New Messages for the New Month of Shvat:
*Two “permaculture” courses are scheduled open in our area in the near future. For the unfamiliar, permaculture = permanent (agri)culture, and represents a method developed in Tasmania-Australia that has been implemented worldwide over the past three decades. It aims to integrate the conservation of local and ecological cultural knowledge, modern scientific knowledge, and a positive philosophy of life to create a humane, healthy culture that rehabilitates its surroundings. The courses are suitable for all who wish to make an in-depth examination of the influences of a global consumption culture and to learn how to plan systems that work with and are assisted by the laws of nature within our environment, from personal daily choices to community and environmental planning.
A 13-session course will open at “Farm and Man” (Chava v’Adam) in Modi’n. The first course starts Friday, March 4, 2011, between 8:00 AM – 2:00 PM. For more details: [email protected] or 08-6225782 or 054-4458231 (Efrat) or [email protected]
At Meshek Tapuchi, in Moshav Sdeh Nechemia, a 13-session course will open on Thursday, January 20, 2011, between 8:30 AM – 2:00 PM, led by Yehonatan Tapuchi. For more details: Didi Urieli, course coordinator, 054-4511133, or [email protected], www.perma.co.il
*And unrelated to Shvat, but very related to our social-economic ecology is this letter I received from film director Dan Wolman:
My movie, Gei Oni (based on the classic novel by Shulamith Lapid) will be screened from January 13, 2011 at Yes Planet, Haifa, Cinemateque Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, at Rav Chen Rishon L’Zion and Petach Tikvah, at the Rosh Pina Cinemateque and other locales.
After much contemplation, I have decided to independently distribute the film. (The alternative is losing control of the movie in every parameter for the coming decade, at least.)
Unfortunately I lack the financial resources to mass-market the film via TV commercials and huge newspaper ads, so I’m turning to you to help me beat the system and market it “guerilla style.”
Please forward this to your e-mail list. The film’s website is www.geioni.com. And most important- try to get viewers to the movie theatres during the film’s first two weeks of debut.
Dan, the Lone Ranger
So, it’s the month of Shvat, and with it comes Tu B’Shvat, the holiday of trees and fruit of Israel. As the month commences, the marathon of dry fruits takes off, with the media already packed with ads for dry fruits, recipes, glorification and more. We wish to offer an alternative to the Tu B’Shvat fare. In the words of Melissa:
Over the years, I’ve gone crazy watching the mass import of dried fruits for Tu B’Shvat. I worked for the Ministry of Agriculture for 15 years, and they like to call Tu B’Shvat “The Holiday of Agriculture.” The minister sends greetings to all the workers, and in good years we held group tree-plantings. During the (sabbatical) year of Shmita we received an ornamental plant. Last year we received a plate (made in China, of course, but at least it’s multipurpose) full of pathetic dried fruits, all imported, except for the dates (forbidden for import with pits.) I didn’t even open it, I was so disappointed. With a heavy heart, I donated it to the needy.
The whole reason for dried fruits originated when Jews living in the vast Diaspora could not acquire fresh fruits from Israel, and thus made do with (very) dried Israeli fruits. In my childhood in American Jewish schools, we suffered every year with the tasteless dried fruit treat brought to us from Israel, served with Zionistic flare. We called it “the boxer,” which I know today was (“bokser” in Yiddish) a carob. What I didn’t know was how tasty it is when fresh and crispy.
And then I immigrated to Israel, where we are bombarded on Tu B’Shvat with imported dried fruits, mostly of poor quality. What value is there to eating dried fruits on Tu B’Shvat, when the whole point is to celebrate Nature’s New Year with fruit from Israel? Today, when you can acquire fresh Israeli fruit all year round, there is no reason to eat imported dry fruits! It totally negates the spirit of this holiday. The agricultural holiday? Where is our national pride? Love of our country? Support of local products and environmental values?
This Tu B’Shvat, I would like to start a public protest against the imported (from such loving countries as Turkey) dried fruit regimen. Instead, let us truly support and encourage the farmers of this country who grow fresh fruits, dates and almonds, raisin products and more.
I have spoken to public figures, to the Industrialists Association, to the Minister of Agriculture, to the Organization of Organic Farming and more, to suggest a public campaign. Unfortunately, I did not receive any response whatsoever. So it’s time for a grass-roots (or tree-roots) effort to spring into action! What is your opinion?
With love of the land and its wonderful fruits, Melissa
“Chicory, Dickory, Dock”
The month of Shvat received its name from the Babylonian and Accadian “sabato,” meaning a branch or stick. On one hand, this can symbolize havoc, wreaked by the pouring rain and the storms that may strike the land (although in times such as the present, even the strongest rains could warm the heart.) A secondary meaning has to do with the nascent branches now beginning their renewed growth: after the rain that has fallen till now and as the days get longer, the buds begin to swell and new leaves begin to blossom. According to tradition, the flood ended in the month of Shvat, and the dove sent by Noah returned with a young, fresh branch of a renewed olive tree.
This week, we are adding a new and unique vegetable to your boxes, which could either be viewed as “havoc” or as a sign of renewal- the chicory (“olesh” in Hebrew). In all honesty, we received it by mistake. The nursery from which we order our plants sent us a tray of chicory instead of lettuce, both of which bear a striking resemblance when young. Hence we did not notice the mistake until it started growing and its true identity was revealed.
When Alon informed me of the mistake, I immediately responded, “Oh no! Don’t plant it!” To which he responded, “Too late, it’s already ready for harvest.” The reason for my immediate flinching was this vegetable’s distinctly bitter taste. But after I understood the situation, Alon and I decided to add the chicory to the weekly box as an extra, not part of the regular list. Of course, we will make a proper introduction, and show you its many uses.
Without further ado, meet Mr. Chicory, termed in the Talmud “hindvy,” in Arabic “handva” and in English, “endive” (plus other varieties called “escarole” or “radicchio”).
It grows wild in many places in the country, on roadsides, in fields and in gardens. When it blooms during spring, its leaves thin out, it grows tall, and its flowers are quite blue and beautiful.
Our forefathers grew chicory in their vegetable garden and feasted upon it. It is one of the vegetables that counts as bitter herbs on Passover: “Thus are the vegetables which fulfill the obligation on Pesach: horseradish and chicory.” (Mishna Pesachim 2, 6). All parts of the plant can be used: the leaves and flowers are eaten as a vegetable; the root is roasted and ground as a coffee substitute. Sometimes it is grown completely underground or indoors in the darkness, producing whitened buds. (Then it is termed “Belgian endive,” with buds resembling white-yellow lettuce hearts called “chicons.”)
Animals, less sensitive to bitterness, realize instinctively that chicory is healthy and beneficial, and love to graze it in their pasture. And they’re right- it is known to be very nutritional and healthy: high in calcium, rich in vitamins A and C (though the species grown in the dark contain fewer vitamins), dietary fibers, and inulin (fructose – fruit sugar) in its root. It is used in folk medicine for treatment of anemia (for its delivery of easily-assimilated iron to the bloodstream), sluggish appetite, urinary tract infections and high blood sugar levels. Chicory/endive is considered to be the best plant cure for kidney diseases and for cleansing the blood system of infections.
The simplest way to make use of it is through foods where endive is a chief component, of which the Israeli and Arab kitchen offer a rice variety: cooked salads, vegetable cutlets and soups. Boiling it reduces the bitterness, making it easier to consume, but in early January chicory is still young enough not to taste very bitter. Taste a raw leaf – if the taste is acceptable as it is, don’t bother with the pre-cooking. If you do cook it, save the cooking water and juice to feed your houseplants – they like it.
Make this chicory tea to treat urinary tract infections, poor appetite, kidney diseases and high blood sugar levels: Pour 1 liter of boiled water over a handful of leaves. Let steep for 15 minutes, strain, and drink 3 cups daily. For children, prepare syrup from the root: Grind 500 grams of roots and cook for 30 minutes in half a cup of water. Towards the end of the cooking, add another half cup of water, and a full cup of sugar. Continue stirring till a thick, syrupy consistency is reached. Remove from stove, drain, and store in a glass jar for a period. Recommended dosage: 3 spoonfuls of syrup per day.
The chicory is a strong plant and therefore must be taken with care. It is not recommended for consumption during pregnancy or nursing, should not be used over two consecutive weeks, and if you are taking other medication, consult with professionals.
The variety we grew looks almost identical to spinach. To differentiate between the two, look carefully at the main stem: spinach has a narrow stem, which is longer than the leaves. The chicory’s stem is wider, like that of the Swiss chard, and its leaves continue to the end. The ultimate test: give it a bite. The chicory will respond with a mild bitterness.
Here’s to a Shvat with rain by the bucketfuls, a celebration of locally-grown fresh fruit, and a winter of blessings!
Alon, Melissa, Bat Ami and the Chubeza team
Besides chicory, What’s in This Week’s Boxes?
Monday: spinach, snow peas, lettuce, daikon or kohlrabi, cauliflower, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, fennel or cabbage, beets, parsley and… chicory
In the large box, in addition: broccoli, fava beans, Swiss chard
Wednesday: celery or celeriac, parsley, cucumbers, daikon or radishes, tomatoes, spinach, mustrad greens, lettuce, cabbage, kohlrabi, small boxes- broccoli or cauliflower
In the large box, in addition: broccoli, cauliflower, beets, snow peas or sweet peas
And there’s more! You can add to your basket a wide, delectable range of additional products from fine small producers of these organic products: granola and cookies, flour, sprouted bread, sprouts, goat cheeses, fruits, honey, crackers. You can learn more about each producer on the Chubeza website. The attached order form includes a detailed listing of the products and their cost. Fill it out, and send it back to us to begin your delivery soon.
When life hands you a lemon, make it into lemonade. When Chubeza hands you a chicory, make it into one of these delicious dishes:
Wild Chicory Salad
1 kilo chicory
2 large onions, sliced into rings
½ c. olive oil
2 liters water
Bring water to a rolling boil. Chop chicory coarsely and rinse under the faucet. Drain and add to boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove from water, drain, and squeeze with your hands till not one drop of water remains. Heat oil in a pan or pot; add onion and sauté till brown. Add chicory and sauté together with onions for 5 minutes. Add salt before transferring to a serving plate. Garnish with quartered lemon slices. Optional: add spicy paprika.