A change in deadline for updating your order:
After many years of working late nights on the day before deliveries, we have decided to return some sanity into our lives (or at least attempt to do so…). In order to allow us to prepare for delivery day in a relaxed fashion, we have decided to bring up the deadline for changes and updates in your deliveries.
From now on, you can make changes in your next order (add products, comments, cancellations, etc.) by 8:00 AM on the day before delivery! Requests that arrive later than that simply cannot be filled till the following delivery!
Thank you so much for your cooperation!
At last, the Samar Dates have arrived!!!! Life is good!!!!!
Samar dates have made their long (and long-awaited) journey to us from the southern Arava to the Ayalon Valley, and we are delighted to have delectable Barhi and Dekel Nur dates available for purchase. Their price remains at 20 NIS per kg. You are welcome to add these delicacies to your vegetable orders.
RAIN!! RAIN!! RAIN!! RAIN!! RAIN!! RAIN!!
The rain finally made a grand entrance, starting at 2:00 AM on Wednesday until Thursday morning when our staff took advantage of a short let-up to plant some newcomers to our field. But after one round of planting, it became clear that this wasn’t a great day to mess with the muddy earth and dripping skies. A new round of leek plants entered the earth Sunday morning, yet at the very end of the endeavor, when each of the planters had only a few leeks left to go, the heavens doused us with celestial buckets of water. We got the hint and hurried into the packing house.
Hurray!!! What fun!!!!
The vegetables are laughing merrily, drinking up the translucent liquids filling the air and the puddles that surround. They are plumping up, refining their taste, storing sugar, sweetness and flavor in their roots, flapping their green wings and asking for more!! (as we are) One of these happy campers is our fennel, fattening up and growing happily. This week he wins the coveted Newsletter Vegetable of the Week designation:
Fennel belongs to the Umbelliferae family (called such because the flowers are arranged in a small, umbrella-like shape), a relative of the dill, coriander, carrot, parsley, celery, anise, cumin and others. The fennel’s origins are in the Mediterranean basin– a neighbor! As it is well-accustomed to our surroundings, fennel grows peacefully and comfortably in many wild fields, and easily takes over abandoned agricultural plots or even the random urban open field. It understands our fickle weather, demands order from the weeds surrounding it, lest they encroach on its territory, and grows in the winter sun, sometimes reaching a height of two meters! The fennel is indeed a strong plant: it successfully endures weather changes, even extreme ones (how appropriate for this winter), and hardly ever suffers from pests, perhaps thanks to its strong scent. When it is big enough, fennel gets along well with the weeds, staking out a territory for itself. Its dominant character is a solid reason not to plant other plants alongside, and to give the fennel its own garden-bed.
Contrary to other cultivated vegetables, the Florence fennel we grow is not very different from its brother, the wild fennel, except for the fact that it is shorter and puts most of its energy into thickening the leaves at its base until they become a sort of white bulb, sweet and juicy, which we can eat. Here too, it is a mistake to think we eat the root or onion of the fennel when in fact we’re eating its lower leaves, which in the case of the Florence fennel are puffy and fleshy. These leaves taste more delicate and sweet than the wild and common fennels, grown to extract seeds.
The aroma and distinctive taste come from a unique phytochemical, anethol, which is the main component of the volatile lubricant it contains (similar to the anise). This phytochemical retards inflammation and reduces the danger of cancer. The volatile lubricant in fennel can also protect from various chemical toxins, in the liver and other organs. Its strong smell can be used to refresh and prevent bad breath (if you appreciate its odor), and it is a component of most natural toothpastes. Those who do not enjoy the smell can identify with the pests who stay far away from the fennel, and with medieval witches, who were scared away by sheaves of fennel and St. John’s Wort hung on the thresholds during the June 24thagricultural summer festivities celebrated in Europe.
But let’s continue to sing its praises……
Plinius Secundas, otherwise known as Plini the Elder, an ancient Roman writer, wrote highly of the fennel. He attributed to it 22 medicinal qualities, including the fact that snakes eat it while shedding their skin and sharpen their sight by rubbing up against it. Fennel is considered an important medicinal plant, one of nine Anglo-Saxon sacred herbs (along with mugwort, plantain, watercress, betony, chamomile, nettle, crabapple and chervil). The oil is primarily in the seeds, which are a major component in Indian and Chinese mixtures.
And a little more flattery: the fennel’s (its seeds, but not only) main claim to fame is as a digestive aid. In India it is served at the end of a meal (in Indian restaurants it comes with the bill, instead of sticky toffee) and chewed in order to help the food go down. Perhaps this is the reason fennel is considered to be a good diet supplement. The leafy bulb is rich in dietary fibers which in themselves contribute to efficient, healthy digestion. Fennel is also recommended for colicky babies. Even I drank the… hmmm, how shall I describe it… strong-tasting brew, composed of fennel seeds and anise stars, to help my babies out during colic times. Young mothers still willing to sacrifice themselves will be rewarded twofold: helping the baby and increasing their own milk. And if that still doesn’t help and the baby keeps screaming, a fennel drink will help his/her throat, relieving hoarseness and coughs…
But the fennel has a dark side as well (depending of course on the full or empty part of the cup…). It is one of the spices composing absinthe, a strong alcoholic liquor made of wormwood, moss, anise, Melissa and fennel. Its anise-taste and green color give it the nickname “the green fairy.” Absinthe has been known to cause hallucinations (or to inspire the muse, depending on who you ask) and was very popular in the 19th century with bohemians and artists, with Van Gogh being one aficionado. Some claim that he cut off his ear under the influence of absinthe.
But let’s forget about hallucinations for a minute, and take a deep breath. If you’ve decided to go out picking wild fennel flowers, you can add them to salad dressings, to soups and sauces. If you chop the flower very thinly (or use a mortar and pestle) and mix with soft butter, you can make a great spread for fish or grilled chicken. The flowers can also be used for décor. The seeds should be gathered immediately after the flowers have bloomed and shed and the seeds are still green and fresh.
- Fennel oxidizes upon contact with air: sliced fennel should be stored in the refrigerator in a container with water and a small amount of lemon juice.
- Our fennels come along with their branches and leaves. Don’t dispose of them! Use the stems as a bed for grilled fish in a baking pan or to prepare brine. Use the delicate leaves to flavor cheeses, sauces and butter.
- Place a fennel branch, for example, on fish as it bakes. The fennel will absorb the fishy odor and replace it with a fragrant fennel aroma instead.
- If you collect fennel flowers or seeds from wild plants, it is important to remember not to pick them from along the roadside. These flowers absorb toxins from automobile exhaust or from pesticide in weed sprays.
We’re not asking for much this week, only a week of lots and lots and lots of rain.
Alon, Bat Ami, Maya and the Chubeza team
WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?
Monday: Coriander/parsley, sweet potatoes, fennel/turnips, tomatoes, Swiss chard/spinach/kale, cauliflower/broccoli, lettuce, cucumbers, carrots. Small boxes only: celery, plus leeks/scallions/garlic chives
In the large box, in addition: arugula/totsoi, kohlrabi, radishes/daikon, dill, green beans/Jerusalem artichoke
Wednesday: spinach/Swiss chard/kale, lettuce, cucumbers, cauliflower/broccoli, cilantro/dill, sweet potatoes, fennel/turnip, kohlrabi/daikon, cabbage, tomatoes, celery – small box only.
In the large box, in addition: carrots, Jerusalem artichoke, arugula, leeks/chive/green onions.
Chickpea and Fennel Ratatouille