Aley Chubeza #280, February 15th-17th 2016

Upgrading!

We are pleased to inform you that Chubeza’s Customer Relations efforts are making progress: this time in the area of bills and invoices. I know that some of you have been baffled in opening our invoices or understanding the two-invoice system. Moreover, our system was not secure enough to be able to trust it with your credit card details. Today, however, we embark upon a new era…

Our billing system has been upgraded and is now connected to the Ishurit Zahav system of CardCom, a secure system which encodes the details of payment with full safety. Soon we will graduate to an invoice program that will produce one comprehensive invoice which includes all your monthly purchases (taking into consideration the various VAT levels). The invoices should now be opened easily, with no further difficulties.

So, now that Chubeza has taken these giant steps, we need your help! Please visit your bill in our order system (instructions for using the order system can be found here), and click the “personal details” tab. On the bottom of the page, there should be a line saying (in Hebrew):הכנסת פרטי אשראי לחיוב חוזר: קישור לטופס מאובטח Click the link, then enter your credit card info. Now your card is encoded and saved in the secure system.

Only two weeks till the end of the month! We will be very grateful if you enter your payment details as soon as possible so we can bill your cards on time at the end of next week.

If you have any questions or could use some technical assistance, please call or email.

Thank you!

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A Wintry Sun

After many a cool and rainy week, we are now experiencing warm, sunny days with joyful rays of sun, although the sun disappears after a few hours in deference to cool temperatures. The earth in our field is already saturated and well-watered – six feet under – and the veggies are thankful to bathe in the good sun, giving hearty winter vegetables the exact quantity of warmth they need.

For us, this is perfect timing. After not planting for a month and a half, from beginning to mid-February is exactly the time we go back to plant the last winter rounds of celery, fennel, kohlrabi and more. And, too, we begin our spring planting. The first to go into the good earth is the zucchini, covered by clear plastic to warm and protect against cold times. This is the perfect week for them to get well acquainted in their beds.

Our greens, too, are loving the sun. The leaves are thirstily drinking up the sunrays, absorbing them in their bodies to generate energy for healthy growth. In their honor, and in honor of the month of Adar Alef, this week’s Newsletter is dedicated to our spinach contingent, one an actual spinach and member of the Amaranthaceae family, and the second, the New Zealand spinach from the family of coastal plants, who masquerades as spinach.

I decided to write about them again in response to the deluge of questions from you as to what these leaves are. Our response “Why, it’s spinach!” is met with such confused replies as, “but we thought spinach is the little green leaves on the long stem….??” So, here goes:

Meet Mr. Spinach:

spinach.jpg

The origins of spinach, a member of the Amaranthaceae family, are in central Asia: Afghanistan, North India, Uzbekistan, Southwest Asia and perhaps Persia. For years it was grown in the Mideast, in the central Orient and in China. A Chinese seventh-century source coins spinach “the Persian herb.” It migrated to Syria and Saudi Arabia and from there to North Africa. In the eleventh century, the North Africans Moors brought spinach to Spain and introduced it to the Europeans. A popular plant in the Holy Land, spinach is mentioned in the Mishnah and Talmud as a vegetable used for cooking and in soup.

Spinach provides a good opportunity to discuss the power of culture, of colorful stories and folk tradition vs. the power of exact sciences. Like many vegetables, spinach began its culinary life as a medicinal herb, used to treat constipation and digestive problems.

In Tractate Brachot, Rav Chisda notes: “A dish of spinach is good for the heart and for the eyes, and even more so, for the intestines.” I am always amazed at how precise folk medicine is without having the scientific tools to actually examine the medicinal herbs it recommends. Years of experience, perhaps, together with knowledge which is passed on from generation to generation, maybe even a tad of intuition or spiritual abilities, all come together to provide good health advice. For I am pretty sure Rav Chisda never entered the chemistry lab or studied biology or botany, and yet, he hit it right on the spot. Spinach is one of the richest antioxidant sources, especially high in lutein, which contributes to healthy eyes and can also reduce the danger of arteriosclerosis, heart disease and cancer. The high levels of oxalate are those responsible for its beneficial ability in regulating bowel movements (more about the health virtues of the spinach later).

The next thing I thought about while studying spinach is its best friend, Popeye the Sailor Man. When Popeye encounters trouble, he wolfs down spinach straight from the can, gaining immediate, incredible strength. The funny thing is, Popeye is the result of… a typo. In research conducted in 1870, a decimal point typo erroneously attributed its iron content to be ten times the actual value… But here comes the power of storytelling and the one-eyed sailorman. If you conduct a short survey among your friends and ask them which vegetables are richest in iron, they will probably name spinach among them.

And to complicate matters, though spinach is in fact rich in iron (not ten times richer, but still…) and also calcium, our ability to absorb these elements from spinach is rather limited, as the oxalate binds them together, preventing their absorption in the body.

But spinach boasts other advantages. Beyond the lutein mentioned previously, spinach is rich in vitamins K, A, C, beta carotene and folic acid. It is rich in chlorophyll, which contributes to protection from cancer-inducing substances (lung cancer, for instance). It contains Quercetin which is an antioxidant, an anti-inflammatory, and a specific enzyme that assists in lowering blood pressure. Spinach juice is the best vegetable juice to prevent cancerous cells.

There are two groups of spinach varieties: those with prickly seeds, considered to be more resistant to cold weather, and the smooth-seed varieties, which deal better with warm temperatures. The hybrid varieties we have today are suitable for different climates.

Another way to differentiate spinach types is by the leaves: there are the crinkled curly leaves (savoy spinach) and the flat, smooth ones, and there are some intermediate varieties (somewhere between smooth to crinkled). In Israel, spinach also grows in its wild form, from the center of the country to the north, in wintertime and spring. Its leaves are soft and milder, and they usually taste more refined. In northern markets, you can buy it fresh, and in Galilean restaurants this is a major ingredient in local dishes at this time of the year.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is the New Zealand spinach:

New_Zealand_Spinach

The plant’s scientific name is Tetragonia tetragonioides, and it belongs to the Aizoaceae family, characterized by fleshy plants that thrive along the seashores, in sands and dunes, and in the desert as well. It has been native to Australia and New Zealand for many years, where the aborigines and native Maoris would gather it for food. When the Europeans reached the continent, they were taught which plants were edible, enabling them to survive. They coined the local plants and animals used for sustenance (including the wonder-plant tetragonia) “bush tuckers.”

Upon his fleet’s arrival to the Eastern coast of Australia in 1770, Captain Cook was justifiably concerned lest his sailors contract scurvy, a disease caused by lack of vitamin C. At sea, the crew was nourished solely from preserved food, so whenever they reached shore, the captain would set out in search of good fresh leafy greens to boost their diets. In Australia, his botanist chef found the tetragonia, and after enjoying its taste and nutritious value, they brought it home to England.

The Brits, already very fond of greens, were delighted to receive this exotic plant, and by the beginning of the nineteenth century it was to be found growing in the best of English vegetable gardens. Afterwards, there came a period when the tetragonia was passed over for hybrids and other “advanced” plants, but over the past decades, in keeping with the worldwide trend for local, homegrown products, the venerable plant is experiencing a comeback. White-aproned Australian chefs now gather it in the fields or purchase it from gourmet farmers. In leafy-green-loving Asia, too, it was happily received, growing across Eastern Asia and used as a substitute for Asian greens in stir-fried vegetable dishes.

Though genetically unrelated to spinach, the New Zealand spinach received its name because it is used as a spinach substitute—but with one major edge over its namesake: Unlike spinach, which requires a cold climate and will not germinate in extreme heat or will bloom prematurely, New Zealand spinach is heat-resistant. On the other hand, it is very sensitive to cold, and frost will completely destroy it. This special relationship resulted in the New Zealand spinach becoming a good substitute for spinach during summer, while true spinach assumes the stage in winter, and does well in Israeli winters as well.

In Israel, the substitution game became even more complex, with a small link to our Chubeza as well. During the siege of Jerusalem in the 1948 War of Independence, in an attempt to find dietary solutions for the besieged residents, the idea arose to gather wild mallow (chubeza). Schoolchildren were organized to go out and gather mallow leaves, which were then passed on to Tnuva, which packaged and marketed them as “New Zealand Spinach.” Around the world in just a few words: a Jerusalem mallow, marketed as New Zealand spinach, serves as a substitute for true spinach (which has its origins in Iran).

And what’s it really like? Does it work as a true spinach substitute? The mildly salty taste of New Zealand spinach is similar to that of true spinach, but they do not look alike. The New Zealand mate’s diamond-shaped leaves are much smaller and fleshier. It can substitute for spinach in any recipe, and in some dishes can replace Swiss chard, with whom it shares a fleshy texture, definitely fleshier than that of the thinner spinach. This fleshiness allows it to retain more volume in cooking, thus when substituting for spinach or Swiss chard, use only half the amount of leaves called for in the recipe.

When you cook New Zealand spinach, separate the leaves from the coarser-textured stems that are harder to cook. It is not recommended to consume these greens raw: the leaves contain cartonoid antioxidants which are important nutrients, but in their raw form they are oxalates which complicate digestion, particularly for those with gallstones or kidney problems. To remove most of the oxalates for easier digestion, blanch the New Zealand spinach for a few minutes, and then wash the leaves.

At this time of the year, both varieties of these greens are growing at Chubeza. Sometimes you receive the winter spinach (as we call it), while at other times you get the New Zealand spinach and a chance to enjoy the “original” and its dressed-up counterpart…. You can find recipes for both these guys in the recipe section on our site.

Cut the spinach! And enjoy the sunny week,

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

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Some of the tomatoes this week look different from those you have become accustomed to. They’re good and tasty, but nonetheless they’re a little pale. Although the tomato bushes were hurt by the frost and their foliage was damaged, they are still strong and yielding fruit. Lots of fruit. In order to help the bushes survive, we lopped them from above and anxiously await their renewal from the sides of the stems. In addition, with the tomato plants bereft of foliage which protects the fruit from the damages of solar radiation, we stretched a shade-net over the tunnel in which the tomatoes grow. Though this net does protect from damage, it also creates an uneven ripening among the vegetables. Please accept these tomatoes with understanding and joy. Take a bite! They’re delicious and thirst-quenching. (Our thanks.)

Monday: Broccoli, coriander/dill/mint, tomatoes, lettuce, spinach/kale/Swiss chard, cucumbers/long Dutch cucumbers, carrots, onions, potatoes, baby radishes/purple radishes/daikon (long white radish), beets. Small boxes only: leeks.

Large box, in addition: Baby greens (mesclun mix), celeriac, cauliflower, cabbage.

Wednesday: Broccoli, coriander/dill/mint/parsley, tomatoes, lettuce, spinach/kale/Swiss chard, cucumbers/long Dutch cucumbers, carrots/bell peppers, onions, baby greens (mesclun mix), potatoes. Small boxes only: beets/celeriac

potatoes, baby radishes/purple radishes/white turnip, leeks, cabbage, fava beans/peas.

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 #225, December 1st-3rd

Samar dates are here!

This monday afternoon we recieved the very much aticipated delivery of this season’s dates harvest from kibbutz Samar in the Arava.

Those sweet fellows come in three varieties: Barhi, Zahidi and Dekel Nur. You can add them to you order via the online order system.

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Get into the Green Scene…

Last week’s downpours quenched our earth in great measure. Melissa, our neighbor at Kibbutz Gezer, gave me the measurements taken by Lee Sigal chalking up some 120 mm rain in five days for us last week (most of it on Tuesday and Wednesday!).  Friday’s skies were already clear, but the earth is still muddy and the nighttime dew still serves up good quantities of moisture for the plants (and the hems of our pants…). Along with the great showers, the nice sunny days we are expecting this week will give another boost to our winter crops now abundantly filling your boxes. The last of the summer crops have been celebrating their final weeks with us. Soon we will bid farewell to the eggplants and black-eyed peas. We already parted from the corn and peppers, who all made way for the Brassicaceae family and lots of sweet, spicy, juicy, colorful roots, and…

Just as the color green is now everywhere in sight outdoors, your boxes are abounding in bright edible greens. To give you a new appreciation for the verdant vegetables, as well as a delicious host of serving ideas, we are proud to present Part 2 of the recently-begun action series (you can find part 1 here)

“Chubeza Winter Greens – A Guide to the Perplexed” – part 2:

Swiss Chard

 A sibling of the beet, differing by growing huge leaves instead of a thick root. Perfect in soup, quiches, and stuffing, as well as steamed or tossed, and even used fresh in a salad.

Here are all sorts of recipes.

Spinach:

Depending on the season, the bed in which it’s grown, and the timing of its harvest, spinach can sport huge leaves or resemble “baby” spinach.

It definitely tastes green (I used to be surprised when people described a flavor as “green”), just slightly bitter, and then just a little sweet, chockfull of rain and freshness flavors.

Like its cousin Swiss chard, spinach can go fresh in a salad or can be cooked, added to soup, a quiche, dumplings, an omelet or warm salads. They all work.

Here are some examples

New Zealand Spinach

As indicated by its name, its origins are in Australia and New Zealand. Discovered by Captain Cook on the beaches of New Zealand, this green was harvested, cooked and even taken on journeys to fight scurvy resulting from a vitamin C deficiency. New Zealand spinach is suitable for our local climate because it loves warm weather. It sprawls and spreads, and its leaves are meaty.

New Zealand spinach can go with any recipe calling for mustard greens, but is definitely suitable as a Swiss chard replacement. To prepare for cooking, one must remove the leaves from the stem which is hard and inedible. Unlike regular mustard greens or Swiss chard, it is not recommended to eat raw, but rather first soaked in hot water for a few minutes, then washed with cold water.

Recipes for New Zealand Spinach

Kale

A green belonging to the Brassicaceae family, considered to be one of the most healthy foods around. An acquired taste, but definitely worth getting used to and falling for.

Due to its relatively rigid texture, kale is usually cooked or added to a green shake, but you can make chips from it or eat fresh in a salad—-it’s great!

Songs of praise and kale recipes to be found here

Vegetable greens like being connected to their roots and the earth. When you want to store them after harvesting, you should attempt to prevent two side effects: drying up and rotting. There are a several methods for long-term storage. First, in order to prevent rotting, avoid wetting them and only wash them prior to use. To keep them moist, large leaves like lettuce, Swiss chard, tatsoi, spinach and mustard greens should be wrapped (unwashed) in cloth or paper and placed in a plastic bag in order for the moisture to be absorbed without actually drying up.

That’s all for now. I hope the green picture is a little clearer now. You are always welcome to question unrecognizable varieties in your boxes by phone (054-653-5980, although often it’s hard to get ahold of us) or by email (csa@chubeza.com).

May we all enjoy a week of good fortune, health and growth,

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

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S GREEN BOXES?

Monday: Slice of pumpkin, kohlrabi, kale/spinach, tomatoes, fennel/daikon/turnips, cabbage/broccoli, parsley/dill/coriander, cucumbers, Swiss chard/totsoi/arugula, scallions/leeks. Small boxes only: beets

Large box, in addition: Celery, curly lettuce/mizuna, eggplant/Jerusalem artichoke, sweet potatoes

Wednesday: Slice of pumpkin, kohlrabi, spinach, tomatoes, fennel/daikon, cabbage/broccoli/cauliflower, parsley/dill/coriander, cucumbers, scallions/leeks, sweet potatoes/Jerusalem artichoke, beets

Large box, in addition: Swiss chard/totsoi/kale, arugula/mizuna, celery

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, 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!

Aley Chubeza #177 – November 18th-20th 2013

Last week we bade farewell to Ya’ara, who worked with us diligently and professionally over the past year. In my name and yours, I would like to thank her for her excellent work. I cannot imagine how we would have gotten through the expansion of our clientele and other changes over the past year without her fantastic efforts. Thank you so much, Ya’ara, and good luck in your new endeavors.

Ya’ara will be replaced by Maya, Alon’s charming wife, who has been with Chubeza from Day One. She will work with me in the office and the packing house, and this is a great opportunity to remind you that we do need your cooperation in order to get the job done in a relaxed, organized manner.

We would appreciate if you could make your any changes to your standing orders via our Internet system. Those of you who haven’t yet experienced it are welcome to take a look and make your acquaintance. Changes for your upcoming delivery can be made by noon of the day before delivery! If you still wish for us (humans) to order these changes, we would be happy to help, but your request must arrive by the morning before delivery day so we can update the order on time. We cannot make any promise to accept late changes. After 4:00 PM our phones are off the hook, we go off to our life-outside-of-Chubeza, and do not take messages. Thank you very much for your cooperation!

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It’s not easy being green…

Though the weather forecast predicted local showers, our Sunday was bright and dry, albeit cool. Winter should have been here by now….Our mornings are chilly and evening creeps up fast, but midday is still sunny and the skies are dry. Our last summer crops are celebrating their final weeks in the field. We will soon bid the eggplants and black-eyed peas farewell, and the sweet potatoes and squash are becoming scarce as the Brassicaceae’s burst joyfully onto the scene to take over!

 

I know its wintertime when my green-o-meter shows a dozen emails with the common subject “What are the green leaves in my box this week?”  Some of you are very happy with the plethora of greens over the winter, and even request we do not remove the beet and turnip leaves so as to make use of them as well. Yet others of you are a bit overwhelmed, and wonder what can be done (again) with all those greens.

For those who are still wondering, I am proud to present:

“Chubeza Winter Greens – A Guide to the Perplexed”

 

Swiss Chard

 

A sibling of the beet, differing by growing huge leaves instead of a thick root. Perfect in soup, quiches, and stuffing, as well as steamed or tossed, and even used fresh in a salad.

Here are all sorts of recipes.

Tatsoi (Spinach mustardSpoon mustard, or Rosette bok choy):

 

A traveler from the Far East, member of the choy or soy family, belonging to the Brassicaceae or חרדליים dynasty. Its flavor is just slightly bitter, not spicy but very distinctive. Goes perfectly with spicy flavors (mustard and black pepper), ginger, sesame and the sweetness of fruit.

Tatsoi can be used fresh in salads, tossed or cooked, like mustard greens or Swiss chard, in soup, quiche, omelets, etc.

Here are some thoughts about it and a recipe. Scroll down and you’ll find some links to other recipes.

Spinach:

 

Depending on the season, the bed in which it’s grown, and the timing of its harvest, spinach can sport huge leaves or resemble “baby” spinach.

It definitely tastes green (I used to be surprised when people described a flavor as “green”), just slightly bitter, and then just a little sweet, chock full of rain and freshness flavors.

Like its cousin Swiss chard, spinach can go fresh in a salad or can be cooked, added to soup, a quiche, dumplings, an omelet or warm salads. They all work.

Here are some examples

New Zealand Spinach

 

As indicated by its name, its origins are in Australia and New Zealand. Discovered by Captain Cook on the beaches of New Zealand, this green was harvested, cooked and even taken on journeys to fight tetanus resulting from a vitamin C deficiency. New Zealand spinach is suitable for our local climate because it loves warm weather. It sprawls and spreads, and its leaves are meaty.

New Zealand spinach can go with any recipe calling for mustard greens, but is definitely suitable as a Swiss chard replacement. To prepare for cooking, one must remove the leaves from the stem which is hard and inedible. Unlike regular mustard greens or Swiss chard, it is not recommended to eat raw, but rather first soaked in hot water for a few minutes, then washed with cold water.

Recipes for New Zealand Spinach

Arugula:

 

It goes by many names: arugula, rucola, roquette and rocket lettuce. Its flavor is spicy, typical of the Brassicaceae family. Like the spinach, arugula can come in many forms, from huge and meaty to small and dainty.

The arugula leaves are spicy, but they have their own distinctive type of piquant flavor which can make them an interesting addition to a salad, even together with sweet fruit. Cheeses go very well, and a very light cooking can temper the spiciness a bit.

You can find many recipes if you conduct an internet search for “arugula” or

“rocket lettuce.”

Kale

 

A green belonging to the Brassicaceae family, considered to be one of the most healthy foods around. An acquired taste, but definitely worth getting used to and falling for.

Due to its relatively rigid texture, kale is usually cooked or added to a green shake, but you can make chips from it or eat fresh in a salad—-it’s great!

Songs of praise and kale recipes to be found here

Vegetable greens like being connected to their roots and the earth. When you want to store them after harvesting, you should attempt to prevent two side effects: drying up and rotting. There are a several methods for long-term storage. First, in order to prevent rotting, avoid wetting them and only wash them prior to use. To keep them moist, large leaves like lettuce, Swiss chard, tatsoi, spinach and mustard greens should be wrapped (unwashed) in cloth or paper and placed in a plastic bag in order for the moisture to be absorbed without actually drying up.

But for all this green abundance to actually grow, we desperately need winter showers! Now, when it has been a month since the 7th of Cheshvan and the pilgrims of old have returned home dry and safe, you are all welcome to mention the rain in your personal prayers. But don’t stop at that: do a rain dance! Beg, nag, insist, hope, and pray for the rain. Whatever it takes!!

That’s all for now. I hope the green picture is a little clearer now. You are always welcome to question unrecognizable guests in your boxes by phone (054-653-5980, although often it’s hard to get ahold of us) or by email (csa@chubeza.com).

May we all enjoy a week of good fortune, health and growth,

Alon, Bat Ami, Maya and the Chubeza team

____________________________

WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Parsley/coriander/dill, sweet potatoes/pumpkin, broccoli, tomatoes, tatsoi/Swiss chard/kale, lubia/green beans/Jerusalem artichoke, lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, kohlrabi/daikon. Small boxes only: beets

In the large box, in addition: Arugula, corn/cabbage, leeks/garlic chives, eggplant/ cauliflower

Wednesday: arugula/spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, cabbage/eggplants, dill/parsley, sweet potatoes, carrots, kale/Swiss chard, kohlrabi/turnip, tomatoes, small boxes only: green black eye peas/green beans/Jerusalem artichoke.

In the large box, in addition: corn, beets, broccoli/pumpkin, leeks/chive

Aley Chubeza #139, December 17th-19th 2012

Multiple receipts…

If you received multiple receipts on Sunday, we are very sorry. In all honesty, I have no idea what triggered them. Perhaps some update in our invoice system? But these are certainly not new documents that require your   attention, since we did not issue receipts this week. Kindly delete and ignore them…

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Using our Order System and an Important Request

More and more of you are now using our web-based order system, for which we are extremely grateful. (Those of you who haven’t yet given in a try, go ahead! It really is simple and easy to activate.)

But…

Sometimes you cancel a box or ask for additional products in the “comments” box. Please refrain from doing so. We only see these requests on harvest day and by then it is too late to order additional products or cancel a delivery.

You can make all these changes yourselves- canceling a box, changing the frequency of deliveries or adding the additional products, via the web-based ordering system.

Should you have difficulties with it, drop us an email or give us a call and we will do our best to explain and help.

Thank you in advance!

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A Warm Winter at Chubeza

Winter is nearly here:  Friday, the 21 of December, is the beginning of the meteorological winter. This is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year and the longest night. From this Saturday on, the nights will be getting shorter and the days will be longer till the equinox in three months time. And yes, we have had some evidence of the impending arrival of winter: our field has received some nice rain which saturated the earth, made your vegetables muddy, and fattened them up almost overnight to become real winter vegetables, juicy and chubby!

But the temperature refuses to descend to its wintery level. Although Mohammed lugged in three carts of eggplants last month and announced, “last eggplants till springtime,” for some strange reason, we’re still harvesting eggplants and black-eyed peas who simply refuse to succumb to this mild winter. Last month, our lettuce blossomed due to the warm weather. At this time we usually plant winter lettuce varieties that can handle low temperatures, but the warm days they met surprised them, causing them to grow a pole of pretty inflorescence and preventing their harvest, of course.

We cannot rely on the not-so-low temperatures, because we know there might be surprises. Thus our spinach (as are its fellow greens), sensitive to frost, is covered in a thin geotechnical material protecting it from frozen nights, though none have arrived yet, and taking advantage of the warm days to shoot up and grow. Which is why your boxes contained huge spinach leaves, as big as Swiss chard. If you’re not sure what they are, give them a bite. They’re really delicious, even a little sweet at the edges. Definitely worth a nibble.

This week we shall sing the praises of spinach, beginning with a rousing rendition of:

I’m Popeye the Sailor Man
I’m Popeye the Sailor Man
I’m strong to the fin-ich
Cause I eats me spin-ach
I’m Popeye the Sailor Man

The origins of spinach, a member of the Amaranthaceae family, are in central Asia: Afghanistan, North India, Uzbekistan, Southwest Asia, and perhaps Persia. For years it was grown in the Mideast, in the central Orient and in China. A Chinese seventh-century source coins spinach “the Persian herb.” It migrated to Syria and Saudi Arabia and from there to North Africa. In the eleventh century, the North Africans Moors brought it to Spain and introduced it to the Europeans. As a popular plant in the Holy Land, spinach is mentioned in the Mishnah and Talmud as a vegetable used for cooking and in soup.

Spinach provides a good opportunity to discuss the power of culture, of colorful stories and folk tradition vs. the power of exact sciences. Like many vegetables, spinach began its culinary life as a healing herb, used to treat constipation and digestive problems.

In Tractate Brachot, Rav Chisda says: “A dish of spinach is good for the heart and for the eyes, and even more so, for the intestines.” I am always amazed at how precise folk medicine is without having the scientific tools to actually examine the medicinal herbs it recommends. Years of experience, perhaps, together with knowledge which is passed on from generation to generation, maybe even a tad of intuition or spiritual abilities, all come together to provide good health advice. For I am pretty sure Rav Chisda never entered the chemistry lab or studied biology or botany, and yet, he hit it right on the spot. Spinach is one of the richest antioxidant sources, especially high in lutein, which contributes to healthy eyes and can also reduce the danger of arteriosclerosis, heart disease and cancer. The high levels of oxalate are those responsible for its beneficial ability in regulating bowel movements (more about the health virtues of the spinach later).

The next thing I thought about while studying spinach is its best friend, Popeye the Sailor Man, a comics and cartoon figure created in 1929 by Elzie Segar. When Popeye encounters trouble, he wolfs down spinach straight from the can, gaining immediate, incredible strength which he usually needs to save his beloved Olive Oil from the enemy, Brutos. Popeye was hugely successful on TV and in movies. To this day he is a regular in American comic strips. This rough and ready sailor upped the consummation of spinach by 30% in the U.S.

And the funny thing is, Popeye started out on a mistaken conclusion. The comic figure belongs to a time in which spinach was considered to be a strength-giving vegetable, based on research conducted in 1870, in which a decimal point typo erroneously attributed its iron content to be ten times the actual value… But here comes the power of storytelling and the one-eyed sailorman. If you conduct a short survey among your friends and ask them which vegetables are richest in iron, they will probably name spinach among them. After all, science or no science, no one wants to mess with Popeye…

Read some more about Popeye the Sailorman and his journeys in the Holy Country (in Hebrew).

The story of spinach and iron is even more complex. Spinach is actually rich in calcium and iron (not ten times richer, but still…), but our ability to absorb these elements from spinach is rather limited, as the oxalate binds them together, preventing their absorption in the body.

But spinach boasts other advantages. Beyond the lutein mentioned previously, spinach is rich in vitamins K, A, C, beta carotene and folic acid. It is rich in chlorophyll, which contributes to protection from cancer-inducing substances (lung cancer, for instance.) It contains Quercetin which is an antioxidant, an anti- inflammatory, and a specific enzyme that assists in lowering blood pressure. Spinach juice is the best vegetable juice to prevent cancerous cells.

As for its nutritional values, take a look at this week’s tips which focus on the different ways to take full advantage of spinach.

Those of you who would rather not drink spinach juice can use the juice for kindling paper… In the 18th and 19th centuries, paper dipped in spinach juice was used for firecrackers, as it burns well (perhaps due to the oxalate acid?). And yet another interesting use of spinach: Sony is examining the potential use of spinach greens in the image-creating technology of new TV’s. Perhaps spinach will once again assume its role as a famous TV star…

There are two groups of spinach varieties: those with prickly seeds, considered to be more resistant to cold weather, and the smooth-seed varieties, which deal better with warm temperatures. The hybrid varieties we have today are suitable for different climates.

Another way to differentiate spinach types is by the leaves: there are the crinkled curly leaves (savoy spinach) and the flat, smooth ones, and there are some intermediate varieties (somewhere between smooth to crinkled.) The variety we’re growing is a hybrid with smooth leaves, suitable for winter seeding (September to March). It can be harvested earlier as small baby leaves, or you can wait to pick great big leaves in bunches.

In Israel, spinach also grows in its wild form, from the center of the country to the north, in wintertime and spring (i.e., it starts growing now). Wild spinach greens are soft and milder, and usually taste more refined. In northern markets, you can buy it fresh, and in Galilean restaurants it is a major ingredient in local dishes at this time of the year.

Here at Chubeza, as the spinach season prevails, Mohammed takes some bunches, secretive and smiling, and after a few days brings us “fatirs” of spinach, za’atar and scallion that smell and taste delicious!! I even found a recipe for you this week. Mohammed’s fatirs do not contain cheeses, but do include Za’atar (the fresh kind). Highly recommended!

Some Tips

  • The iron in spinach is soluble; giving the water you cook it in some iron content with other soluble minerals. Reuse it!
  • In order to enjoy the folic acid contained in cooked spinach, it’s best to steam it instead of cooking it in water. Cooking for approximately 4 minutes will cut the folic acid levels in half.
  • Spinach loses most of its nutritional value after a few days. Even the refrigerator cannot prevent the loss of folic acid and cartonoid. It looks great and tastes fine, but has less nutritional value. In the Chubeza boxes, you receive spinach picked that very same day or a day before, so your spinach has a longer life expectancy than the supermarket’s. But use it quickly!

May this week bring about much good for us all–to our hearts, eyes, and digestive track, as well as the rest of us…

Have a wonderful week, and a pleasant and cold winter!

Alon, Bat Ami, Ya’ara and the Chubeza team

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES (BESIDES SPINACH, OF COURSE)?

Monday: Lettuce, cabbage, celery/celeriac, tomatoes, Swiss chard, parsley, cucumbers, spinach, scallions/leeks, sweet potatoes, fennel (small boxes only)

In the large box, in addition: beets, broccoli/eggplant, kohlrabi, daikon/turnips

Wednesday: cabbage. Kohlrabi or fennel, beets, leeks or scallions, turnips or daikon, parsley or dill, cucumbers, spinach or New Zealand spinach, kale, celery or celeriac, tomatoes

In the large box, in addition: sweet potatoes, tatsoi or arugula, peas or broccoli or Jerusalem artichoke

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SPINACH RECIPES:

FATIR (Filled with Spinach and Cheese)

From the blog dvarimbealma.com

Dough:

5 cups white flour

7 T “shimrit” (yeast)

½ cup sumac

1 T. sugar

1 t. salt

125 grams melted better (1¼ packages)

1 cup warm water

Filling:

600 grams fresh spinach

1 onion chopped thin, thin, thin

3 celery stalks

1 T. cinnamon

Generous amounts of sumac

½ freshly grated nutmeg (or 1 t. ground nutmeg)

200 grams 5% Tsfati cheese (or something saltier)

50 grams pecorino

50 grams kashkaval goat cheese

2 T chopped walnuts (optional) (or substitute any other variety of chopped nuts or whole pine nuts)

Generous amounts of salt and pepper

Preparation:

Place flour, yeast, sumac, sugar and salt in a large bowl. In the center of the bowl, pour the water and the melted butter, and knead well. The success of this dough depends to a large extent upon the kneading you give it, to generate small air bubbles. After many years of experience, I’ve come to the conclusion that successful kneading involves separating the dough into four small balls and kneading each one very well.

Blend all the dough balls together, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise for around 1½ hours till doubled in size.  After the dough has risen, prepare the filling:

Chop the onion and the celery into small cubes. In a large skillet, sauté with olive oil. Add spices.

Wash spinach very well in a lot of water to remove the sand that these leaves always contain. Then toss wet leaves into the skillet and let them wilt a bit. Do not let spend too much time on this phase, since the spinach will be going into the oven.

Turn off the flame.

Grate cheeses into the skillet and mix into the dough.

Pinch small balls from the dough (around 3 centimeters in diameter). Roll each ball into a flat square. An 8×8 centimeter square will give you a small fatir; a 15×15 centimeter square will give you a giant-size fatir.

Place in the center of each square approximately 1 T of filling for a small-sized fatir, and more for larger ones. Using your hands, squeeze out the liquid in the filling before placing inside the dough.

Close the stuffed pastries into thirds by folding each opposite corner of the square, and fold the edges into the two sides of the triangle that’s formed. Clamp the edges well with a fold, and press with a fork to secure.

Bake for approximately 20 minutes at high heat.

Spanakorizo – Greek dish od rice and spinach

Italian spinach malfatti

Spinach bread