March 4-6 2024 – JUST STAY HEALTHY!

When I was just a little girl, my Grandma Sarah, a woman who exuded love and anxiety, would get nervous at the slightest sneeze, cough or cut. She would immediately pounce on us with a huge hug and a hot drink with something sweet to go with it, murmuring all the while, “Just stay healthy, little one.”

“Grandparent words,” I thought as a kid – or rather did not give any extra thought to, beyond attributing these words to (over) anxious grandparents like Grandma Sarah. But as I grew older, I discovered just how right she was and how much truth these words carry. Just stay healthy!

In recent years, the appearance of the Corona virus (and advanced age…) rendered Grandma’s words more relevant than ever. Last winter, abounding with flu viruses, health issues became a constant subject of discussion and thought. At Chubeza, we continue to strive to keep you healthy via our vegetables. To prove just how serious we are, we are sending representatives of a healthy and health-inducing family which protect your respiratory organs and prevent common colds: meet Dr. Leek, Dr. Onion and Dr. Garlic. And there is no better time than now to introduce their special spring representative, smiling below:

At first glance, this fresh green garlic may resemble a great big scallion, but its garlic aroma is unmistakable… Its bulb is bigger than a scallion’s (but not yet the size of a full-grown garlic bulb) and its greens are long and flat, not hollow like the scallion. This is one of the last seasonal vegetables: it turns up in Israeli markets at the end of February-beginning of March, just when winter is beginning to ebb and spring glimmers here and there between wintry clouds. It remains only a short few weeks, till April. Green garlic is a unique vegetable, a childish, though not entirely infantile, gentle and innocent version of its pungent older brother, bringing to my mind – as a garlic lover– thoughts of the power of gentleness and tranquility, of childhood and maturity. We have been growing green garlic in Chubeza since our very first season, where it made a debut in our first spring boxes. By now, it’s been with us for twenty springs.

Garlic is seeded in mid-September. We actually seed it by pushing garlic cloves into the earth. (You can do it yourself!) Even regular store-bought garlic can be used as a seed to spawn a new garlic bulb. Naturally, we use organic garlic cloves grown especially for this purpose, with the stronger and bigger cloves pre-selected for us, but also because the seeds are (supposed to be) free of pathogens (which is very hard to determine, as you will soon read). The garlic shoots out a root, sprouts, settles nicely under the earth before winter, and then begins the wait. Just like the onion, its cousin from the Liliaceae family, the garlic waits patiently for its cue – the first signs of the days growing longer after December 21– to begin to thicken and develop a bulb.

Despite garlic’s sterling reputation as an insect repellent (and rightfully so – insects really don’t like it), growing green garlic in the field is not a simple task. The garlic, whose leaves are erect and straight, needs our help in battling weeds, and garlic beds require constant weeding. It is also vulnerable to various fungi and other diseases which may strike. Since fungi thrive on heat and moisture, over the past few warm winters the garlic crop became more and more difficult to grow. Even in a relatively dry winter, there is enough moisture in the air and earth for the fungus to develop, particularly when temperatures are not low enough to deter it. The damage rots out its roots and drys and yellows its leaves above.

In organic (as well as conventional) agriculture, it is recommended to confront imminent threats to the garlic first and foremost by prevention: only plant garlic or other Liliaceaes in the same plot in five-year rounds, and use seeds from a reliable pathogen-clean source. There are also those who advise sterilizing the earth before seeding. In organic farming, this means solar disinfection: spreading clear plastic sheets over the ground, causing the earth to heat up to that temperature which kills the disease-causing elements, while still allowing the survival of microorganisms within the soil. Above all, the most crucial requirement is to create and maintain a strong, fertile earth. As such, at Chubeza we rotate our garlic plots in the field, and buy seeds from a reliable source. Several years ago, we also carried out a solar sterilization for the first time in various beds in the field, where we then planted the garlic (though we subsequently decided not to continue with this method). Naturally, cultivating the fertility of the earth is one of our ongoing tasks, and a strong, fertile earth proves itself able.

The fungus usually strikes towards springtime, when temperatures rise. Thus, picking green garlic at this time is traditionally our way to try to beat the system: once we detect signs of fungus-damage in a specific bed, we begin selectively picking the garlic whose roots were injured but whose bulbs remain nice, round and unharmed. We then bundle them up for use as fresh garlic. The garlic that was free of fungus continues to grow in the bed, now enjoying a more spacious area underground to spread out. Once the garlic plants hit maturity, we pick them and dry them in the sun (indirect sun, under a blanket of leaves).

This year it was so difficult to obtain garlic seeds (cloves) for planting that we worried it may be impossible. In the end, our Veteran Garlic Supplier came through and we were able to plant the garlic in the earth in September. Very sadly, the entire crop was then attacked by a fierce virus. We fear that the garlic cloves we planted had been infected in advance by the fearsome Fusarium fungus. The evidence: both garlic beds were infected, even though they are distant from one another, while their close neighbor the leeks – also sensitive to the Fusarium fungus – remained hale and hearty. What’s more, a fellow farmer who purchased garlic cloves for planting from the same seller suffered the same infection in his garlic patch. Evidently the infection must have lurked in the cloves from the beginning. So very disappointing and unfortunate…Thus, we are now harvesting the entire patch of green garlic due to our grave fear that these plants will not succeed to continue growing to reach their final stage. Evidently, we will not have dry garlic this year. Let’s hope that next year brings much greater success and only pleasant surprises in the garlic patch.

Whole garlic contains an inactive ingredient named alliin. When we cut into the garlic, thus damaging its cells, alliin turns into an active sulfur compound named Allicin, which is the antibiotic within it. Allicin is a disinfectant effective in fighting infections, parasites and inflammations. This is why garlic is beneficial in fighting the cough and common cold, infections (respiratory, digestion, eyes, ears, teeth…), intestinal inflammations and even against particularly aggressive bacteria such as tuberculosis.

Green garlic contributes to lowering levels of blood pressure and triglycerides, battling “bad” cholesterol and raising the levels of “good” cholesterol. Another advantage is the astute garlic’s ability to decrease blood clotting and assist in breaking down clots, thus reducing the chance of atherosclerosis, heart attacks and strokes. Other ingredients aid in treating melanoma and preventing intestinal cancer. It also protects against diabetes injury and prevents accumulation of body fat.

Green garlic is milder than dry garlic (which is more mature and becomes more concentrated, sharper and firmer in the drying process), and less fetid. Use green garlic as you would a scallion, including its little white bulb, and particularly its green, juicy leaves rising from the fresh garlic’s base. Like leeks, the green garlic’s stem can trap some dirt inside, so it’s best to give it a nice rinse prior to use. The orange-brown speckles dotting the leaves are merely traces of the puccinia – a fungus that attacks garlic leaves. It is harmless for human beings and there is absolutely no problem using the garlic leaves, though if they are badly marred, they’re best used    cooked rather than fresh in a salad.

Store fresh garlic greens in your refrigerator for three to four days. After you have used the stems, you may store the garlic bulbs in a ventilated basket in the kitchen, without refrigeration.

Add green garlic to salads, omelets, sauces, baked goods and dough, made into a spread, grilled, blanched, sautéed in olive oil, or any other use you can imagine. Its mild taste makes it a super candidate for garlic soup. Check out our recipe section for a host of wonderful ways to use fresh green garlic.

What’s really nice is that garlic can easily grow as a plant outside your window: stick a garlic clove in the earth, water it and give it time. It will reward you by sprouting beautiful greens for you to chop and add to any dish that is enhanced by yummy, mild garlic.

Wishing everyone good health, resilience, and a long, deep breath. May we soon hear good news!

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

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?   

Monday:  Swiss chard/kale/totsoi/beet greens/beets, cabbage/Jerusalem artichokes, lettuce, parsley root/celeriac/celery stalk, carrots/bell peppers/broccoli/sweet potatoes, potatoes,

cauliflower, parsley/coriander/dill, tomatoes, cucumbers, green garlic.

Large box, in addition: Turnips/daikon/kohlrabi, fava beans/snow peas or garden peas, fresh onions/leeks.         

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

Wednesday:  Swiss chard/kale/totsoi/beet greens, carrots/beets/broccoli, cabbage/sweet potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes/fava beans/snow peas or garden peas, lettuce,

cauliflower, parsley/coriander/dill, tomatoes, cucumbers, turnips/daikon/kohlrabi, green garlic.

Large box, in addition: Bell peppers/potatoes, parsley root/celeriac, fresh onions/leeks.         

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

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