December was a month for firsts. I saw an avocado tree for the first time, I picked my first passion fruit (and ate it), I built my first yurt, I became a dab hand at using a circular saw and it was the first time I completely avoided the Christmas prelude – this caused a mixture of emotions, good and bad.
I spent the festive run-up in an eco-community somewhere in the middle of Israel. It’s a beautiful, ramshackle place, set up under a canopy of trees and surrounded by the beginnings of a permaculture-based food forest. Orange, grapefruit and pomelo trees in full fruition, passion fruit tendrils climbing up walls, vegetables sprouting up in seemingly random locations. We spent our days cooking in the vegan kitchen, which I have realised is ridiculously easy to do where avocados, dates and almonds quite literally grow on trees.
Another one for firsts is my discovery of saltbush. Saltbush! Or malouach in Hebrew. This translates as salty, which makes sense because it is. Very salty. Saltbush is native to this land, and grows wild in the desert and the Dead Sea. They grow it here too, in this community, and it really thrives. So much so that we were always using it, wilting it like spinach, putting it into salads, and even better, grinding it into salt. Imagine that! Salt made entirely by hand from a plant that grows in your garden. I felt I had to share this with you.
Blitzing dried saltbush leaves gives you a fine green powder. Milder than regular sea salt, but salty all the same, and kinda herby too. It’s especially good sprinkled on avocado or into guacamole, on hummus or flatbreads or into dukkah or on eggs. We made chapatis (below) with a good hand of saltbush. Delicious! I Googled it and its used a lot in Australia…turns out it grows there too, and people are reviving its use in the kitchen. I love the idea! Promoting native, wild ingredients that we wouldn’t usually think of using.
If you find yourself in the vicinity of saltbush (any Australian or Middle Eastern readers here?!), I suggest you pick a lot of it. Wilt it, eat it raw, or dry the lot of it. In a cooling oven or on top of a stove works well, then blitz it in a food processor or, better yet, a spice grinder. Store in a jar until whenever the hell you like.
– In other news, I got this little Hedgerow Cookbook for Christmas. It’s a beautifully illustrated, simple
guide to cooking and eating foraged ingredients.
– Here are more ways to make the most of our season’s greens.