Aley Chubeza #149 – February 25th-27th 2013

At the end of this week, we will be billing you for your February vegetables.

Remember, you are now able to view your billing history in our Internet-based order system. Simply click the new tab “דוח הזמנות ותשלומים” where the history of your payments and purchases is clearly displayed.

Please make sure the bill is correct, or let us know of any necessary revisions. At the bottom of the bill, the words סהכ לתשלום: 0 (total due: 0) should appear. If there is any number other than zero, this means we were unable to bill your card and would appreciate your contacting us. Our thanks!!

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Purim Snow (peas)

When I left the house with my daughters on Sunday morning, a light rain was falling. “Ah! Finally! A real Purim,” I told them, “where the rain ruins the costumes and they get all muddy. Where it snows and everyone is wearing a heavy coat over their fancy costumes!” They looked at me somewhat puzzled… Why would this memory make me so happy? I couldn’t even begin to explain the nostalgic “v’nahafochu” which paints unpleasant memories pink and fuzzy.

 And of course, an hour later the skies cleared and we celebrated Purim bereft of heavy coats and mud, and of course, no white snow. But, in honor of the white Purim’s of our childhood (both Alon and I were fortunate to have experienced heavy Jerusalem snowfalls as kids), and on the occasion of its upcoming appearance in your boxes, this week’s newsletter is dedicated to the snow pea!

 At the outset, it is important we determine that this vegetable has absolutely nothing to do with snow! It does grow in wintertime, and gets along well with the cold weather, specifically the Israeli cold. (It is not a huge fan of temperatures under zero.) But still… why snow?

Good question. My inquiries pointed to the assumption that it received this name from the white glare reflecting off its pods, because it is so thin and shiny. Perhaps this conjured up a yearning for a wintery white snow in someone exceptionally poetic, who gave the pea this confusing name. You may also call them “Chinese peas” or “sweet peas.” I have encountered recipes that name them “French peas.”  The French title I know for the snow pea is “mange-tout,” meaning “eat it all,” because you can actually eat the entire vegetable, pod, peas and all.

My journey along the Trail of Confusing Names led to the discovery of some of the vegetable’s previous incarnations: Peas (not necessarily snow peas) are an ancient crop, one of the first plants with which human beings formed a friendly relationship, first gathering it, then cultivating and farming. Ancient remains of 6th and 7th millennia BC peas were found In Israel, Turkey and Iraq. That’s 9,000 years ago!!

The flat pea which you are enjoying in your boxes these days was developed by Dutch farmers in the 16th century. From Holland they traveled to England, and then on to the Far East. Of course, the Chinese coined it “hoh laan dau,” meaning, “the Dutch pea.” Its charming consent to be stir-fried, the preferred Chinese method of cooking, made it a favorite for a billion Chinese, and it received a new name, “the Chinese pea.” It traveled to San Francisco in the luggage of Chinese immigrant workers coming to build the greatest railways in the west. Those who ended up farmers named it Shii dau, snow pea, perhaps out of a longing for home and the Chinese winter. Hence the confusing name.

But between you and me, we are willing to forgive, because behind all the different nicknames lies a sweet, crunchy pea, with a flat-to-swollen figure, that is so yummy! It also denotes the start of pea season at Chubeza.

This year we are growing two of our prominent pea species: the flat one (snow/French/Dutch/Chinese, what have you) and the chubby garden pea, out of which we extricate the lovely roly-poly peas.

Harvesting snow peas is a lesson in restraint. Not only because it is hard to control the ongoing temptation to nibble, but also because we need to constantly remind ourselves to harvest only the swollen pods, not the soft flat ones. A short taste-test in the field during harvest (duty calls…) proves that the swollen pods are the sweetest. They are the most mature, which is why they have a high level of sugar. So although we are so enthused by the pea harvest, determined to pick more and more, even the flatter ones, we continue to remind ourselves to reap only the bigger and more swollen ones. Their relative maturity will not bother you as you chew on their pods. They open easily in your mouth and spread joyful sweetness.

Our snow peas, like their sister the garden peas, are grown in Chubeza by trellising (on a vine). But as opposed to the tomato, eggplant and pepper, which we also support, we stretch a net between the poles by the pea plants and it sends out its tendrils and does the climbing by itself. The gentleness of the plant, with its thin, silk-like stems and leaves, causes it to be exceptionally light, which makes it easier to climb and hold on. Climbing plants always seem to me to be more intelligent, the kind that can find the solution with their own “two feet.” Not enough light out here? Let’s climb up and get some more!” When the pea tendril, which develops from the leaf, meets a hard object (even a thin net like ours), it begins growing cells in a varying manner–those close to the hard object get smaller, while the ones farther away grow longer. This generates a twist and then a bounding of the tendril upon the net, like a little spring. Such a dance can continue from one to ten minutes. Amazing, don’t you think?

 

This climbing makes us so happy, as we know that slowly we will be able to straighten our backs. Now we are harvesting the first rounds of snow pea pods from the lower part of the plant. But gradually, as it climbs higher, the peas will ripen at a higher level, and we too will be able to raise our backs like homo sapiens and harvest peas while upright. What joy!

Wishing us all straight backs, crunchy peas in the pod and a happy post-Purim (and thank you, Chana from Jerusalem, for the photos of the peas in our field.)

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

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­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Lettuce, parsley/dill, tomatoes, beets/daikon, carrots, kohlrabi, cucumbers, broccoli/ cauliflower, potatoes, snow peas/fresh fava beans (small boxes only), scallions, (small boxes only)

In the large box, in addition: Parsley root, celery, purple or green cabbage, leeks, sweet red peppers

Wednesday: celery, cucumbers, parsley root, lettuce, potatoes, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, leeks-small boxes only, red/green cabbage – small boxes only, snow peas/red peppers/kohlrabi-small boxes only.

In the large box, in addition: fennel, kohlrabi, beets, green garlic, cauliflower/onions, snpw peas/red peppers

And there’s more! You can add to your basket a wide, delectable range of additional products from fine small producers: granola and cookies, flour, sprouts, goat dairies, fruits, honey, crackers, probiotic foods, dried fruits and leathers, olive oil and bakery products 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!