This Wednesday there will be no bread and pastry baking as Manu is on a short Chanuka vacation.
Arik and Asaf, the excellent grain grinders of Hadera’s Minchat Ha’aretz, are adding more varieties of flours and products, right in time for your Chanuka latkes: teff flour and red lentil flour. In addition, they are now offering thick and thin rolled oats. Add these to your boxes now via our order system.
The Onion/ Wisława Szymborska
The onion, now that’s something else. Its innards don’t exist. Nothing but pure onionhood fills this devout onionist. Oniony on the inside, onionesque it appears. It follows its own daimonion without our human tears.
Our skin is just a coverup for the land where none dare go, an internal inferno, the anathema of anatomy. In an onion there’s only onion from its top to its toe, onionymous monomania, unanimous omninudity…
Translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh
(A Large Number, 1976)
The onion is a fundamental vegetable in our kitchen, our culture and probably in human existence. We attribute it with qualities of covering up and hiding, associate it with tears and sorrow, courage, audacity and eternal life. And on the onion’s other side – simplicity, the elementary basicness of the common people. Of course, the onion has no idea we put so much on him. He’s totally indifferent to the hubbub, tending to his own growth, making an effort to just be himself… which is why I thought the Szymborska poem is so great. In an onion there’s only onion/from its top to its toe…
The onion is one of the most ancient of cultivated plants. It originated in Western Asia, and there’s even evidence that it was raised in ancient Egypt. The Israelites craved it: “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost–also the … onions and garlic.” In ancient Egypt, onions received special treatment, serving as models in Egyptian art and offerings for the gods, in addition to being a basic staple of the common folk. For the Egyptians, the revered onion with its many layers represented eternal life and was thus placed in the tombs of the Pharaohs. Traces of small onions were found in the eye sockets of Ramesses IV, and a basket of onions was considered to be a popular and respected funeral offering.
There has always been a conflict between the pungent odor of the onion and its taste. Aristocracy pinched their noses at the odor (but ate it nonetheless), while in India the Brahmins abstained while the common people ate it greedily. Hammurabi’s Code notes a monthly allocation of onion and bread for the needy. Alexander the Great viewed the strong scent of the onion as a sign of his strength. An enthusiastic proponent of the “you-are-what-you-eat” school of warfare, he fed his warriors a steady diet of pungent onions to fortify their strength and courage.
In the very early days at Chubeza, we used to grow lots of onion in one round, but were traumatized by the endless weeding. After other difficulties, namely taking on the onion fly and plantings that simply did not go, we entered several years of confusion regarding the onion: should we grow it or not, and how much of it and when… After gaining some maturity and shedding some anxiety, we reached a level of confidence to slowly, step by step, expand the number of onion planting rounds. This year we finally reached a clear, consecutive schedule which will hopefully enable us to grow onions all year round.
We start planting and seeding the onion at the end of summertime. The first onion variety, Beit Alfa, was planted from bulbils (small onion plants) at the end of August/beginning of September. As the temperatures started to drop, it was time for the autumn variety, Ori. At the beginning of October we planted Ori bulbils and at the end of that month, Ori seeds were planted in the ground. Then once again, in the middle of November, in went Ori bulbils. This year we prepared our very own nursery to recycle these bulbils – in September we seeded numbers of onions crowded together, and in the middle of November we pulled them out to replant in spacious beds. The next round, Orlando, is scheduled to be seeded in two rounds at the end of January. Orlando is a summer variety which will be with us till the beginning of next autumn.
As you can see, some onions we plant and others we seed. The plants are actually more expensive to buy and require extra energy if prepared on our own, but they have many advantages: they can be spaced accurately when planting, allowing the onion a better growth process and sparing us the task of thinning the crop. Planting prevents the difficulties of seeding, especially during wintertime when sprouting is harder and seeds can be whisked away by heavy showers. The plants are also stronger when confronting the onion fly, or rather Mrs. Onion Fly who loves laying her eggs on the roots of the tiny bulbs. When the hungry onion maggots emerge, they nibble the little onions to death. However, once the onions are approximately pencil length, they are stiff enough to no longer be attractive to the female flies. For this reason, the onion plants, which hit the pencil-length Finish Line much sooner, are preferable to their seeded comrades.
Still, in order to protect the plants and sprouts from the female flies, we cover all plants with thin white Agril which separates the flies from the baby bulbils, allowing the onions time to grow and strengthen. Once the plants reach the age where they can fend for themselves (i.e., pencil diameter), we remove the cover to let them get some fresh air and direct sunlight, and then face the big bad outside world on their own. This year, we’re experimenting with the Agril by covering some beds and leaving others exposed so as to check out the variations in fly damage and growth. Stay tuned for our conclusions….
This season, prepare to receive Chubeza’s fresh onions, sometimes coined “moist.” Over the next few weeks, they’ll be arriving in your boxes in full glory, greens attached. With this bonus, you can use it all —bulbs and greens!
The fresh, moist onion is the same onion whose beautiful (and yummy) green leaves we usually ignore, allowing them to dry up so their liquids drain into the onion bulb to fortify it. Once the green leaves have dropped somewhat, the dry onions are harvested, after which we place them in the field, covered from the sun, to dry up a little more, develop a dry peeling and be preserved for many months.
We do this in summertime as well, but this winter onion yield is harvested for you fresh and green. The onion bulb has almost no dry skin, and it is juicy and truly fresh, distinctive and wonderful. Plus, the green shoots are a bonus! So besides the bulb that you can use cooked or fresh (especially great chopped up in salad), you can also use its greens exactly as you would the scallion. They are a little thicker, but still excellent and very tasty. Keep the two parts separate, however. Cut off the onion, store it as a dry onion, and then place the greens in a plastic bag and refrigerate, like scallions.
The onion has always been a primary component of natural medicine. It is a good source of Vitamins C and B1, chromium and dietary fibers. The organosulfur compounds grant the onion very strong healing powers, as does the quercetin antioxidant. Here is a brief look at some of this fella’s therapeutic talents:
Diabetes: the organosulfur compound reduces the blood sugar level. It raises the level of insulin available to deliver glucose to the cells, thus lowering its level in the blood. The onion’s significant chromium content influences the stability of blood sugar levels (the body’s chromium level depletes as a result of eating processed sugar and white flower).
Heart disease: the onion’s chromium contributes to the reduction of the “bad” cholesterol and raises the good cholesterol levels. The organosulfur compounds reduce the probability of heart disease, obstructions and cardiac failure by preventing arteriosclerosis and lowering blood pressure. The onion simulates the action performed by aspirin, thinning the blood and dissolving blood clots.
Viruses and infections: the onion serves as a natural antibiotic to fight bacteria (such as bacilli, salmonella, E. coli and others), worms, viruses and the common cold. Onion is recommended to treat excess phlegm and coughing. It reduces the swelling of arthritis and decreases the potency of asthma-causing allergens.
Chronic ailments: the onion contains antioxidants which fight free radicals, thus fighting cancer by destroying cancerous cells. Among these components are various phytochemicals including quercitine, which reduces the risk of intestinal and ovarian cancer, as well as prostate cancer.
Osteoporosis and bone strengthening: the onion contains amino acid compounds (or GPCS) that prevent the development of cells which break down bone tissue.
More details of the onion’s components and their qualities can be found in this article by dietitian Merav Mor-Ophir, with some recipes (Hebrew)
Several old-fashioned onion remedies:
For phlegm and coughing: Chop an onion to small pieces and mix with two tablespoons honey. Let stand for two hours. The resulting liquid is an excellent antibiotic syrup to alleviate phlegm and hoarseness, and ease coughing and asthma. (Note: This syrup is potent for only one day!)
Pain killing and relief of chronic infections and swelling: Slice an onion, add some salt, and apply to the aching area as a compress or a bandage.
To get rid of worms: Drink onion juice (the worms will flee for their lives…)
For earaches: Drip onion juice into the ear, mixed with olive oil or almond oil.
* Onions keep well outside the fridge in a cool, dry place. Ventilation is important, so ideally they should be placed in a wicker or plastic basket.
* Many people store onions with potatoes, but this is not a great combination (for either vegetable). The potatoes contain moisture and emit a gas which expedites onion rotting.
* The remainder of an onion you’ve sliced can be stored in the fridge in a sealed container with some water (to reduce the odor).
Wishing us all a week of health, light, happiness and fun family times,
Alon, Bat Ami, Dror, Yochai and the Chubeza team
WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?
The recent weeks have brought a shortage of cucumbers. One of our younger cucumber beds failed to bloom, leaving us in short supply and unable to include this cool green vegetable in every box. We are making efforts to purchase cucumbers from other organic farms, but these days there is an overall cucumber shortage in both the general and the organic market. Thus, your boxes have been visited by the Saran-wrapped Dutch cucumber (grown in the north of Israel), and this week’s boxes will contain either cucumber or bell peppers. We are in hopes to soon be able to readily purchase cucumbers to supplement our supply. Please bear with us! And for those of you who don’t receive cucumbers in this week’s box, we hope you enjoy the bell peppers…..
Monday: Bok choy/mizuna/arugula, kale/Swiss chard/spinach, beets, cucumbers/bell peppers, parsley/coriander/dill, kohlrabi/turnips, tomatoes, carrots, celery/celeriac. Small boxes only: broccoli/snow peas/fresh onions.
Large box, in addition: Scallions, fennel, cabbage, baby radishes/radishes/daikon, potatoes/ Jerusalem artichokes.
Wednesday: fresh onions/scallions, fennel, kohlrabi/turnip, kale/Swiss chard/spinach, bell peppers/cabbage, tomatoes, carrots, celery/celeriac, coriander/dill, broccoli/snow peas. Small boxes only: baby radishes/radishes/daikon.
Large box, in addition: parsley, beets, Jerusalem artichokes/eggplants, bok choy/mizuna/arugula.
And there’s more! You can add to your basket a wide, delectable range of additional products from fine small producers: flour, fruits, sprouts, honey, dates, almonds, garbanzo beans, crackers, probiotic foods, dried fruits and leathers, olive oil, bakery products, apple juice, cider and jams, dates silan and healthy snacks 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!