‘Tis the Season: Gifts from the Desert

Neot Smadar

For young lovers and their parents, ‘tis the season of gift giving as summer weddings approach and engagements are announced.

How about considering unique, edible gifts?

I ran across information about Negev Nectars and was taken by their mission “to support small- scale, sustainable agriculture in Israel, and to provide a market for these farmers.” All products sold through this American company come from Israeli farms located in the Negev desert.

photo: Jamie Goldenberg

It is remarkable that anything can grow in such a  harsh and highly unlikely growing environment.

Negev Nectars was founded in 2009 by Marvin Israelow, who was introduced to this desert region in 1966 while volunteering at Kibbutz Lahav. He fell in love with the desert and remained intrigued  and committed to the mission of  Ben Gurion University of the Negev to fulfill David Ben Gurion’s vision to make the desert bloom.

Two years ago, he founded Negev Nectars. He reinvests all profits from sales of these miraculous products, in order to support sustainable and organic agriculture in the region.

WOW!

And, farmers in this region are pioneers in their own right.

photo: Jamie Goldenberg

Check out Chami and Oksana Zemach, who moved to Kadesh Barnea, a moshav (cooperative farm)  in the Negev, about eight years ago. They built an artisanal food preserving business called Desert Magic.

Their savory spreads reflect flavors of the Middle East while incorporating farm fresh produce like olives, peppers and tomatoes.

Jarred products like  zingy and chunky Yellow Pepper and Lemon Salsa are the fruits of creative flavor pairings.  They also produce nuanced and unusual chutneys, like Pear Cardamom, the one I am hankering for. I love the idea of cinnamon and cardamom melding with their farm’s pears to create an unexpected accompaniment to pancakes or french toast.

Through persistence and focused technology, they are able to irrigate with brackish water, a  truly sustainable effort to recycle this precious commodity. Immigrant teens from a nearby youth village work in this remarkable business, located on the Sinai border.

Interested yet? And there’s more:

photo: Jamie Goldenberg

Doron Akiva is the exclusive grower of olives used in Negev Nectar’s olive oils. He spent 21 years after the army,  as a  desert ranger , developing a keen understanding of the unique eco-system there.  Now an organic farmer in the desert village of Ezuz, he is committed to growing olives full time, irrigating from  ancient wells used in Biblical times.

“Ezuz is isolated from the influence of modern, industrial agriculture, as well as the pollution of larger cities. The more balanced ecosystems is the reason Doron’s groves don’t suffer from the same fly and pest problems of many other Israeli growers, and Doron has no need to spray his trees with noxious chemicals.”

His olive oils may be  bold and robust or mild with a hint of sweetness, depending on the carefully balanced selection of olives he blends.

photo: Deirdre Shoo

Negev Nectars makes ordering easy by allowing selections ala carte or in like groupings like Jams and Chutneys, Savory Spreads, Sweet Spreads, Olive Oils or my favorite pick for a wedding gift:  The Membership Package, $180. for three shipments in one year.

They are timed around the seasons and arrive in winter for Chanukah,  spring for Passover and autumn for Rosh Hashanah. Membership subscriptions may include items not available to non-members which makes this package even more appealing.

For a better idea of how great it would be to receive this gift, consider that this spring membership package included: Red Label Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, White Label Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Olives, Seven Tastes Chutney, Acacia Flower Honey, Cherry Tomato Spread and Lemon Pepper Salsa.

Click here to learn more about visiting these farms. They would love to explore their desert environments with you while sharing their remarkable accomplishments and delicious products.

To order or to explore these products further, check out Negev Nectars.
All items are certified kosher.

Enjoy Oksana Zemach’s Cherry Tomato Soup, using farm fresh, local tomatoes and Desert Magic Cherry Tomato Spread!

Cherry Tomato Soup

Cherry Tomato Soup

This recipe is provided by Oksana Zemach, Producer of Desert Magic, with her husband Chami.

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 basil leaf
  • 4.5 pounds of cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons Cherry Tomato Spread
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Salt
  • Minced black pepper
  • Sugar
  • Chopped chives (for garnish)
  • Croutons
  • 1/2 cup Negev Nectars Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Instructions

  1. Heat Negev Nectars Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil in pan.
  2. Chop onion and garlic, fry lightly in Olive Oil until golden brown.
  3. Chop basil leaf and add to pot.
  4. Mash cherry tomatoes in blender and add to pot,
  5. cook ingredients for 30 minutes.
  6. After 30 minutes, add Cherry Tomato Spread and half a teaspoon minced black pepper, plus a sprinkle salt and roughly one tablespoon sugar (to taste).
  7. Remove from heat, pour everything into blender and blend for one minute.
  8. Return to pot, passing blended ingredients through sieve. Add cream, cook 5 more minutes. Garnish with chives and serve hot with croutons.
http://kosherlikeme.com/in-the-kitchen/tis-the-season-gifts-from-the-desert

8 Comments

  1. Beautiful! And I happen to know a newly engaged couple who were thrilled to receive a gift of these treats!

    • Just unpacked my package from the “savory” category. I added a jar of olives to my order and I can’t wait to dig in to all of it tonite. Let us know what you think after you taste them.

  2. As [one of] the grateful recipient[s] of the aforementioned gift, I just wanted to express my satisfaction with the spreads. The cherry tomato’s delicate texture, and subtle, sweet heat make it the perfect accompaniment to pita chips. Can’t wait to dig in to the rest! Thanks for the gesture!

    Besos,

    E and D

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