February 5-7 2024 – The Root of Things

Beneath every successful vegetable is a successful legume

In honor of the green fava bean and the festive bevy of peas over the past few months, I’ve decided to present an in-depth exploration of the roots of this privileged, wonderful clan that these pods claim – the Legume family. The expression “in-depth” is not accidental, for indeed the heart of their activity lies deep underground, close to the roots

Let’s get acquainted with the clan: The prestigious Legume pedigree is claimed by the green bean, pea, fava bean, lubia, soy, lentils, hummus and the mung bean. Lesser-known members of the family include the lupine, vetch, fenugreek (chilbeh), clovers and alfalfa. And there are some surprising legume family members, like peanuts and even carobs! All of them – plus many others – are members of the legume family, which numbers some 20,000 varied species! At Chubeza, those we raise are the legumes that come in green pods: peas (two species to be elaborated upon), fava beans, green beans, lubia, Thai yard-long beans and green soy (edamame).

For weekly veggie boxes such as ours, the Legume Family sends a constant representative throughout the seasons. Sometimes I have the feeling that a certain family member is delegated to compile detailed charts to vouch that (almost) no week passes without a Legume family member being harvested. Beginning the Chubeza box lineup at winter’s start are the first pea pods that grow chubby on the bushes. First (at the end of December) comes the sugar pea (aka snow pea or Chinese pea, the big thin one). She is followed by the garden pea which loathes the late-summer heat, but is fine with being seeded in November and ripens in January. (This is the pea whose pods hold those nice, round, green “Sunfrost-like” peas. The pods are not edible, but should not be cast away. See tips…)

Next in line are the fava beans that grew alongside the peas over wintertime, and usually ripen at the peak of winter (now). The peas and fava remain visiting our boxes for additional rounds till March or April, after which they run for their lives to escape the heat they just can’t tolerate.

Then, several weeks later in mid-April, it’s the string bean’s big moment! Sowed three months earlier in February, this bean takes its time growing, due to the cool temperatures. The next rounds of string beans, sowed a month later, will grow faster (a string bean can ripen some 50 days after being sowed). The string bean prefers moderate spring and autumn temperatures, which is why it arrives in our field over two periods. With the string bean’s entry on the scene, it’s time for the yard-long bean (a sub-specie of the lubia). This lanky legume appears in our boxes from the month of July, through the summer till the end of autumn.

During the lubia season, the edamame marches proudly into our boxes. This is the green soy pod, sowed together with the string bean but requiring 80-90 days to ripen, just in time for the changing of the guards with the peas. Thus, our edamame is expected to make its appearance around July-August, so we can enjoy our soy treats, a great green snack, during those warm summer nights.

And when the New Year is upon us in Tishrei, we are always happy to add lubia to the boxes, to assume its important role in the holiday feast with its own special blessing. The lubia continues to bear fruit until the cold November temperatures spur their farewells – and on their way out, they briefly reunite with their spring rendezvous partner, the string beans, coming in for a return appearance. At this point, we have already sowed the peas and fava beans, and a new round of legumes begins. 

This description is somewhat lacking, as it only describes what you see in your boxes. In truth, way down under in the depths of earth, the legumes are working their real magic: they are busy “fixing nitrogen.”

Let me explain: among other things, plants need nitrogen in order to grow. Seventy-eight percent of the air is nitrogen, but animals and plants cannot make use of it because this nitrogen comes in a composition that is inaccessible to them (N2, while they need N3). This is where the legumes enter to save the day. The roots of these plants run very deep and utilize the nutrients in the lower strata, then proceed to grow small nodules of bacteria that work symbiotically with the legumes. These bacteria are able to receive and absorb nitrogen from the air. They take the nitrogen from the air caught between the clumps of earth and transform it into nitrogenic compounds accessible to the plant, which is transferred from the root to the rest of the legume plant.

In return, the bacteria take the nutrients that the plant produced via photosynthesis. Thus, we receive a plant chock-full of nitrogen. The legume plant will use some of this nitrogen to build the protein in the fruits and seeds it produces, but if we harvest it in the flowering stage, chop the plant and mix it in the soil, it will leave behind most of the nitrogen in the earth – and a considerable amount of organic material that will greatly enrich the earth’s composition and its fertility. Similarly, reburying the plants after they have grown edible pods improves available nitrogen levels within the earth. This is why legumes do not need any additional fertilization like the rest of our vegetables. They get by just fine on their own, thank you. (Well, almost on their own, with a little help from some bacterial friends.)

Nitrogen fixing nodules on roots:

We discussed the assistance provided by the legumes to their fellow plants, but we living creatures are also big winners. The nitrogen that became available is converted in the (dry) legume seeds to protein, minerals and other good things, and when we eat them, we too benefit from this symbiosis. What do we get? Protein (in varied quantities, depending on the specific legume) – legumes are the best protein providers for vegetarians – and also: calcium, iron, and dietary fiber. They contain essential fatty acids (linoleic and linolenic) that are quite beneficial for diabetics (with their low glycemic index), assist in lowering cholesterol and preventing heart disease, and as a gluten-free complex carbohydrate, they are a good carb substitute for celiacs. Green legumes, like those we provide in Chubeza boxes, are similar in their nutritional values to green vegetables: they contain vitamins A, B, and C, iron, potassium, and additional minerals and less protein.

And most important – they can be used to prepare delicious food. Legumes have always been an important part of diets across the globe. Different regions feature different legumes: Mid-Easterners ate hummus and fava bean (ful); Americans (starting with the natives) ate beans of all types (and there are many), the Japanese ate soy. But everyone licked their fingers!

Some useful tips for cooking green legumes:

  • Green Cooking: Green cooking is blanching green vegetables in boiling salted water for a short period (half-a-minute to five minutes, depending on the vegetable) to prepare them for further cooking, while preserving their bright green color. Sometimes green cooking is sufficient in itself for the green vegetable — like in salads, such as the Nicoise, which calls for blanched green beans. The water must be at boiling! If not, the vegetable will leak its liquids into the water, and its color will quickly fade. The hotter the water, the shorter the cooking, and the less harm done to the vitamins.
  • When you add fresh green pea pods to vegetable soups, this acts as a type of You only need a few pods to give the soup a totally different taste. Try it!
  • Despite the suggestion to peel the fava bean (double peel), you can certainly cook and eat fava beans within their pods! Check out our recipe section for some ideas.
  • Instead of discarding the empty pods of garden peas or fava bean, freeze them for the next time you make soup stock, then add to the pot and take advantage of their excellent nutrients!

May we all enjoy a wintery week that will bring b’sorot tovot!

Alon, Bat-Ami, Dror, Orin and the Chubeza team



Monday:  Fresh onions, fennel/baby radishes/daikon/kohlrabi, lettuce, celery/celeriac/parsley root, spinach/tatsoi/arugula/Swiss chard/kale, potatoes, broccoli/cauliflower/slice of pumpkin/sweet potatoes, parsley/coriander, tomatoes, cucumbers, fava beans/peas/Jerusalem artichokes.  

Large box, in addition: Leeks, cabbage, beets/carrots/long red bell peppers.

FRUIT BOXES:  Bananas, oranges/grapefruits/pomelit, avocados, red apples, clementinas.

Wednesday:  Fresh onions, lettuce, celery/celeriac/parsley root, spinach/tatsoi/arugula/Swiss chard/kale, potatoes, broccoli/cauliflower/cabbage/slice of pumpkin, parsley/coriander, tomatoes, cucumbers, fava beans/peas/Jerusalem artichokes, carrots/sweet potatoes.  

Large box, in addition: Leeks, fennel/baby radishes/daikon, beets/long red bell peppers/kohlrabi.

FRUIT BOXES:  Bananas, oranges/pomelit, avocados, red apples, clementinas.