Over the past decades okra became a vaunted vegetable in the Asian kitchen, specifically the Japanese. So one does not have to be Egyptian or Greek to hold this vegetable in esteem.

The local okra variety indigenous to Israel has small – even tiny – pods. Traditionally you’ll be told to steer clear of a pod larger than your pinky, as this is a sign of an okra which is over-mature and too fibrous. On the contrary, the green and red okra variety that Chubeza grows is the Thai okra: longer, bigger and a little less slimy. Don’t be put off by the size ­– it’s simply a different cousin, but not any less amazing than other family members. If I dare say so myself, in many recipes it’s even better!

But despite its beauty and my father’s deep affection for it, some people are repulsed by the modest okra. The reason generally cited is its “texture,” or in other words: “that slimy stuff that oozes out when it’s cooked.” That’s a pity, because that “slimy stuff” holds the okra in its Cinderella state, still in rags, waiting to be discovered for all its charms. There are many ways to reduce the slime, which I will get to soon, but let us first discover the charms of Cinderella.

One of the most amazing things about okra is that it can be used in a great variety of ways, some of which aren’t fully utilized today. We usually cook, roast or fry the young pods (3-5 days old), which is, of course, great. They are rich in vitamins K, A and C, plus folic acid, calcium, magnesium and potassium. The dietary fibers aid in preventing constipation and in stabilizing blood sugar levels by slowing down the process of sugar absorption in the digestive system. Okra also absorbs cholesterol and removes stomach acids containing the toxins that did not pass through the liver’s filtering system. Its dietary fibers are unique in that they feed the good intestinal flora. As it matures, okra’s fibers grow more and more rigid (which anyone who ever tried to chew a mature pod can attest to) and hold an unfulfilled potential as raw material for the rope and paper industry.

Yet its assets are not only in the pod fibers, but also in its little seeds: the oil produced from them is quite healthy and unsaturated, with characteristics resembling the lauded olive oil. The tiny seeds contain vegetal protein, like soybeans, and they are rich in tryptophan and contain amino acids- a very important combination for vegetarians. Ground okra seeds were used in the past (and in some places, in the present) as caffeine-free substitutes for coffee, like the chicory root.

So what about that “slime”? It, too, can be efficiently used to thicken soups and other dishes (sometimes okra pods are dried and ground to be used for thickening, similar to gelatin) and some say it can be beneficial to heal wounds and soothe burns, like the gel inside the aloe vera plant.

But if you still wish to reduce the slime level in cooking, there are several options:

– Leave the pod whole (cut off the stem, but do not open the pod)

– Prepare quickly and easily by stir-frying or frying, not by lengthy cooking in liquids.

­_ Roast it! Rinse and dry the okra with a towel. Trim off the stems and tips, place in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil and some salt. Place okra on a foil-lined cookie sheet or oven pan and roast in a hot oven for around 15 minutes, stirring the okra every 5 minutes. Serve warm.

– Combine with acidic foods: tomatoes, lemon juice or vinegar.

Another surprising and attractive use for okra is in arts and crafts. Okra pods make fancy dragons, or can be cut horizontally to become delicate star-shaped stampers. Note the pictures:

Wishing us a good, safe week, and a happy holiday (Eid al-Adha) to Mohammed, Majdi, Ali and all of you out there who are celebrating!

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

________________________________________

WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

We are waiting with bated breath and ready-and-waiting taste buds for the new cucumber crop to yield, already. For the time being, however, cucumbers are still scarce.  To repeat, the unfortunate shortage was caused because our recent cucumber round reached its end. The others in line, however, are bravely fighting the heavy heat of summer’s end. They are beginning to yield, but it should take a week or two till the quantities increase. In the meantime, we are attempting to buy cucumbers from other organic farmers to add to your boxes, but the situation is similar throughout the entire organic market. Thus, some of your boxes will contain cukes, while others will be filled with red peppers. We hope the shortage will soon end. Thank you for your understanding!

Monday: Okra/Thai lubia/lubia/ cherry tomatoes, parsley, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, eggplant, slice of pumpkin, New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard, cucumbers/bell peppers, lettuce, sweet potatoes

Large box, in addition: Leeks/scallions, carrots, coriander/nana mint

Wednesday: parsley, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, eggplant, slice of pumpkin, New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard/basil, bell peppers, lettuce, corn. Small boxes only: okra.

Large box, in addition: Thai lubia/lubia/cherry tomatoes/carrots, cucumbers/sweet potatoes, scallion, coriander/nana mint.

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, apple juice, cider and jams 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 #210, August 11th-13th 2014

Okra- the Cinderella of the Vegetable World

Summer time is challenge time, with oppressive heat, humidity, and heavy air taking their toll. While there are changes and new colors in the vegetable boxes, somehow the burden of the summer heat dampens my excitement and happiness. And yet, this is the time to welcome the amazing okra, the special guest of summer, who thrives on the scorching weather. This newsletter is dedicated to her.

The myth is that people of Ashkenazi origin can’t eat okra and do not appreciate it, but as a descendent of a German father who can eat okra for all three daily meals, I can vouch for the fallacy of this myth. At our house too, okra is very much loved. The girls would rather I chop up the raw pods so I can serve them “stars” to munch on. We adults prefer it cooked, roasted or stir-fried.

Okra began its domesticated path in the world over 1,000 years ago in tropical Africa, in the Ethiopia-Eritrea-Sudan area, where it can still be found growing wild today. From there it crossed the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia and took off to North Africa, the Middle East and India. It is not clear how this journey occurred, and there are very mysterious periods within okra history, but it became an officially loved food in all those countries. Okra arrived in Europe, compliments of the Muslim Moors in the 12th century. It made its debut in the new continent, America, by two sources: African slaves brought to work in the colonial colonies carried okra to Brazil and South America, and simultaneously French settlers, who knew it from Europe, brought it to Louisiana. Over the past decades it became a vaunted vegetable in the Asian kitchen, specifically the Japanese. So one does not have to be Egyptian or Greek to value this vegetable.

The local okra variety indigenous to Israel has small – even tiny – pods. Traditionally you’ll be told to steer clear of a pod larger than a pinky, as this is a sign of an okra which is over-mature and too fibrous. On the contrary, the green and red okra variety that Chubeza grows is the Thai okra: longer, bigger and a little less slimy. Don’t be put off by the size ­– it’s simply a different cousin, but not any less amazing than other family members. If I dare say so myself, in many recipes it’s even better!

Okra is unique in its genealogy. It is a cousin of the chubeza–the mallow–and belongs as well to the Malvaceae family, which includes cotton, hibiscus and hollyhock. Not many members of the family are edible, but they are rather beautiful, with large, lush flowers. This is what the okra flower looks like (the glamorous star of the current Chubeza calendar page):

 

But despite its beauty and my fathers’ deep affection for it, some people are repulsed by this vegetable. The reason generally cited is its “texture,” or in other words: “that slimy stuff that oozes out when it’s cooked.” That’s a pity, because that “slimy stuff” holds the okra in its Cinderella state, still in rags, waiting to be discovered for all its charms. There are many ways to reduce the slime, which I will get to soon, but let us first discover the charms of Cinderella.

One of the most amazing things about okra is that it can be used in a great variety of ways, some of which aren’t fully utilized today. We usually cook, roast or fry the young pods (3-5 days old), which is, of course, great. They are rich in vitamins K, A and C, plus folic acid, calcium, magnesium and potassium. The dietary fibers aid in preventing constipation and in stabilizing blood sugar levels by slowing down the process of sugar absorption in the digestive system. Okra also absorbs cholesterol and removes stomach acids containing the toxins that did not pass through the liver’s filtering system. Its dietary fibers are unique in that they feed the good intestinal flora. As it matures, okra’s fibers grow more and more rigid (which anyone who ever tried to chew a mature pod can attest to) and hold an unfulfilled potential as raw material for the rope and paper industry.

Yet its assets are not only in the pod fibers, but also in its little seeds: the oil produced from them is quite healthy and unsaturated, with characteristics resembling the lauded olive oil. The tiny seeds contain vegetal protein, like soybeans, and they are rich in tryptophan and contain amino acids- a very important combination for vegetarians. Ground okra seeds were used in the past (and in some places, in the present) as caffeine-free substitutes for coffee, like the chicory root.

So what about that “slime”? It, too, can be efficiently used to thicken soups and other dishes (sometimes okra pods are dried and ground to be used for thickening, similar to gelatin) and some say it can be beneficial to heal wounds and soothe burns, like the gel inside the aloe vera plant.

But if you still would like to lower the slime level in cooking, there are several things you can do:

– Leave the pod whole (cut off the stem, but do not open the pod)

– Prepare quickly and easily by stir frying or frying, not by a long cooking with liquids.

– Combine with acidic foods: tomatoes, lemon juice or vinegar.

Another surprising and attractive use for okra is in arts and crafts. It can be used to make interesting dragons, or cut in its width to make delicate star-shaped stampers. Here are some pictures:

Wishing us a quiet and peaceful week of summertime, with no bad news and livin’ that’s easy…

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

________________________________

What’s in this Week’s Boxes?

Monday: Butternut squash, lettuce, parsley, tomatoes, slice of pumpkin, okra/Hilda pole beans/Thai beans, eggplant/ corn, cucumbers. Small boxes only: red bell peppers, New Zealand spinach

Large boxes, in addition: Scallions/garlic chives, cherry tomatoes, onions, zucchini, mint/thyme

Wednesday: parsley, lettuce/kale, cucumbers, slice of pumpkin, tomatoes, leek/scallions, butternut squash, red bell peppers, zucchini, small boxes only: New Zealand spinach, small boxes only: thyme/mint

Large boxes, in addition: onions, cherry tomatoes, okra/yard long beans/green beans, sage/chive, eggplants/corn

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, crackers, probiotic foods, dried fruits and leathers, olive oil, bakery products, pomegranate juice 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!

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Okra Recipes (I tried to find easy recipes, low on slime)

A special, spicy idea: Okra Croutons (from a great cookbook that Nati gave me: Vegetarian Soul Food by Angela S. Madris)

Ingredients:
1 kilogram okra, sliced thinly
1 c. corn flour
1 t. salt
½ t. ground cumin
¼ t. cayenne pepper

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 190 degrees C. Rinse okra in a colander, drain and dry.
In a plastic bag, mix okra with cornflower, ½ t. salt, cumin and pepper. Tie bag and shake well.
Grease a baking pan with olive oil, spread okra in a uniform layer across the pan, and sprinkle olive oil over okra.
Bake for 10 minutes. Mix okra and sprinkle it with a bit more olive oil. Bake for an additional 15 minutes or until okra becomes golden brown and crisp. Sprinkle with remaining ½ t. salt.

Fried Okra, East-African Style (from the same excellent book as above)

Ingredients:
3 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 T. garlic powder
2 t. curry powder
1 t. freshly-ground black pepper
12 small-to-medium okra pods, with sharp edges cut, but not the stems
1 c. vegetable oil
1 t. salt

Preparation
In a small mixing bowl, combine lemon juice, garlic powder, turmeric, curry powder and pepper. Score okra lengthwise with a deep slit, so that it is in two parts, connected by the stem. Cover the okra well, inside and out, with spice mixture. Attach both halves to each other. Heat oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high flame until hot but not smoking.  Fry okra for 3-4 minutes or until it browns.
Drain okra on a plate covered with paper towel to absorb the oil. Scatter with salt.

Genevieve and Barry, okra lovers, sent me these two recipes:

Okra in Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:
½ kg okra
1 onion, sliced
Olive oil
2 cloves garlic
½ kg tomatoes, chopped
Salt and pepper
Juice of ½ lemon
1 teaspoon sugar
A small bunch parsley or cilantro, chopped

Trim off the stems of the okra and rinse well. Fry the onion in the oil until golden. Add the garlic and fry until the aroma rises. Add the okra and sauté gently for about 5 minutes, turning over the pods.
Add the tomatoes, salt, pepper, lemon, and sugar and simmer 15-20 minutes, or until the okra is tender and the sauce reduced. Stir in the parsley or kusbara and cook a minute more.
It’s delicious cold or hot.

Sweet and Sour Okra

Ingredients:
½ kg okra
Olive oil
½-1 tablespoon sugar
Salt and pepper
Juice of 1 small lemon
[Optional: 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped, and 1½-2 teaspoons ground coriander seeds]

Trim off the stems of the okra and rinse well. Heat the oil in a heavy skillet. Add the okra and sauté gently for about 5 minutes, turning each pod over.
Add sugar, salt and pepper, the lemon juice, and just enough water to cover the okra.
Simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the okra is tender and the liquid has reduced. Raise the heat if necessary to reduce the liquid at the end.
[Optional: heat the garlic and coriander in oil in a small pan, stirring, for a minute or two, until the garlic just begins to color. Stir this in with the okra and cook a few minutes more before serving]

And one more recipe:

Baked popcorn okra

Aley Chubeza #32 – August 16-18 2010

An important message:

As I enter my ninth month of pregnancy, I will be handing over my various jobs to loyal stand-ins. Melissa will take charge of phone calls, e-mails and customer service, and she will gradually begin her work this week. I request your assistance, patience and cooperation to make the transition smooth. For our part, we promise to check e-mail and phone messages daily. Please keep in mind that messages regarding changes in delivery dates and other requests for your boxes must arrive by the morning before the scheduled delivery date (i.e., Sunday for Monday boxes, Tuesday for Wednesday deliveries). The most convenient way for us to communicate is by e-mail, but if there is an urgent matter, text messages are an option as well. We can’t always answer the phone or access our e-mail.

And please be understanding if (when) mistakes or glitches occur. Of course we are   happy to receive any advice you may offer.

Many thanks for your cooperation and assistance!

_________________________________

Okra- the Cinderella of the Vegetable World

This afternoon I received an e-mail from veteran clients, with “a small request, if possible. We love okra, we adore okra! And it has not been in our basket yet. Among the variety of vegetables that we get, is there a possibility to include it?” I smiled to myself, happy to meet confirmed okra lovers, the kinds who enjoy receiving it. The myth is that people of Ashkenazi origin can’t eat okra and do not appreciate it, but as a descendent of a German father who can eat okra for all three daily meals, I can vouch that fact being wrong. At our house too, okra is very much loved. The girls would rather I chop up the raw pods so I can serve them “stars” which they munch on. We adults prefer it cooked, roasted or stir-fried.

Okra began its domesticated path in the world over 1,000 years ago in tropical Africa, in the Ethiopia-Eritrea-Sudan area, where it can still be found growing wild today. From there it crossed the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia and took off to North Africa, the Middle East and India. It is not clear how this journey occurred, and there are very mysterious periods within okra history, but it became an officially loved food in all those countries. Okra arrived in Europe, compliments of the Muslim Moors in the 12th century. It made its debut in the new continent, America, by two sources: African slaves brought to work in the colonial colonies carried okra to Brazil and South America, and simultaneously French settlers brought it to Louisiana. Over the past decades it became a vaunted vegetable in the Asian kitchen, specifically the Japanese. So one does not have to be Egyptian or Greek to value this vegetable.

Okra is unique in its genealogy. It is a cousin of the chubeza–the mallow–and belongs as well to the Malvaceae family, which also includes cotton, hibiscus and hollyhock. Not many members of the family are edible, but they are rather beautiful, with large, beautiful flowers. This is what the okra flower looks like:

But despite its beauty, some people are put off by this vegetable. The reason generally cited is its “texture,” or in other words: “that slimy stuff that oozes out when it’s cooked.” That’s a pity, because that “slimy stuff” holds the okra in its Cinderella state, still in rags, waiting to be discovered for all its charms. There are many ways to diminish the slime, which I will get to soon, but let us first discover the charms of Cinderella.

One of the most amazing things about okra is that it can be used in a great variety of ways, some of which aren’t fully utilized today. We usually cook, roast or fry the young pods (3-5 days old), which is, of course, great. It is rich in vitamins K, A and C, and with folic acid, calcium, magnesium and potassium. The dietary fibers aid in preventing constipation and in stabilizing blood sugar levels by slowing down the process of sugar absorption in the digestive system. They also absorb cholesterol and remove stomach acids containing the toxins that did not pass through the liver’s filtering system. Its dietary fibers are unique in that they feed the good intestinal flora.

Yet its assets are not only in the pod fibers, but also in its little seeds: the oil produced from them is quite healthy and unsaturated, with characteristics resembling the lauded olive oil. The tiny seeds contain vegetal protein, like soybeans, and they are rich in tryptophan and contain amino acids- a very important combination for vegetarians. Ground okra seeds were used in the past (and in some places, in the present) as caffeine-free substitutes for coffee, like the chicory root.

As it matures, okra’s fibers grow more and more rigid (which anyone who ever tried to chew a mature pod can attest to) and hold an unfulfilled potential as raw material for the rope and paper industry.

So what about that “slime”? It too can be efficiently used to thicken soups and other dishes (sometimes okra pods are dried up and ground to be used for thickening, similar to gelatin) and some say it can be beneficial to heal wounds and soothe burns, like the gel inside the aloe vera plant.

But if you still would like to reduce the sliminess in cooking, there are several things you can do:

– Leave the pod whole (cut off the stem, but do not open the pod)

– Prepare quickly and easily by stir frying or frying, not by a long cooking with liquids.

– Combine with acidic foods: tomatoes, lemon juice or vinegar.

Another surprising and attractive use for okra is in arts and crafts. It can be used to make interesting dragons, or cut in its width to make gentle star-shaped stampers. Here are some pictures:

Have an interesting, adventurous summer,
Alon, Bat Ami, Melissa and the Chubeza team

_________________________

This week’s basket includes:

Monday: edamame or okra or cowpea, cherry tomatoes, yard long bean, cilantro, pumpkin, tomatoes, basil / parsley, onions, red peppers, potatoes, corn

In the large box, in addition: eggplants, more cherry tomatoes, melon or butternut squash, dill

Wednesday: pumpkin, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, corn, yard long bean or cowpea, cilantro or dill, cherry tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, popcorn

In the large box, in addition: okra, red peppers, butternut squash

________________________

Okra Recipes (I tried to find easy recipes, low on slime)

A special, spicy idea: Okra Croutons (from a great cookbook that Nati gave me: Vegetarian Soul Food by Angela S. Madris)

Ingredients:
1 kilogram okra, sliced thinly
1 c. corn flour
1 t. salt
½ t. ground cumin
¼ t. cayenne pepper

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 190 degrees C. Rinse okra in a colander, drain and dry.
In a plastic bag, mix okra with cornflower, ½ t. salt, cumin and pepper. Tie bag and shake well.
Grease a baking pan with olive oil, spread okra in a uniform layer across the pan, and sprinkle olive oil over okra.
Bake for 10 minutes. Mix okra and sprinkle it with a bit more olive oil. Bake for an additional 15 minutes or until okra becomes golden brown and crisp. Sprinkle with remaining ½ t. salt.

Fried Okra, East-African Style (from the same excellent book as above)

Ingredients:
3 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 T. garlic powder
2 t. curry powder
1 t. freshly-ground black pepper
12 small-to-medium okra pods, with sharp edges cut, but not the stems
1 c. vegetable oil
1 t. salt

Preparation
In a small mixing bowl, combine lemon juice, garlic powder, turmeric, curry powder and pepper. Score okra lengthwise with a deep slit, so that it is in two parts, connected by the stem. Cover the okra well, inside and out, with spice mixture. Attach both halves to each other. Heat oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high flame until hot but not smoking.  Fry okra for 3-4 minutes or until it browns.
Drain okra on a plate covered with paper towel to absorb the oil. Scatter with salt.

Genevieve and Barry, okra lovers, sent me these two recipes:

Okra in Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:
½ kg okra
1 onion, sliced
Olive oil
2 cloves garlic
½ kg tomatoes, chopped
Salt and pepper
Juice of ½ lemon
1 teaspoon sugar
A small bunch parsley or cilantro, chopped

Trim off the stems of the okra and rinse well. Fry the onion in the oil until golden. Add the garlic and fry until the aroma rises. Add the okra and sauté gently for about 5 minutes, turning over the pods.
Add the tomatoes, salt, pepper, lemon, and sugar and simmer 15-20 minutes, or until the okra is tender and the sauce reduced. Stir in the parsley or kusbara and cook a minute more.
It’s delicious cold or hot.

Sweet and Sour Okra

Ingredients:
½ kg okra
Olive oil
½-1 tablespoon sugar
Salt and pepper
Juice of 1 small lemon
[Optional: 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped, and 1½-2 teaspoons ground coriander seeds]

Trim off the stems of the okra and rinse well. Heat the oil in a heavy skillet. Add the okra and sauté gently for about 5 minutes, turning each pod over.
Add sugar, salt and pepper, the lemon juice, and just enough water to cover the okra.
Simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the okra is tender and the liquid has reduced. Raise the heat if necessary to reduce the liquid at the end.
[Optional: heat the garlic and coriander in oil in a small pan, stirring, for a minute or two, until the garlic just begins to color. Stir this in with the okra and cook a few minutes more before serving]

And one more recipe:

Baked popcorn okra