Miriam Kresh – Green Prophet https://www.greenprophet.com Good news that impacts the Middle East and your world Fri, 28 Apr 2017 09:27:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://www.greenprophet.com/wp-content/uploads/cropped-green-prophet-logo-2-300x123-32x32.png Miriam Kresh – Green Prophet https://www.greenprophet.com 32 32 Lebanese Quince Jam, A Sweet Winter Recipe https://www.greenprophet.com/2014/12/lebanese-quince-jam-a-sweet-winter-recipe/ https://www.greenprophet.com/2014/12/lebanese-quince-jam-a-sweet-winter-recipe/#comments Tue, 02 Dec 2014 09:04:16 +0000 http://www.greenprophet.com/?p=108103 quince jamHave you met the quince? You might have come across it in a market and passed it by. It’s yellow, but not yielding like an apple. It looks like a bumpy pear. Raw, it’s inedible. What do you do with it?

The simple answer is: cook it. Quinces under heat become sweet and tender, with a divinely fruity aroma. They cook alongside other ingredients in tajines like this vegetable-based one, but the best-loved way to eat them is as jam. This recipe has all of three ingredients. You just need an interval when you’ll be at home doing other things – time does most of the work for you.

Quince Jam

2 lbs. – 1 kg. quinces

2 cups sugar

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Peel  with a vegetable peeler and grate the quince. Put into a large bowl and stir the sugar into the fruitCover and let it stand 4 hours.

Cook over low heat about 20 minutes, until the jam thickens. Remove scum as it rises.

When thick and jammy, take off the heat and stir lemon juice in.

Store in sterilized jars or in clean, dry jars in the refrigerator.

Serve on toast, with cheese on the side. A delicious breakfast or snack.

More fresh fruit jams here on Green Prophet:

Image of quince jam via Shutterstock.


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Halloumi cheese kebabs recipe https://www.greenprophet.com/2014/11/weekly-vegewarian-recipe-halloumi-cheese-kebabs/ https://www.greenprophet.com/2014/11/weekly-vegewarian-recipe-halloumi-cheese-kebabs/#comments Thu, 06 Nov 2014 10:35:46 +0000 http://www.greenprophet.com/?p=107812 image haloumi kebabsWhat’s vegewarian, anyway? Answer: it’s selecting sustainable dishes based on non-meat foods at least once weekly.

Halloumi is said to have originated long ago in Cyprus. Cheesemakers spread the Halloumi technique abroad of compacting milk fresh curds and curing them in brine, and now many Middle Eastern countries produce the cheese. It may be made from goat’s, sheep’s, or cow’s milk, or a mixture of milks. Its flexible texture and  high melting point make the firm, salty cheese ideal for frying and grilling. This easy recipe calls for skewering and grilling it with colorful vegetables. A little chili in the seasoning gives it some Middle Eastern heat. And by the way, we like the occasional cheese and vegetable dish, but here are two intriguing ways to combine cheese with dates.

Soak 12 wooden skewers in cold water for 20 minutes. This will prevent them from scorching during the grilling.

Halloumi Cheese and Vegetable Kebabs

12 cherry tomatoes
1 large onion, chopped  into thin wedges
250 grams – 9 oz. haloumi cheese, cut into 12 pieces
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into 6 pieces
1/2 green bell pepper, cut into 6 pieces
2 zucchini, cut into twelve pieces
12 button mushrooms

For marinade:
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon thyme leaves, chopped
1 small red chilli, seeded and finely chopped

Load the skewers with alternating vegetable pieces and cheese.

Make the marinade. Blend  lemon juice, oil, thyme, chilli and salt and pepper in a small bowl. Brush kebabs with marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Grill 3-4 minutes, turning skewers over several times. Alternatively, preheat oven grill. Cook kebabs 3- 4 minutes, turning twice. Remove when vegetables are tender and halloumi softens.

Serve with warm pita breads.

Lots more vegewarian (and even vegan) posts on Green Prophet:

Image of haloumi cheese kebabs via Shutterstock.


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Sage, wormwood and lemons: November seasonal produce in the Middle East https://www.greenprophet.com/2014/11/sage-lemons-and-wormwood-november-seasonal-produce-in-the-middle-east/ https://www.greenprophet.com/2014/11/sage-lemons-and-wormwood-november-seasonal-produce-in-the-middle-east/#comments Sun, 02 Nov 2014 04:10:05 +0000 http://www.greenprophet.com/?p=58424 image-sage-and-wormwood

The best aromatics appear in Middle Eastern markets after the first rains.

Agricultural wisdom in the Middle East says that olives and citrus fruit are best harvested after it’s rained. Olive season is just about over, although if you’re lucky you can still find some raw to pickle at home. But citrus have responded to the first rains and are coming into their glory now.

In fact, winter in the Middle East offers a variety of fresh produce that our friends in colder climates can only envy.  Talking locavore talk with a Canadian chef friend,  I mentioned that I buy fresh tomatoes every few days in winter too, picking them up at the nearest grocery store.

“You just ruined my day,” he said.

The chef eventually forgave my access to glorious fresh tomatoes all year round. And not for the first time, he added that it would be worth moving to the Middle East just for the sake of  the fresh produce.


The distinctive, small round pickling lemons are now in season, so good for preserving in salt as in our recipe. They resemble Meyer lemons in being thin-skinned and slightly less sour. The season for these lemons doesn’t last long, so take advantage of them now.

Oranges, mandarines, grapefruit, pomelos, and oval kumquats are plentiful and inexpensive. Take advantage of lower prices and great quality to put up your favorite jams.

Persimmons, kiwis, and dragonfruit flaunt their colors on market shelves. Fragrant goiabas have appeared also. In full season are bananas, quinces, local apples, so high in life-extending anti-oxidants, and pears. Early strawberries are out for those who can’t resist a foretaste of spring, but they are still much too expensive to buy in quantity.


All the root vegetables are worth buying now, as roots grow fat to absorb nutrition from the damp soil during winter. Look for orange and purple carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, and parsley roots (excellent in soups, but good roasted also). White and red potatoes are excellent. Pumpkins, all kinds of squashes, and celeriac make delicious winter soups.

Onions, cabbages, leeks, endives, local mushrooms and lettuces are excellent. Artichokes have made an early appearance, and buy a few if you really can’t resist – but they will be better and cheaper towards spring. Eggplants like cool weather and reward the farmer with firm, heavy, purple fruit.  Try our delicious eggplant soup! Asparagus have stayed on the scene but their season only really starts around now.

Peppers of all colors and grades of heat are looking good. And tomatoes and cucumbers are abundant, even at higher winter prices. We are finally seeing celery with big stalks. Local sweet corn in the husk is especially delicate and delicious now. Swiss chard appears in huge bunches like all-green bouquets.


Basil leaves are large and healthy – open season on pesto (see our pesto recipe here).  In the markets we have big bunches of rosemary, sage, chives, rocket, dill, wormwood ( sheeba, added for healthy bitterness to Arabic tea). Parsley and coriander leaves, available most of the year, are at their best now. Cultivated purslane looks good, but it grows wild so abundantly in the hot months that it seems silly to buy it now.

Going out of season:

Pomegranates are still on the shelves, but not for much longer. Avocadoes and mangoes are still around, but getting expensive again, and scarce. Pineapples. I was surprised to see a few lingering melons and plums.

Forager’s notes:

Mallows, milk thistle, nettles and chickweed are beginning to come up in neglected lots and gardens. Pick the new growth now for the most delicate salads (well, you don’t want nettles in your salad) and soups. In colder, hilly areas, you may find the first dandelions. Wild olive trees still have fruit on them. Pick a sunny day to go out exploring for olives, and make sure to take a sturdy bag for collecting. Olives are heavy.

Green Prophet shows you more things to do with winter’s luscious lemons:

Photo of wormwood and sage by Miriam Kresh.

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Sustainable student village from shipping containers! https://www.greenprophet.com/2014/10/ayalim-shipping-container-village-negev/ https://www.greenprophet.com/2014/10/ayalim-shipping-container-village-negev/#comments Sun, 26 Oct 2014 10:26:27 +0000 http://www.greenprophet.com/?p=107451 image shipping container homes

Sderot’s dusty streets and woeful aspect come naturally after enduring years of rocket attacks from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. In this Western Negev town in Israel, all bus stops are small bomb shelters. A traffic roundabout represents the town center, with a pizzeria, a stationary store, and some tired-looking clothing shops around it.


The young, active population has long ago left, seeking better employment opportunities and quality of life elsewhere. But the periphery town has received an boost of young energy and willpower from a new student village constructed by the students themselves, out of recycled shipping containers.


Five to six million shipping containers are on the seas at any given moment. What can be done with them after they’re no longer considered seaworthy? Ayalim, Israel’s largest youth organization, has an answer: construct sustainable housing out of them, and rent them out cheaply to students in development towns. The Sderot project is one of 12 such student villages constructed in periphery areas through Ayalim. We wrote about one built in Lod, central Israel.

unfinished shipping container homeThe Sderot student village project launched last June has completed 36 units, each housing two students. Ultimately, the village will boast of 150 apartments constructed of shipping containers stacked three stories high, each two sharing a bomb shelter. 1000 students and pre-army volunteers learned construction skills as they worked. 300 of them will remain in the village to study at the nearby Sapir Academic College. In exchange for the subsidized rent, the students commit to 500 annual hours of social work in the Sderot community.

livingroom recycled containerThe hope is that the youngsters will stay in Sderot after their studies, eventually integrating into the larger community and infusing it with a significant socio-economic boost.

student dorm recycled containerAyalim representative Effie Rubin, also one of the organization’s founders, said:

“If we want to change the reality towards better education and job opportunities, we need to bring young people to the periphery towns.There’s no reason why the majority of  Israelis should squeeze into Tel Aviv. People can live in nice houses like these for NIS600 a month.

“Our hope is that the students have an amazing experience and decide to stay. We did a survey and discovered that students’ greatest obstacle to studying in the Negev and other periphery areas is lack of affordable housing. There are no decent cheap apartments in the Negev or the Galilee. The second discovery was that they tend to stay if they’re given a continuous sense of community; a feeling of being part of a group.”

Cargotecture is good for students and the planet


According to an Ayalim survey conducted last year, the villages so far are providing students satisfaction on both counts.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Energy and Water Minster Silvan Shalom made an appearance at the official inauguration of the Sderot village last week. Both spoke of socio-economic reform in the hands of the coming generation.

The most important attraction for the youngsters is the opportunity to take part in real social activism, but the green aspect also draws them. Only a minimum of concrete is used in the construction, and a layer of insulation is placed between the steel and the drywall. Artificial grass covers the public areas, as it would be unrealistic to lay living grass down in the thirsty climate of the Western Negev. Trees planted in recycled, painted barrels dot the paths. As is customary in Israel, solar heaters will be going up on the rooftops to make sure there’s hot water when needed.

“A grassroots organization like Ayalim can’t deal with thousands of these units,” says Rubin. “Our aim is to be a model, to show Israel and the world that fast, cheap, and good-quality housing can be made out of shipping containers and good will.”

Read more on shipping container architecture:

Shipping Container Cargotecture Office

Affordable Container Housing Hits the Negev

Dubai’s Sustainable City Launches

Photographs by Miriam Kresh.

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How to grow an olive tree in a container https://www.greenprophet.com/2014/05/how-to-grow-an-olive-tree-in-a-container/ https://www.greenprophet.com/2014/05/how-to-grow-an-olive-tree-in-a-container/#comments Sun, 18 May 2014 15:37:13 +0000 http://www.greenprophet.com/?p=104625 olive trees in potsDon’t have a garden? You can still own a fruiting olive tree, grown in a container. A sunny balcony and the right climate are the essential things; that, and time.

Italians have grown fruit trees in containers for centuries, keeping them protected in special sheds during the winter.

Come spring, the trees are wheeled out to the sunshine again. While we can dream of owning an olive grove like the one we visited in the Galilee, olive trees successfully grow in pots too.

Assuming your climate suits the olive, you should acquire a sapling from a nursery. Olive trees grown from pits revert to the original wild olive, and if they produce fruit at all, it will be wizened and not very good to eat. Consult the nursery manager and choose the variety you’d like best. To maximize fruiting potential, you should actually have two of the same variety in the area. This may be impractical where there’s limited space, of course.

When to plant: Spring is the best time to re-pot the sapling into its permanent container. Tender saplings suffer under frost or harsh winter weather, so it’s best to transplant after all danger of frost has passed. When the temperature threatens to dip under 50°F/10ºC, the tree should be brought indoors. It may be taken out to enjoy the sunshine on warmer days. A trolley, on which the container stands permanently, is useful there.

Choose a spot that gets plenty of full sun and only partial shade. Have a clay pot about  2 feet/61 centimeters deep and the same width at the ready. No need for pebbles or other drainage device at the bottom. Pour enough soil in to cover the bottom thickly.  Knock the sapling out of its original container and place in the new pot. Fill the pot with soil  around the tree and make sure it stands stable. Water thoroughly.

Soil and watering: ordinary potting soil; no special fertilizers or compost at first. Wait until there are signs of growth in the following spring to add compost or concentrated fertilizer to the soil.Keep the soil lightly moist, but not over-watered. A mature tree can withstand drought, but until a sapling is established and thriving in its new environment, it needs light moisture.

Care of the tree: the very good Olive Oil Source site recommends pruning with caution for the first four years: remove branches under 3 feet/91.5 centimeters as well as suckers. Others recommend watching for flowering and then pruning off the tips of the branches, above a pair of leaves, as well.

Plant hygiene: watch out for scale infestation. Buy a natural insecticide product from the plant nursery. Traditional Mediterranean farmers whitewash the bottom half of the trunk to keep ants away. Weed out any wind-born seedlings the minute you notice them.

The next step is to enjoy the lovely sight of the  tree’s silvery-green foliage moving while the breeze rustles through it. Because it may take up to five years before it produces any fruit for you. You’ll need to discuss when you can expect fruit with the gardener at the nursery. But by then you and the tree will have become good friends, and the fruit will be a nice bonus.

More about olive trees and olives on Green Prophet:

Image of olive trees in pots via Shutterstock.


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Soylent, a beige goop alternative to eating food? https://www.greenprophet.com/2014/05/soylent-an-alternative-to-food/ https://www.greenprophet.com/2014/05/soylent-an-alternative-to-food/#comments Tue, 13 May 2014 16:30:40 +0000 http://www.greenprophet.com/?p=104520 soylent nutritional drink

A liquid formula that goes down easy and provides you enough nutrients for the day. Would you ever start eating soylent?

Heeding my own advice not to eat in front of the computer, I set a place at the table and fetched a plate of fresh Parmesan-scrambled eggs. There were also halved cherry tomatoes and scallions sauteed in local olive oil. I ate the eggs and tomatoes with a warm pita, mopping up the juices with wedges torn from the bread. Then I enjoyed a cup of Turkish coffee brewed in my little finjan, and a slice of sweet, juicy watermelon. Sounds good? It was.

I then felt ready to tackle the idea of a world where people subsist, and possibly thrive on, bland beige goop. It’s called Soylent, it’s a substitute for food, and you can order it online.

A mixture of nutritional powders blended with water and oil, Soylent is the brainchild of Rob Rhinehart, an electric engineer and software developer in Los Angeles. Resenting the time given to bodily hunger, Rhinehart and a team of friends developed a liquid formula that, he claims, provides all the nutrition a human needs. It’s said to taste not bad, and consumers report that they feel no hunger all day.

What’s in Soylent? Here’s the nutrition breakdown.
Fatty Acids
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Vitamin Bp
Vitamin C
Vitamin B3
Vitamin E
Vitamin B5

The original formula has fish oils, but there is a vegan version.

The idea has spread. Soylent enthusiasts can create their own, DIY versions via this online calculator. Good for dieters. Cheap enough to possibly be the solution for world hungerr – if donors can overcome inefficient or corrupt governments who hoard imported goods, create black markets out them, or just let things go to waste on the shipping docks.

There’s also the inconvenient fact that most people like to eat.

Don’t get me wrong. I myself nursed a desperately ill family member back to health with the aid of Ensure, a life-support liquid food that comes in a can. Soylent, or an equivalent formula, might have been even better. Soylent is great for travelers, especially those who trek through locations where food supplies are unreliable. But I’m glad to say that my loved one has been enjoying real food again for years.  I shudder to think of a culture where the joy of food fades away into gray obsolescence.

In an interview with The New Yorker, Rhinehart refers to real food as “recreational.” According to his vision of utopia, there’d be no need for anyone to eat meals anymore except as occasional treats, thus saving valuable time spent growing food, shopping, cooking, and washing up. He himself has lived almost entirely on Soylent for the past year and a half, and says that he’s never felt or looked better.

The seductive video on the Soylent site persuades you to see the product as a fix that will liberate you from worrying about food ever again, a tool that will free you to live as you like. A cute young woman blends up her daily Soylent in the approving presence of an equally cute guy dressed in something that resembles a chef’s jacket. I darkly suspect that particular scene, which lasts less than a second, is meant to subliminally associate Soylent with real food and so calm down viewer’s food-separation anxieties.

Um. Think of workers sipping Soylent from a cup all day, never needing lunch breaks and working ever more productive hours in their office cubicles. Think of money universally saved on groceries. Who knows, maybe even on dentist’s bills. (With evolution, there might not even be a need for teeth anymore.) Think of kitchens swept clean of everything but a refrigerator and a blender. No more farms, no need for farmers, or even home gardens. No more markets. No cafes, restaurants, or picnics on the beach. Makers of babies’ high chairs gone out of business. Traditional family feasts, only stories to bore teenagers with. People will glow with health and vitality, fit as a fiddle and ready for the Brave New World.

Thanks. I’m keeping my messy kitchen, my weekly stroll through the open-air market and my cookbooks.  Virginia Woolfe put it well when she wrote, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”

Majadra for dinner tonight.

Middle-Eastern Recipes For Food Lovers On Green Prophet:

:: The New Yorker

Image of man preparing Soylent via Soylent.me.

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Making freekeh with the Druze https://www.greenprophet.com/2014/04/making-freekeh-druze/ https://www.greenprophet.com/2014/04/making-freekeh-druze/#comments Mon, 28 Apr 2014 21:19:14 +0000 http://www.greenprophet.com/?p=103918 freshly roasted green wheat freekehI stood in a golden wheat field some five miles north of Acre in Israel. Paul Nirens of the Galileat organization had arranged a demonstration with a local farmer, to show us how the Druze traditionally roast green wheat for freekeh.

To reach the field, we’d driven over a ditch of teeth-rattling bumpiness, part of the foundation for a railroad that will soon divide that field.

Spring lingers in the cool Galilee. There was still enough green wheat to make freekeh worthwhile.

green wheat freekeh

Golden oats, blue chicory and lacy green fennel made colorful spots among yellow mustard flowers in the verges of the field. A breeze rustled the swaying wheat. In the distance, a grove of olive trees completed the perfect picture of a small Druze farm.

Salman Nijim Abu Heissam dragged a pitchfork full of dry thorns to a bare patch of earth, away from danger to the growing crops.

Thorns catch fire easily, make a high flame and plenty of smoke, but it burns out quickly. This is necessary to avoid burning the wheat past the point where it’s edible. It should come out of the fire only somewhat charred.

The green wheat had dried in the sun for several days. Heaping it on top of the thorns, Abu Heissam set it on fire with a cigarette lighter.

freekeh bonfire wheat

I was surprised to know that the Druze also roast green oats, just as they do wheat. “But oats yield less grain than wheat, so we plant less of them,” explained Abu Heissam.

The Druze take their wheat, whether roasted or fresh, to the mill to make – not flour, but bulgur. “Wheat is our basic food,” Abu Heissam said. “We Druze can’t exist without bulgur, and olive oil. Just as King Solomon’s throne was protected by a lion at the right and at the left, so we have bulgur and olive oil. Every Druze family stores enough olive oil and bulgur for two years.”

Make freekeh for the future

Some say that making freekeh is a way to guarantee that at least part of the crop is saved for the future. The fire drives out insects and field pests, and kills insect eggs too. The kernels’ high moisture content prevents them from burning, but the fire dries them. So they’re less likely to rot in long-term storage. According to chef and food historian Moshe Basson, this is how Joseph of the Bible kept seven year’s worth of wheat in good shape for the seven lean years to come after.

Abu Heissam explained that this small demonstration of how to make freekeh is just a sample of the real harvest. “About a month before the wheat matures, we harvest a determined percent of our crop with the combine harvester. Then we set the green wheat in the sun to dry for several days, and it shrinks. We light our bonfire with a gas torch. It’s a big family project, with everyone out in the field.”

The freekeh fire burned down in a few minutes, leaving ashes and the charred wheat stalks.

bonfire dies down with freekehThe stalks cooled down quickly. We picked them out of the ashes with our bare hands and threw them onto a tarp.There were some stalks that had burnt through, and those we left on the ground. The good ones with future freekeh looked like this:

roasted green wheatWe carried the tarp full of roasted wheat to a field shed where a mulberry and fig sycamore tree provided leafy beauty and more shade over a water point. Abu Heissam washes his hands with his own home-made soap made from olive oil.

water point freekehIn the shade there, Abu Heissam showed us that to become freekeh the wheat gets rubbed through a series of sieves, first the finest sieve and proceeding to the ones with coarser and coarser weaves.

I was surprised again, thinking that it would be the other way around, but understood when I saw how the straw and chaff separate from the kernels as they’re rubbed on the surface of the sieves.

“Freekeh” means “rubbed.” The English word “friction” comes from the Latin fricare, but I wonder if it goes back even further, to the Arabic freekeh. It was a pleasant thing to think of.

But the work of rubbing wheat stalks onto the harsh fabric of the sieves to make freekeh isn’t easy on the hands.

The farmer wore heavy gloves to work the stalks back and forth over the old hand-made sieves.


traditional field sieves freekeh harvestrubbing wheat stalksThe freekeh kernels, freed from their stalks, fell through the sieve’s holes. We collected them and turned the sieve over to receive them from the deep side.

rubbed wheat freekehI ate some freekeh kernels. They were nutty and chewy, with the expected smoky flavor. The freekeh wheat’s sweetness came through a second later. The occasional charred kernel tasted like popcorn.

freekehThe next step was winnowing the freekeh kernels by moving them around a tray while standing downwind. The regular motion of wheat bouncing around made a rough sound, like fine gravel on the tray. It seemed to say, chaff, chaff, chaff.

“I’m not very good at this,” said Abu Heissam. “This is women’s work.”

But I thought he winnowed very well.

winnowing freekehThe railroad works crosses Abu Heissam’s fields. It will cut off access to the fields from the highway, unless a bridge is built over it. The community has requested a bridge many times, but no one in the government has taken notice, not even the Druze MK. In the meantime, a neighboring farm has two bridges to allow their cows to cross its property. Abu Heissam also needs a second water point for irrigation, but the water company hasn’t responded to his requests.

freekehJust about now, or in a week, the farmer will walk to his field again and taste the ripe wheat to judge if it’s ready for harvest. He’ll sell most of it, but the small amount left for home use, his womenfolk will process for bulgur.

Abbu Heissam is an ex-army officer and besides Arabic speaks fluent Hebrew. Like most Druze men who have served in the Israeli army, he’s well versed in the various cultures of Israel, comfortable in the company of any well-meaning person. But his soul is rooted in the earth, which in the Druze religion is considered holy in and of itself.

“The Druze learned that an army career grants benefits and a pension,” he said. “But we don’t eat from that income. We eat from the money we make selling what we grow in our own fields.”

Need it be said that GMO doesn’t come near the fields of the Druze and their freekeh?

Why is freekeh uncool?

Freekeh, like many traditional Druze foods, is considered uncool by the younger generation. It’s sad, but the art and craft of freekeh is mostly in the hands of old folks these days. I hope that the young ones wake up to the beauty of the seasonal food traditions and love of the earth that their grandparents are keeping alive.

Read more from our archives on freekeh:
The ancient grain freekeh spurs boutique recipes
Freekeh recipes from around the world

More about Druze culture in the Galilee, Israel:

All photos by Miriam Kresh

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How to spot real honey from the fake https://www.greenprophet.com/2014/04/why-not-buy-supermarket-honey/ https://www.greenprophet.com/2014/04/why-not-buy-supermarket-honey/#comments Thu, 03 Apr 2014 09:01:51 +0000 http://www.greenprophet.com/?p=103561 Honey

Those jars and honey bears full of golden liquid are mostly not honey at all. It’s just syrup that tastes something like the real thing.

Commercial processed honey has been heated to high temperatures, which destroys the wealth of nutrients it had when fresh out of the hive. It’s often diluted with water and high-fructose corn syrup to make it more manageable – and to stretch the product out. Its valuable pollen is taken out by forcing it through tiny filters. The result: a liquid that’s pretty to look at but is pretty much dead.

Did you know you can set up your own beehive in your garden? Karin showed us how here. That’s a surefire way to get real honey, almost on tap.

The pollen backstory

Pollen is the part of the honey which can be traced back to its country of origin. If honey suppliers have an interest in hiding the product’s source, they make sure no pollen remains in it. China, whose merchants seem to have no value for human health and safety,  flooded USA markets with cheap, processed honey, putting American beekeepers in jeopardy. It’s honey whose valuable friendly bacteria, vitamins and enzymes have been cooked out in processing. Even worse for the consumer, it’s sometimes contaminated with animal antibiotics.

The fake honey of the USA

The Federal Trade Commission in the US slapped a high importation tax on Chinese honey in 2001 but the manufacturers found a way to keep selling fake honey to Americans. They remove the pollen – which is the element that proves country of origin in lab tests. The process also cooks out all nutritional value.Then they ship the denatured honey to countries not subject to the American tax, changing the documentation and packaging to make it pass for not Chinese.

This fake honey is still bought by big supermarket chains to re-package and put on their shelves with the label “Pure Honey” on it.

That’s the US. Where else is fake honey sold? I’d say that most commercial honeys anywhere, especially ones packaged with supermarket logos on the labels, are processed junk. Even here in the land of milk and honey (in Israel), I walk right past industrial brands. They’re good enough to flavor honey cake or honey cookies, but for real honey with nutritious and medicinal value, I head out to the health food store or visit the apiary in the next town.

An advantage to buying from apiaries (see my visit to a local apiary and how I got swarmed here) is that they carry varieties unavailable in supermarkets. Near where I live, there’s an apiary that offers some 15 varieties, including honey from onion flowers. That one, and eucalyptus honey, are popular with Russian immigrants, who appreciate its highly antiviral, antibacterial properties.

Try this honey purity test. You’ll be amazed to see how raw honey when added to water creates a beehive structure when stirred:

What’s so great about honey as medicine?

Due to its antioxidant properties, raw honey can heal wounds, even minor burns (in a pinch). While a bad burn or wound should be treated by a qualified practitioner, it’s useful to know that a dab of honey will dry up a pimple overnight or can be applied for soothing and healing to the sort of burns you can get on your arms when taking a hot tray out of the oven. Honey has been used in home-made cough remedies for centuries. Science is now proving what folk medicine has always known: raw honey boosts immunities.

How can you identify real honey from the fake?

  • Check the label.  If the label states the name and contact details of an apiary close to home, you’ve likely to have the real thing in your hands. Also, labels that reveal the presence of additives reveal fake honey.
  • Real honey crystallizes over time, while honey diluted with high-fructose corn syrup stays pourable forever.
  • Drop a little honey into a small bowl of tap water. If it dissolves right away, it’s fake. Real honey takes a good amount of stirring to melt.
  • Taste it. Can you taste more than one flavor, like different flowers or herbs? That’s real honey. Fake honey only tastes sweet, with a little honey-like flavor.

Our cookbook author friend Nawal Nasralla gave us another tip for telling real honey: “Let a drop fall on sandy ground,” she advises. “If it does not spread but stays like a ball, it is genuine.”

Oddly, a Druze grandfather I spoke to uses the same basic method to test olive oil. Taking a drop between thumb and forefinger, he makes sure it doesn’t ooze and drop away but stays firm and sticky between his fingers. It seems that the real thing not only has character, but body too.

Sweet and Healing, Here’s More Honey:

Image of honey via Shutterstock.

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Foraged wild greens and fatayer turnovers recipe https://www.greenprophet.com/2014/03/foraged-wild-greens-and-fatayer-recipe/ https://www.greenprophet.com/2014/03/foraged-wild-greens-and-fatayer-recipe/#comments Wed, 26 Mar 2014 21:57:39 +0000 http://www.greenprophet.com/?p=103360 freeka and fatayirIn the Galilee’s Arab, Jewish, and Druze communities, life has a rural rhythm, slower than in big towns. You  can tell that people like to stop and sniff the roses, as each garden displays roses and other lovingly tended fragrant bushes. And the old foodways are still alive in the Galilee, preserved by middle-aged housewives.

Faithful to traditional tastes, these women leave their houses early in the morning and go out to nearby fields to dig out wild spinach, beet greens, endive, and mallows. Each plant must be handled its particular way. The knowledge has passed down from mother to daughter over generations of cooking together. Last week, I learned to cook Fatayer – turnovers stuffed with wild greens, like sambusak – in the Galilean village of Arrabeh.

Wild greens are staple foods in the kitchens of that town. That is, they used to be. More and more, the young folk are abandoning the foods their grandmothers cooked, in favor of more Western-style foods. But some people are interested in joining workshops in the old ways of cooking and eating.

The Galileat organization offers great culinary adventures with local hostesses expert in traditional cuisine.   Not to mention how delicious foods like Fatayer are.

In the Arrabeh dialect, the turnover is called F’tir. Our hostess, Mrs. Nazera Madi, used wild spinach that she picked the same morning in an olive grove where many wild edibles thrive at this time of year.

“My mother and grandmother used to pick many different kinds of greens, ” she explained. “But it’s a lot of work, cooking them. They need to be cleaned and pared down to their edible parts first.” Here she showed how to trim the thorny edges off a milk thistle leaf, turning her kitchen knife this way and that to avoid getting stuck with the needle-sharp points.

paring wild greens“Then there’s the cooking. Some dishes can take two days to prepare. In the old days, women would take their pots to their sister’s or mother’s house, and they’d all cook together. Nowadays, especially since the kids don’t like these foods anymore, it’s hardly worth the trouble.”

f'tir fatayerMadi had a potful of freekeh ready – wheat harvested while still green and roasted in a bonfire. With the f’tir, some labneh  and a separate dish of cooked wild endive, an ample lunch was served.

You can make the deliciousor f’tir turnovers with fresh or frozen spinach, and they will be delicious. Here is the traditional recipe:

F’tir (turnovers stuffed with greens) recipe

Recipe courtesy of Paul Nirens, Galileat

Ingredients for dough:

1 cup – 250 gr whole-wheat flour

1 cup – 250 gr white flour

I 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup olive oil

1/2 cup water

Mix flours together and add yeast. Mix well.

Add salt

Add oil and mix well. Add as much water as needed to make a smooth dough.

Knead dough at least 15 minutes, until dough is smooth and soft.

Cover and allow to rise in a warm place. 15 minutes is enough.

Divide dough into balls a little smaller than fist size.


1 large onion, diced small

1 large bunch fresh wild spinach. If wild spinach is unavailable, use large leaf Turkish spinach (or frozen, thawed out).

1/4 cup olive oil.

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon baharat spice mix

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons canned harissa – more or less, depending on desired degree of spiciness.

I teaspoon salt

Chop spinach as small as possible.  Place chopped spinach is a large bowl and “knead”, in order to break down the cells and release all the liquid. After 5 minutes of kneading, rinse spinach in water and working in batches, squeeze out all the liquid. The spinach should be almost pulpy.  Add finely chopped onion and spices. Mix well and correct taste.


Roll out dough balls thinly into a circle. Add filling in center of circle and close over in a triangular formation – one edge over the other. It is important to close the ftir well so nothing will leak out. Puncture the ftir with a fork in order to allow air to escape during cooking.

Lay on a well-oiled oven tray and bake in a pre-heated 180 oven. It is preferable not to use the turbo function.

Do not allow uncooked f’tir to touch each other. They will stick to each other and the dough will rip. Separate with greaseproof paper.

More Mouthwatering Traditional Arab Recipes:

All photos by Miriam Kresh

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Roasted Romanesco broccoli pasta – the ultimate Recipe https://www.greenprophet.com/2014/03/pasta-with-roasted-romansco-pasta-recipe/ https://www.greenprophet.com/2014/03/pasta-with-roasted-romansco-pasta-recipe/#comments Tue, 25 Mar 2014 15:32:43 +0000 http://www.greenprophet.com/?p=103306 romanesco broccoliIt looks like aliens took over the broccoli patch, doesn’t it?  Romanesco broccoli is a unique vegetable that looks like a cauliflower gone crazy but has an intense broccoli flavor.  It was first grown in Italy and is now available in more European countries, the US, and in Israel.

If readers from other Middle-Eastern countries have spotted Romanesco broccoli in their local markets, please drop a comment below.  Romanesco, like conventional broccoli, pairs well with pasta and cheese. It would be great in our pan-roasted cauliflower and broccoli recipe too, or in our tri-color pasta salad.

In this recipe, olive oil and strips of sun-dried tomatoes lend Mediterranean accents to the dish.

romanesco broccoli pastaPasta With Roasted Romanesco Broccoli

Serves 6


1 package shell macaroni

1/4-1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes

1 head Romanesco broccoli

3 Tblsp. olive oil

3 Tblsp. Pecorino or Parmesan cheese, shredded with a vegetable peeler into strips

1 tsp. salt

Freshly-ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C. – 400 degrees F.

Pour the olive oil into a bowl big enough to fit the florets. Add salt, pepper, and 1 Tblsp. of the cheese.

Separate the Romanesco broccoli into florets and place them in the bowl, turning them over a few times to coat them.

Roast the florets on a baking sheet for 10 minutes, then turn them over and roast another 10 minutes.

While the Romanesco broccoli is roasting, cook the macaroni. Rehydrate the sun-dried tomatoes in hot water; drain and chop them coarsely.

Drain the cooked pasta; cover and keep it warm.

Toss the roasted Romanesco broccoli with the pasta and  tomatoes. Sprinkle the remaining 2 Tblsp. cheese over all.

Serve right away.

More delicious vegetarian food recipes:

Image of Romanesco Pasta Dish and  Romanesco broccoli via Shutterstock.

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