Aley Chubeza # 12, March 15-17 2010

Pesach is around the corner, bringing changes in the Chubeza delivery schedule. This week we’re including a printed schedule in your boxes, which you can hang on the fridge. This is the E-version:

Changes in Schedule over Pesach: No deliveries will take place over Chol Hamoed (Wednesday, March 31 and Monday, April 5.) Therefore:

– Monday deliveries will take place on Sunday, March 28th, and then Monday, April 12th – Wednesday deliveries will take place on Wednesday, March 24th, and on Wednesday, April 7th.


Bi-weekly recipients: note that in the absence of Pesach deliveries, you will actually skip three weeks of delivery. If you wish to bring up your delivery dates, please advise ASAP.


If you wish to enlarge your box for the holiday, please advise ASAP!


Open Day: In the Chubeza tradition, we cordially invite you to one of the two annual pilgrimages to our field. This year’s festivities will take place on Thursday, April 1st (7 of Nissan), between 1:00 PM – 6:00 PM. Open Day at Chubeza gives us an opportunity to meet, tour the field, nosh on vegetables and cook delicacies. Children have tailor-made tours, suitable for small legs and curious minds, creative activities, and a great open space to run free.



Weeding this week got me to thinking about the certain arbitrariness of determining what will become a desired growth that stays in the earth, and what is to be considered a weed and ripped out. This time it was more evident because we were weeding our young Swiss chard, and sometimes a naughty wild beet (“silka”) leaf would spring up among them. The wild beet leaves are cousins of the chard, but the young chard is treated like royalty: we cleaned damaged leaves, weeded around it and slightly loosened the ground that had hardened after the rain. The lowly wild beet, however, was torn out with no further ado.

This time of the year our field is chock full of weeds. The session Mayer Chissik gave at our farm last week made me look differently at the wild plants growing along the paths, on the sides of the beds or at the outskirts of the field. I now nod to the thistle, the nettle, the wild beet and the mustard, giving them the respect they deserve. And yet, when we must decide who gets the share of water allotted by the irrigation tube, it’s the chard, with the wider spine and bigger leaves, that wins, hands down

Fortunately our field still has wide edges full of weeds, some of which I’ll tell you about today, assisted by Uri’s new book. It’s customary to think of weeds as a mere hindrance, which like rough bullies roam free in the streets. This, of course, is erroneous. It’s true that like street urchins, they are forced to survive on their own, without any help from human beings (and sometimes even in struggle against us). They are intelligent, sharp and crafty, but they’re not mean. One look at them, one bite of a fresh bundle of greens, and despite all the hours I’ve put into clearing stubborn weeds, I still cannot find it in my heart to be upset at these pretty, tasty and healthy plants– which remain amongst us, despite our wasted battle against them.

First, let’s discuss the wild beet, or Beta Vulgaris:

silka silka1

The wild beet is the paternal ancestor of the beetroot and Swiss chard. The beetroot was developed over the years in a process of preference and cultivation by many farmers in order to grow a sweet, juicy root. The sugar beet is also a sweet root (though white), which was cultivated in order to yield sugar. The Swiss chard was developed for its thick and crunchy spine, first as a wintery substitute for cardoon, a vegetable from the artichoke family that grows a wide spine (this is the origin of its name: Swiss cardoon/chard). Presumably, the wild beet was gathered and eaten here many years ago. The Talmudic tardin is purported to be the wild beet. Among greens, beet leaves are very nourishing and aid the digestive system, specifically ulcers, as well as fortifying the blood and liver. They are also effective in treating external wounds and stings. The water in which they are cooked is valuable in treating skin ailments, especially of the scalp.

The wild beet tastes somewhat like Swiss chard, and yet, it’s different. It has a more concentrated, wild taste to it. I highly recommend sampling it, even if you’ve already consumed mounds of Swiss chard in your lifetime. This is something else indeed, and worth tasting to feel nature’s wildness on your tongue. Something that’s hard to put into words. You’ll find great recipes in Uri’s book (Edible Wild Plants—Hebrew) and also in every recipe that calls for Swiss chard.

The white mustard plant (whose flowers are actually yellow) is growing everywhere now:

hardal_lavan hardal_lavan1 hardal_lavan2

The warm days have brought an early burst of this joyful bloom. The joy is not complete, as the mustard is one of the most popular weeds in cultivated farms, and its seeds can remain in the earth for 17 years! Mustard was cultivated by human beings, this time for its seeds, which produce the herb and mustard spread, and of course the mustard seed oil so widely used in India, for instance. You also know the other facet of cultivated mustard, which sometimes appears in your boxes in form of pungent green and purple mustard greens. The cultivated leaves are bigger and less abrasive than the wild mustard, making them easier to eat, but wild mustard leaves are tasty as well.

Mustard seeds are good for relieving constipation, and act as diuretics and fever reducers. An external smear of their oil can relieve arthritic aches and other pains, and even treat ear infections. The seeds can be collected to make homemade mustard spread.  Even the leaves can spice up dips or garnish a salad, though at this time of the year, after the flowers bloom, they are smaller and gentler. They’re a tad spicy, but not overbearing. The flowers, too, are edible, and are my choice addition to a salad, splashing color and the taste of spring.

Third, the Stinging Nettle:

sirpad_tzorev sirpad_tzorev1

One of the things Uri taught us in his tour is how to pick the nettle without getting stung. The stinging acid is at the edges of tiny hairs on the face of the leaf, on the side facing the sun (see picture). If you pick the leaf from the bottom, folding the face of the leaf inward, and rub the leaf between your fingertips, you will in fact be breaking the tiny thorns and neutralizing the painful acid. If you boil it or mash in a blender, this too will cancel the sting. And why would you want to do this? Firstly, because of the rich nutritional value of the nettle: calcium, iron, and potassium, which cleanse the blood and fortify the immune system and the entire body. Nettle is highly recommended for pregnant women, as a natural support of the iron levels. A brew of fresh or dry nettle leaves assists in iron absorption, reduces bleeding and increases milk production, which is why it is excellent for menstrual periods, pregnancy and nursing. Nettle seeds are used to remedy asthma, digestive ailments, the urinary tract, and more. Surprisingly, the nettle’s sting is beneficial for those suffering arthritic and neuralgic pains. The body’s response to the sting reduces the pain and aids in curing the infection.

Nettles make great patties, soups and quiches. The taste is totally distinctive, really green and earthy. It’s delicious and worth the picking anxiety. If you’re still scared of the sting, pick them with rubber gloves or a plastic bag.

Last but not least, the Common Sorrel, a personal favorite of my eldest, Netta:

humade humade1

It’s not such a surprise, really, because she is addicted to wood sorrel, and the common sorrel is as sour as their cousin. Sorrel is known as a cultivated plant, specifically in Europe, but sometimes you can even find it here in markets, called Chamtsits. One way to identify the sorrel is by looking at the oblong leaf, which does not reach the base of the stem. At the base is a sour-like meaty stem, unlike similar leaves (such as the chicory), which have no stem at the beginning of the leaf. The sorrel is used to make soups-on-the-sour-side. Such soups can be made with other greens and soured with a lemon, but if a sorrel is available, this is much preferred.  Bedouins eat its leaves cooked, squeezed and mixed in sour milk. Sorrel can also be substituted for other leaves in cutlets, salads or stuffed pastries. Don’t overeat! It contains oxalic acid, which can be detrimental if consumed in large quantities.

Our field contains many other wild plants: thistles, endive, goosefoot, wood sorrel, shepherd’s purse, wild fennel, and of course, our dear Chubeza (mallow). You can meet them all when hiking in the country over this season, or in abandoned areas everywhere, even in the city. It’s important to remember not to pick from roadsides, polluted by car emissions, and from plots that are sprayed with pesticides. The rest of nature is waiting for you to nibble and enjoy.

Wishing you a great week, despite the dryness and heat, and looking forward to the promised rain toward week’s end.

Alon, Bat Ami and the Chubeza team


And what’s in our cultivated box this week?

Monday: cucumbers, carrots, parsley, fava beans, potatoes, tomatoes, broccoli, celery, cauliflower, green garlic, cabbage – small box only In the large box, in addition: green onions, leek, fennel, red Russian kale

Wednesday: tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, green onions, broccoli, cabbage / kale / Swiss chard, carrots, potatoes, fennel, parsley, celeriac

In the large box, in addition: cauliflower, fava beans / parsley root, cilantro


Weeds recipes (you can also improvise from recipes calling for the cultivated leaves)

Phyllo Pastry with Wild Beets

Phyllo dough sheets

ingredients: To spread on phyllo sheets: ¼ c. canola oil + ¼ c. water Filling: 400 grams beet leaves, washed, dried and chopped 1 cup yogurt 3 T. bread crumbs 2 eggs Topping: 1 cup yogurt 1 egg 150 gm “Gilad” goat cheese

Preparation: Brush 4 individual sheets of phyllo with the canola and water mixture, then place sheets on top of one another in a baking dish. Mix filling, spread over phyllo Take 8 more phyllo sheets, brush with the canola + water mixture, wrinkle them a little and place over the filling, until all filling is covered. Mix topping and spread over the phyllo sheets Bake in the oven (not turbo) about 180 degrees Celsius, for 40 minutes

Wild Beet Leaves on Rice

Ingredients: (for 4 portions) 2 bunches wild beets ½ c. olive oil 1 ½ onions, thinly chopped 2 cloves garlic, crushed Juice of one lemon Pinch of nutmeg Salt and black pepper to taste

Preparation: Wash beet leaves, dry and chop thinly. Sauté chopped onion in olive oil for several minutes. Add garlic and beet leaves. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Continue to steam for several minutes. If desired, add a small amount of soup stock or water to the pan. Sprinkle with a bit of lemon juice and serve with rice.

Mustard Greens with Labeneh

Ingredients: Bunch of mustard greens High-quality labeneh (best from sheep or goat’s milk) Olive oil

Preparation: Chop mustard greens very, very thin. Add chopped greens to labeneh and mix well. Season with olive oil and serve.

Spaghetti with Mustard Greens, Garlic and Bread Crumbs

Wild Garlic and Wild Mustard Greens Pesto and also Nettle soup

Cooked wild mustard greens – the Greek style (Vrouves)

Nettle recipes – from Julia of Mariquita Farm in California

Sorrel recipes – again from Julia of Mariquita Farm