Winter Does Not Apply

handful of asparagusFebruary is arguably the dreariest month of the year, and at this point my family and friends in the United States and Europe are paralyzed with winter fatigue.  While winters here in the Galilee are generally mild, this past month we’ve been treated to several snowstorms and in recent days I’ve even had to pull out an extra blanket.

But aside from the night chill, the usual associations with winter do not apply here.  For true locavores, this season actually represents the onset of a long and fertile spring.  Since December I have been gathering chicory, wild spinach, mallow and asparagus.  And when the cold sets in, I sip tea steeped with the zaatar and white savoury from my garden, which have come back to life after languishing all summer.

Yesterday, the first really warm and sunny day in weeks, I took a foraging walk and happily discovered that some of my favorite wild edibles have gotten a second wind.  Mallow and chicory grow freely all winter long, but the wild spinach that I’d gathered months ago has just now re-emerged tall and robust.  And the asparagus bushes that were thoroughly harvested by all the local foragers are putting out new stalks yet again.

After picking my one-handful of asparagus limit, I sat down to rest under a scotch broom bush, awash in the fragrance of its sunny flowers, and marveled at the generosity of this land that, from the era of prehistoric hunters and gatherers through to this exquisite winter day, has so graciously sustained the people who understand how to live on and off of it.

feb 26 2015

A Fresh Look at Some Local Foods

habissa

I was flipping through some photographs I’d taken recently, and found these three images, all which show interesting ways that indigenous local foods are processed in Galilee Palestinian society. This is a photograph of luf (arum palaestinum), which was collected this winter during the season it grows wild in the area around Nazareth. I took […]

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Basil – Permitted

basil in mosque

   This fall, I enrolled in an intensive conversational Arabic course at one of the country’s top language programs.  I had taken several two-hour once-a-week courses in the past, but was still incapable of expressing myself much beyond “my name is…, I live in…,” and my desire to communicate in Arabic remained as strong as ever.  Pricey and […]

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Jordan Chickpeas

jordan chickpeas

Christmas in mainstream Jewish Israel is a non-event, but in the Galilee, where 50% of the population is Arab, it’s another story.  In those Arab cities and towns where there is a Christian population, Christmas lights and decorations light up the evenings, and nighttime Christmas bazaars attract visitors, regardless of religion, over the weekend before the […]

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Spot the Spinach

clean

If mallow is flamboyant, then wild spinach is coy.   Can you spot the shiny, diamond-shaped leaves in the crowd? This has been a bumper year for wild spinach and I have been gathering it in large sacks.  In my kitchen, these tender, iron-rich leaves generally are used to make a filling for a filo-dough pastry.  But […]

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Stand!

sea of hubeisa

There have been several books that have profoundly influenced the way I see the Galilee landscape. One is the Hebrew Bible, and the second is Jarred Diamond’s “Guns, Germs and Steel”. Diamond explains how the confluence of topography, climate and indigenous fauna and flora in the Fertile Crescent gave rise to the transition of hunting […]

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My Name is Arum

fresh luf

After my culinary memoir “Breaking Bread in Galilee” was published, I realized I had neglected to include the scientific names of the edible wild plants along with their colloquial ones.   If it is ever re-issued, I will remedy this oversight, and may even sketch each plant to fill out the picture, so to speak. In […]

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Green Black-Eyed Peas – Post 101

shelling lubiya

After 100 posts on the original Galilee Seasonality blog, this post number 101 launches a new blog/website I created to bring together my writing in all its formats.  Hopefully the transition has been seamless for followers of my blog, and I apologize if there have been any duplicate postings… Putting the finishing touches on the […]

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Lo, the Fall is Here

olive picking

     On a recent, short visit to the US East Coast, I was treated to the first signs of another brilliant autumn.  Now that I’m home, my feet are comfortably back in flip flops and the main indication that summer is behind us is the supplement of a jacket and another blanket at the end […]

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Sweet as Carob Syrup

Making carob syrup

For years I’ve wanted to observe how carob syrup is made.  Like many of the highly labor-intensive, traditional Palestinian foodways, carob syrup production is barely practiced anymore.  But several weeks ago, on a visit to Abu Malek in Kufar Manda, I saw an enormous pile of carob pods on the front porch.  Fall is carob season […]

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