Note Shavuoth holiday delivery changes!
In two weeks, immediately following Shavuoth, Monday deliveries move to Tuesday, June 14th. Wednesday deliveries remain unchanged.
Happy Festival of First Fruits!
Correcting last week’s message, following your responses:
Thanks to all of you who left the empty box for us to pick up and reuse (once, twice, thrice, as long as we can…). We will appreciate your slicing the tape (rather than tearing it off) in order to keep the carton perfectly flat. This way it doesn’t take up room in your home, and makes life easier for our delivery people. Thank you kindly!
This week marks the end of May. On Monday and Tuesday we will be charging your cards for this month’s purchases as well as purchases made on the Open Day (although it took place in April.) You may view your billing history in our Internet-based order system. It’s easy. Simply click the 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 סה”כ 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. We always have our hands full, and we depend on you to inform us. Our thanks!
Remember, we now work with a new billing system, producing one bill and one invoice (from “Green Invoice”) which include all of this month’s purchases at Chubeza. Thank you!
Patience Makes Perfect
Today at Chubeza we hosted a group of women from Jatt who established and run an impressive community vegetable nursery in their village. As we walked among the beds, they easily recognized almost all of the vegetables, including the onion, happily plumping up for harvest. But a few beds up, they could hardly recognize his fair sister. Ms, Leek is so much like him in many ways, but then again, so different. True, the onion is the more popular of the two, while she, the true aristocrat, is somewhat of a snob and an infrequent visitor in our kitchens. Here in Chubeza, however, she has graced our fields from the very beginning.
In Hebrew, the leek is called krisha, or many other monikers such as luf, prasah, piro, karti, or its formal name shum-hakarah. The leek is an easy vegetable to grow, unfettered by cold or heat. It does have to contend with the occasional pest, weed, and disease, but usually breezes through those encounters with valor. Yet to enjoy the luscious leek, one must exercise extreme patience. From the day the seedlings are placed in the soft earth till the day they are picked, at least five to six long months will pass. But it’s well worth the wait.
The leek is a tasty delicacy, far milder than its acrid relatives the onion, scallion and garlic. What’s more, the leek is less smelly and will not bring tears to your eyes. In contrast to its relatives, the leek usually cannot be eaten fresh, but must be cooked. But there are so many ways to cook it (steamed, boiled, roasted, baked, fried), and so many ways to prepare it (see Recipe Corner below) that some leek dishes should come with the warning, “Caution: may be addictive!”
The leek is an honored guest at the Rosh Hashanah table, symbolizing the blessing, “May our enemies be cut down,” by virtue of its paraphrasing the word karti, which sounds similar to: “Karat = cut down.” Six months later, leeks assume their place on the festive Pesach table. Leek fritters (made with matza meal or matza farfel) are a favorite and filling hors d’ouvre during Passover. Leeks can take starring roles at these two such varied holidays because they grow all year. Despite the cold of winter (in Europe they grow beneath the snow) and the heat of summer, they survive and flourish). Just give them some time.
Growing leeks begins with inserting thin seedlings into the earth, following the “deeper the better” rule of planting. The edible part of the leek is the white section at the base of the stalk, hidden under the earth’s cover and thus unexposed to sunlight and lacking chlorophyll’s green. The deeper the leek is planted in the earth, the longer the white sections it produces. To expand this white section, there are those who hill the plants with soil two or three times, higher with each hoeing. This forces the leaves higher up the plant, resulting in extra-long blanched stalks. But not at Chubeza, due to a lack of time and a profusion of leeks. We’re satisfied with the natural length of the white, but if you’re growing leeks in your own yard, pamper them and cover the stalk in the ground, thus “blanching” a longer part of the stalk.
After planting the leeks, one must ascertain that they are given ample water, sun and weeding. But the leek will do all the rest……. Just very slowly. For here is the real test (of nerves): just giving the plant all the time it needs, lots of time, to grow extremely slowly at its own rate. After five or six months, it will indeed reach the desired height and width for harvest. In our first years at Chubeza, we lacked both experience and patience, and “somehow” our leeks always remained stunted in growth. A consultation with Iris Ben Zvi, a veteran organic leek grower, revealed the error of our ways. “Before five months have passed,” she explained, “I don’t even check up on the leeks. Only after five months do I first venture into the field to see if it’s time to harvest.” A lesson in patience.
Despite the fact that the white is its most coveted part, its green leaves rate mention in Mishnah Brachot, in Rabbi Eliezer’s response to the question of when it is permitted to recite the Shma prayer in the morning. According to the rabbi, the answer is at the very moment when there is sufficient light to distinguish between azure and “karti,” with “karti” indicating “leek green.” And indeed, the hallmark of fresh spring leeks is the verdant green of its leaves and the lustrous white of its stem. As mentioned, the leek can grow all year, but spring is its magic moment. Winter’s cold temperatures and rains have cloaked it in luxury, and perhaps it is also the general rhythm of winter which matches the slow, relaxing pace of the leek. In any case, the leek sails through a growing season unfazed by such ills as extreme temperatures, growing juicier all the time. Spring finally jolts even the dawdling, slow and easygoing leek and she is ready for harvest. You’ll meet its springtime vitality in this week’s boxes.
Leeks have been growing in our region for over than 2000 years, and even then they were quite popular. Excavations in Egypt have revealed dried specimens of ancient leeks, as well as their depictions in wall drawings. Even the Children of Israel recalled them wistfully when they complained of what they missed from Egypt, “We remembered the chetzir (leeks) and the onions and the garlic.” The Greeks and the Romans were convinced that leeks were beneficial to the vocal chords. Emperor Nero, an aficionado of singing and music, was passionate about consuming a bowl of leek soup a day to improve the timbre of his voice, gaining him the nickname “leek eater.”
The Romans brought the leek with them to each locale they conquered, including England, where the leek attained a place of honor among the Welsh population. It is associated with the patron saint of Wales, Saint Dewi, a devout vegetarian who subsisted on bread, water, herbs and leeks. In a battle between the Welsh and the Saxons that took place in a leek field on March 1, 1620, the Welsh faced a major peril when they discovered that both armies were wearing identical uniforms. According to legend, King Cadwaladr of Gwynedd ordered his soldiers to wear the leeks on their helmets to identify themselves. Naturally, they were victorious in battle. To this day, March 1st, Saint Dewi’s Day, Welsh soldiers adorn their helmets with a leek stalk, and Welsh citizens don a sprig of leek in their lapels. Since that time, much water has flowed under the Thames, but the national colors of the Kingdom of Wales have remained the green and white of the valiant leek. British one-pound coins bear the design of a leek, in testimony to its special standing amongst the Welsh people.
And what’s good for Emperor Nero, Saint Dewy, and the Children of Israel is good for us as well! Leeks can be made into delicious soup, patties, salads, or stuffed, or added to pasta, or used as a substitute for onion in any dish. Here are several tips for storing and using Lady Leek:
- Just as it’s hardy in the field, so it is in storage. Leeks can easily keep for two weeks in the fridge. (You could wrap them in a plastic bag or store in the vegetable drawer.)
- To preserve leeks for even longer, they can be blanched for three minutes in boiling water, drained and sealed in a container in the freezer.
- Remember that one part of the leek—the white section—grew underground. Before using, it’s important to wash the area well to remove any remaining dirt particles.
- Young leeks (not like those that we send you) can be used in fresh salads.
- Conventionally, it’s recommended to discard the green part of the leek, which is a pity. The green leaves make an excellent seasoning and outstanding “raw material” for soups and sauces.
And in keeping with the second, more optimistic half of Sfirat HaOmer, let us conclude with a positive blessing for the leek, making up for the negative one she is given on Rosh Hashanah: may we like each other with all our hearts, may we build bridges and ties as strong and enduring as a leek on a spring day.
Have a good spring week,
Alon, Bat-Ami, Dror, Yochai and the Chubeza team
WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?
Monday: Lettuce, parsley, tomatoes, cucumbers/fakus, carrots, leeks, beets, squash, parsley root, potatoes. Small box only: butternut squash/Provence pumpkin
Large box, in addition: Scallions/onions, melon/artichoke/acorn squash, Swiss chard, garlic
Wednesday: Lettuce, parsley/dill, tomatoes, Swiss chard/New Zealand spinach, cucumbers/fakus, leeks/onions, beets, parsley root, potatoes, butternut squash/Provence pumpkin. Small box: carrots or squash.
Large box, in addition: carrots and squash, melon/yellow beans/acorn squash, garlic.
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!