We joyously open the month of December with the arrival of Kibbutz Samar’s delectable dates, fresh from the autumn date harvest. Great news for those of you who are already addicted and pining away for these incredible dates! And a great opportunity for those who have not yet discovered these mouthwatering treasures from Kibbutz Samar!
From their magic groves far down south in the Eilot region, Samar grows three amazing types of organic dates. Brahi, round, soft and very sweet, is popular in its fresh form as a yellow date. Samar attempted to dry it whilst on the tree, like they do with the other varieties, and discovered that as a dry fruit Brahi’s flavor and texture are incredibly distinctive. They nicknamed it “the date toffee,” and it is deliciously addictive. We also have Dekel Nur dates – elongated, darker and drier. They are not as sweet, and those of you who’ve adored Iraqi or Yemenite dates will be awash with nostalgia when you sit your teeth into them. Last but not least is the Zahidi – a small, round date, less sweet as the Brahi and very rich in dietary fiber. If you do not possess a sweet tooth, you will love the latter two. They are also excellent for baking and cooking.
The Samar dates can be purchased in 500 gr or 5 kg packages. Add them to your boxes via our order system now!
And also – Asaf’s excellent fresh spice assortment now welcomes two new outstanding additions: grill spice for chicken and natural soup powder. Like all the other members of the team, they are made of quality fresh spices, millstone-ground with no additives. “Reach-Hasade” (the fragrance of the field) spices are hand-ground in a boutique factory in Netivot, packed in plastic containers. Kosher Mehadrin by Netivot Rabbanut. Order them via our order system.
CHANUKAH – DARKNESS, LIGHT & A WORLD OF AGRICULTURAL MIRACLES
O Chanukah, O Chanukah,
Come light the menorah.
Let’s have a party,
We’ll all dance the hora!
It’s three weeks till winter will make its grand entrance. The skies are already growing darker in late afternoon, evening falls earlier and earlier, and the hours of darkness keep extending. We walk into the house and flip on the lights. But in olden times, darkness had a much more dramatic effect. Candlelight or bonfire flickers were the only way to break the blackness, and danger prevailed during the long hours of darkness. As fear gripped the heart, the best way to confront the anxiety was through community gatherings lit up for the occasion. Which is why in many cultures festivals of light are prominent during winter – Chanukah, Christmas, the Indian Diwali, Loi Krathong in Thailand and other light festivals are specifically celebrated during this time of the year, when the light wanes (like the Klausjagen in Lucerne and the festival of lights in Lyon).
Chanukah, our very own festival of lights, celebrates the victory of the tiny light over the great darkness, in this case – the Greek occupation that inflicted its culture on the Jewish occupants of the country. To break their spirit, Jews were forced to give up their religious and cultural liberties, and the Temple – their symbol of spiritual expression and sacred practice – was desecrated, defiled and rendered impure. The Greek statue placed in the Temple and the religious persecution prohibiting Jews from practicing their sacred rituals were enacted to proclaim the supremacy of the Greek culture and the defeat of local beliefs.
Antiochus the Greek saw his Hellenistic culture as far loftier than the local Jewish culture which he perceived as barbaric, and sought to create unity among the nations he conquered. After all, what is better than one strong, beautiful and divinely prescribed culture to bring about loyalty, bonding and unity?
Turns out, this didn’t actually work… The affront to culture and religion spawned a volatile rebellion, the conquering of Jerusalem by the Maccabees, purification of the holy Temple, and the return of Jewish rituals, leading to some 80 years of Hasmonean rule in Judah. When I was young, I was told this story as one that highlighted the victory of nationalism and religion. And perhaps, historically, that makes sense. But today when I return to the story, I can see the strength of the aspiration for autonomy and unique self-expression. A unification of culture cannot survive for long. We all need our identity and communal expression, and when a there’s a broad spectrum of identity and cultures – that’s when the great light prevails.
In our food as well, without that wide variation our vegetable salads, or any meal for that matter, would be very uniform and meager. In diverse places round the globe, many types of food and crops were developed and cultivated. Today, the synergy between them, without cancelling out one another, has created the marvelous wealth of our vegetable boxes. So in honor of Chanukah, I will sing praises to the liberty of raising homegrown vegetables that are varied and interesting, and tell the tale of agricultural culture worldwide.
In the beginning, wo/mankind were nomadic hunters and gatherers. They did not fence themselves in, did not build houses or work the field for agricultural cultivation. They moved from place to place, scavenging whatever they found along the way: weeds, grains, caryopsis, leaves, roots and fruit. Each season introduced additional crops, and people moved according to the weather, just like the migrating birds which spend their winters in warmer climates and escape the heat by drifting to cooler placer in summer. Seeds of grains, fruit and hard roots which can be stored for longer periods of time were sometimes preserved in preparation of harsh winters.
As people began settling down, they domesticated plants and animals by gathering the plants they enjoyed (not too bitter or toxic) closer to them to grow and cultivate. The earth surrounding their houses became rich in nitrogen, generated by animal and human wastes, which enriched the earth to make it extra-perfect for agriculture. Over time, human beings discovered the secret of plant reproduction: if you keep the seeds yielded by the crop, you can replant them in the soil and grow a new plant. The seeds from the more successful crops were kept from season to season, also according to their use – those with extra-large leaves, a big root or fruit; those tastier than others , sweeter or stronger flavored, and those which demonstrated strength and durability in face of pests and weather hazards. Thus humankind naturally, albeit with some intervention, developed species better adapted for his/her needs and uses.
In the ancient Land of Israel region, two types of vegetable agriculture were developed: Dry Farming – using no irrigation, only rainwater, and Irrigated Farming – assisted by irrigation channels in small square vegetable plots, sometimes within orchards among the lines of trees (very beneficial for some vegetables, lettuce for instance, who just love the coolness and shade of trees). Among the plots, a system of narrow channels was dug, and water from the closest springs was channeled for irrigation. A cloth rag or pile of dust served as the faucet opening and closing for the water supply. This system is very suitable to a hilly topography where gravity can be used to cause water to flow.
These ancient, wise farmers used their callous, veiny hands and small plots to grow a large variety of crops which enriched the soil and enriched its fertility. In addition, they used goat and sheep manure from the herds shepherded in the area to enable the rigorous growth and reuse of the soil from one season to the next and one year to the next.
In the Sataf Nature Reserve, situated in the Jerusalem hills (turn left at the roundabout at the top of the hill on the Ein Kerem-Mevasseret Road), there is a vivid example of irrigation plots in the ancient agriculture system.
In various places in the world, different types of vegetables were developed, resulting in the vast variety of vegetables we have today:
In the Mediterranean, a wide range of vegetables developed including root vegetables such as radishes, turnips, garlic, celery and onion; and such leafy vegetables as cabbage, beets, fava, asparagus, artichoke and fennel. Agriculture in this entire area contributed a great deal of its knowledge and species to Roman agriculture, which traversed next to all of Europe where the species that manage well in winter were acclimated better in Northern Europe (beets, carrots and other roots, various leaves and the good ol’ brassicas).
In the river valleys of China, amazing agriculture developed. To this day, the area maintains a very high level of soil fertility allowing the growth of fast and high-yielding crops, while maximizing the recycling of organic waste. The Chinese contributed other leaf species such as Chinese cabbage, mustard greens, bokchoi, totsoi, mizuna (and many other greens), the giant radish, and of course – soy and rice. They were the ones who also developed the culture of sprouting, a crop which yields within a few days and offers a wealth of vitamins and enzymes.
An important third region is that of the Native American culture – specifically within the warm and rainy areas of Central and South America. They developed the warm weather veggies, specifically the Solanaceae (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers), and the gourds: various squashes and pumpkins, as well as sweet potatoes, corn and various beans.
From Africa we received melons, okra, watermelon and an abundance of fruits. From the regions of India, we gained cucumbers, black-eyed peas, as well as many types of spices, including black pepper, basil, vanilla and others.
Last but not least is the strawberry, which only arrived in the agricultural crops of the 16th century from the European forests. Thank goodness!
Today, we most definitely enjoy this ingathering of the exiles as it supplies us with a wide variety of dozens of different vegetables, subdivided into thousands of species and sub-species. A true song of praise to the autonomous liberty to create, cultivate, grow and taste. May we enjoy a holiday of colorful and illuminating lights, and Bon Appetit!
Our Thai workers are celebrating Kings Day on December 5th. Happy holidays to all!
Alon, Bat Ami, Dror, Yochai, Orin and the entire Chubeza team
WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?
Monday: Cabbage/fennel/turnips, radishes/baby radishes/daikon, sweet potatoes/green bell peppers, kohlrabi, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, spinach/totsoi/kale, dill/parsley, Swiss chard. Special gift: mizuna/arugula
Large box, in addition: Jerusalem artichokes/beets, celery/celeriac, lettuce
FRUIT BOXES: Bananas, apples, oranges, avocados, pomelit
Wednesday: Cabbage/broccoli, radishes/baby radishes/daikon, potatoes/orange or purple sweet potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, , spinach/kale, dill/parsley, totsoi/Swiss chard, mizuna/arugula/lettuce
Large box, in addition: Jerusalem artichokes/Thai long beans, fennel/turnips, beets/celeriac.
FRUIT BOXES: Bananas, apples, oranges, avocados, pomelit.