Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Good Things are Growing

I post about a lot of unfortunate things happening in Palestine, and well, that's because in a country under occupation where an apartheid regime treats people poorly based on their ethnicity, a lot of bad things happen. There is a lot of inhumanity on display here in the occupied Palestinian territories. I write about memorable moments, and more often than not, those memorable moments are tragic and painful.

But on the other hand, as the seasons turn here in the south hebron hills of Palestine, there is a lot of beauty. Some of that beauty is in the changing of the seasons and in knowing the rhythms of life here. It seems that in the West (or at least in the particular social class and culture in which I found myself in the West) we don't rely much of the changing of the seasons, the coming of the rains, and we don't know the seasons for particular fruits, vegetables, and crops.

In California supermarkets, seasons don't exist, except for maybe there being a bigger variety of apples in the fall than in the summer. But largely, all things are available in all seasons, thanks to genetically modified crops, artificially enhanced soils, and our gross expenditures of fossil fuels getting crops from the other side of the world. On the contrary, living in a rural agricultural village in Palestine, you eat what is in season.

Early spring is bringing from the soil green qameh (wheat), 'aadas (lentils), biika (a lentil-like plant for livestock feed), and sha'ir (a weed used for livestock feed). The beauty of this green covering the hillsides is truly only appreciated when compared with the consistent dry brownness that covers the hillsides for 9-10 months out of the year.

Almonds (loz) are also coming into season. There are plenty of almonds in California, they aren't one of the foods that I have come to know as a result of my time in Palestine. Although I have come to appreciate almonds in a different form than I knew them before. Let me try to explain this.

So you have your nut, the part you eat. You also have your shell, the part you shell and don't eat. Ok, but you also have your outer covering which surrounds the shell and the nut. In early spring, you have green buds growing on the tree. These green coverings have a small seed and shell growing inside, but when they are just beginning to grow in the early spring, the whole unit is relatively soft.

Palestinians (and certainly other peoples as well) eat the whole thing before it hardens into a nut. In has a bit of a sour, tangy taste. As spring progresses, the nut inside might harden enough to be unable bite through it, but people still eat the green outer shell. A pound of these is about 5 dollars in the market right now, but the price will drop significantly in a month, when almond trees are jammed full of green almonds. There are almond trees all over the area so I routinely sit with shepherds on the hills and eat loz to my heart's content. The trees are pretty much community trees, and I use them liberally.

Ka'oub is also in season right now. I don't have a translation for Ka'oub, sorry. It's a prickly plant that grows a bit of a stem in the middle. There are lots of kids around the hills at this time of year with shears and a bucket. The kids will clip off the outer prickly leaves of the plant (which are not used for anything). Then they will use the sturdy shears to dig into the soil to uproot the stem of the plant. The plant is some sort of herb or remedy that is used in soap, shampoo, and some food dishes. I haven't been able to get a description of what it tastes like or why it's good for soaps and shampoos. But basically, you know what I know, and I will update you if I get a clearer idea of it's taste or it's other uses.


DanaAb said...

Hi. Thanks a lot of the pictures! You brough back memories of the most beautiful springs I have known, those in Palestine. I think the last prickly plant you refer to is Akoub. After the prickly bits are peeled off the root is used in a yogurt stew quite well known in Nablus and other parts of Palestine.

Samuel Nichols said...

Thanks for the comment DanaAb. It was nice to come back and look at this post and look forward to the upcoming spring.