With Purim behind us, Pesach is on the way! And here is the first of many times you will be seeing the following message:
Delivery changes over the holiday:
During Chol Hamoed there is no delivery, so we will be skipping Monday, April 9th, and Wednesday, April 11th.
Those who receive a box every other week, please note that this means a three week gap in delivery. If you wish to change delivery dates to prevent this long absence of Chubeza vegetables, please contact me ASAP.
Those who wish to expand their boxes for the holiday, please notify me ASAP.
In the grand Chubeza tradition, we invite you for the annual “Pesach Pilgrimage” to the field to celebrate our Open Day. Stay tuned for further details!
Here’s Noa’s message on the upcoming Seed Exchange Meeting in Tel Aviv, scheduled to take place this Friday at the community garden in Yad Eliyahu.
I’m reminding you that next Tuesday (March 20th) is “Good Deeds Day,” with its strong emphasis on setting up gardens and green areas in various institutions and within the cities. There will also be electronic recycling stands and other fun things- Check it out with your local community center.
As the days get warmer, our fava pods are filling up, and more and more beans are crowding our harvest pails and your boxes. It’s time to break into your happy dance! We heartily welcome this greenish guy, the distinguished son of the venerable legume family, whose chubby pods are covered with a soft, cottony lining.
The dry and fresh fava beans have been consumed in the Middle East and in North and South Africa for thousands of years. Fava fossils have been found in archeological sites in the Middle East from as early as 6500 BC! It served as an important, essential food for all classes. Fava is rich in protein, complex carbohydrates, and dietary fibers. It contains a good amount of iron, folic acid, potassium, magnesium and zinc.
And yet, “Stay away from fava!” cautioned Pythagoras.
What did the renowned sixth century BC Greek philosopher have against one of the most popular vegetables of the time? Pythagoras aficionados and interpreters have offered many suggestions for this sharp warning. One is that fava is hard to digest, said to be “full of spirit, and takes a part of your soul, and if you stay away from it your belly will be less loud and your dreams calmer.” And yet, one should not forget that fava contains less sugar and other hard-to-digest fibers than its fellow legumes, such as the green bean.
Another possible reason for Pythagoras to disqualify the fava could have been the ancient belief that the spirits of the dead wander into the fava’s buds, making it a popular dish for funeral meals. Possibly the connection between the fava and the afterworld has to do with the fava allergy, also known as Favism (from the Latin Vicia faba). This allergy is extremely serious, deriving from a genetic deficiency in the G6PD enzyme, and commonly affects populations from the Middle East and Mediterranean (in Israel, it is most prevalent among Iraqi Jews). Fava consumption among some 20% of humans lacking this enzyme can result in acute anemia and even death. On the other hand, the fava possesses chemical components similar to those in quinine medicines used to treat malaria, a once-common disease in Greece and southern Italy. It seems that fava fights malaria in a similar way to the anemia resulting from the G6PD deficiency, i.e., by reducing the amount of oxygen within red blood cells. The season for picking fresh fava, springtime, is also the breeding season of the malaria-transmitting Anopheles mosquito.
Another reason why fava should be part of our natural medicine chest is to treat Parkinson’s Disease. Fava naturally contains the L-Dopa amino acid, which becomes the Dopamine neurotransmitter upon reaching the brain. This acts to improve the condition of Parkinson sufferers, a disease resulting from Dopamine deficiency. Even 250 grams of cooked fava has proven to significantly boost the level of Dopamine in the blood, improving the patient’s condition. The largest concentration of L-Dopa is in fresh fava and its pods–dry fava contains much less. Research is still in the early stages, and those considering fava for treating Parkinson’s should consult with their doctor.
In Israel, there are two varieties of fava, the larger Cypriot or Italian fava (which we grow in Chubeza), and the Egyptian fava, which is smaller, almost the size of a pea pod. In Egypt, fava is called “Ful Hamam” for a fascinating reason: in Medieval times, preparation of the fava was exclusively carried out by those who lived in the area surrounding “the princess baths,” the public baths at the site of the Fountain of Mohammed Ali Pasha in Cairo. By day, the water in the great basins was heated for bathing. By night, when the burning coals were still ablaze, the great basins were filled with dry fava beans which cooked on the coals overnight to provide breakfast for the residents of Cairo. During Chubeza’s first years, we grew both varieties, but several years ago we met an “in-between” species with medium sized pods, which we now happily grow.
Fava’s tale began last autumn. There is something beautiful about it, something that returns us, with our world of endless possibilities, to the restraints of seasons and time, and slower and softer rhythms of life. We seed the fava at the end of autumn from September to December in four rounds, every month or so. We try to bury it deep in the earth before the first showers hit. On one hand, we want to avoid watering, but if we seed too early, we’ll lose our crop to the field animals stocking up at that very time on food for the winter. The raindrops cover the fava with earth, greeting with fanfare the big, familiar seeds, their friends from last year.
This encounter results in quick germination of the favas, which courageously burst forth and continue growing even as the winter grows colder and rainier. The growth is slow and calculated. It takes its time, growing over an entire winter, patiently and steadily, inching a little taller every week. Favas cover the earth and protect the soil from erosion and the ravages of strong rains. It grows densely, preventing weed growth. Favas do not require fertilizers, for like the legume family, fava beans can fix nitrogen for a do-it-yourself fertilizer, enriching the earth within they grow.
After months of rain, wind and cold, the fava feels something moving inside. Its faultless plant instinct senses the seasons changing, the days growing longer, the changing light, the sun’s locale, and then it knows – it’s show time! The fava debuts with beautiful fabacaea butterfly-like flowers. They are gentle and strong at once, like the fava itself. In confident pastel festivity, they overtake the garden beds as if to say, we’re all clean and dressed up, and something wonderful is about to happen. Even when the fava blooms, it takes its time. Why hurry when you can look around, smell the fava, and enjoy life?
The fava bed still looks like it stopped at the flowering stage, while on the surface nothing else has changed. But slowly, almost imperceptibly, a small green boat appears in the flower. This boat will thicken and fatten up until it becomes a seed-carrying pod. We pick them before they fully ripen and dry, when they’re still green, fresh, sweet and juicy. And that’s when we know spring is nearly here. Right here, in our field, in your plate.
There are many ways to prepare fresh favas. Some of the simplest are:
– Cook in unsalted water (similar to blanching peas–the salt hardens the skin).
– Sauté onion and garlic, then add fava, boiling water, and lemon juice. Cook for 15 minutes till liquid is absorbed.
– Turn oven to low heat, and place garlic and such fresh herbs as rosemary, thyme or za’atar on a lightly olive-oiled baking sheet. Add the fava and bake slowly. When the fava is very soft, crush together with the garlic and herbs and spread on bread.
– Despite the suggestion to peel the fava bean (double peel), you can certainly cook and eat fava beans within their pods!
In our field, “fava in the pod” is Mohammed’s specialty when his turn comes to make lunch: Chop up some garlic and tomatoes, stir-fry in olive oil, add favas in the pod (cut each one to 2-3 pieces), season with salt, pepper and cumin. And watch them disappear!
But I must admit, though the recipes sound great, I usually don’t get around to preparing them. In our house, the fava is eaten fresh the minute it pops out of the pod.
May the only thing falling from the sky be rain! Wishing all residents of the south, including our very own Alon, that quiet and stability will return to their homes. And may we all enjoy the spring that’s in the air!
And welcome back, Lobsang! Good to have you with us again.
Alon, Bat Ami and the Chubeza team
WHAT’S JOINING THE FAVA BEANS IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?
Monday: Potatoes, lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, garden peas or snow peas, tomatoes, Dutch cucumbers, carrots, broccoli greens, parsley, fresh fava beans
In the large box, in addition: beets, scallions, sweet red peppers
Wednesday: broccoli or cauliflower, lettuce, cabbage, cilantro, beets, fava beans, cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes, broccoli greens, potatoes
In the large box, in addition: celeriac or parsley root, peas, green onions
FRESH FAVA BEAN DELIGHTS:
5 more – puree, soup, risotto, spaghetti, stew