Strawberry wars and summer fruit crumble

by Sarah on June 3, 2012

raspberry and strawberry picking in Newfoundland

Pick your own berries at Lomond Farm in Newfoundland, Canada

Growing up in Upstate New York, my parents often took us to “pick-your-own” farms long before the locavore movement was coined.  Sadly, I rarely take my own boys. There is a lot less open space in Israel and agriculture has become separated from everyday life. The majority of Israelis no longer grow their own food and those who do hire migrants to do the brunt of the work, mainly from Thailand and other parts of Asia.

The hoe and spade ideology which first generation Israelis were born into has faded. Getting dirt beneath your finger nails has lost its romantic appeal and often considered the misfortune of those who have no other options.

thai agricultural workers in Israel

Thai agricultural workers near Lachich. The thai cover their faces not for modesty but to avoid darkening their skin

Passing through the food belt on the Israel trail illustrated just how great the dependence on foreign workers has grown. In Kibbutz Zofar in the Arava, for example, sawadee kap is used as often as shalom and Thai food fills entire shelves at the local grocery store- red curry, rambutan stuffed pineapple, pickled fish alongside dried figs and chickpeas. There was a time when high school students on vacation or discharged soldiers would have been happy to fill these jobs. Now? Work ethics have changed with the rise of affluence.

vineyards in Israel, Lachich

Vineyards in Lachich

With this shift is the growing demand for social justice, much of it centered on the price of food. Throwing slogans in the air, the activists in Tel Aviv all want a revolution. Meanwhile, there’s a group of Thais in the vineyards in Lachich singing together as they toil for our food.

strawberry crumble

Strawberry crumble

Summer fruit crumble

When I was about eleven I was invited to go strawberry picking at a local farm with our neighbors, whom had children about the same age. As we were tediously filling out plastic baskets, the eldest, also named Sarah, looked up mischievously and asked “Have you ever been in a strawberry war?”   Even before I could answer she pelted me with the crimson fruit and shouted gaily “Now you have!” I returned fire with a vengeance and soon we were covered with aromatic pulp. Her mother, mortified, stopped the rampage and shuffled us all back to the car saying she would never, ever, in her entire life, ever take us strawberry picking again. She never did.

nectarine crumble

Nectarine crumble

3/4 cup oats

3/4 cup flour

¾ cups brown sugar

125 grams (4.4 ounces or 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon) cold butter, cut into cubes

½ cup almonds, chopped

Castor sugar, optional

About 600 grams (21 ounces) strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, ripe nectarines or any fruit soft enough to be squashed between the fingers

For the crumble

Preheat the oven to 180⁰C (350⁰ F). In a bowl, mix the oats, flour, brown sugar, almonds and butter. Using your fingertips rub the butter into the dry ingredients to form a fine crumbly mixture, the texture of wet sand. It’s ok to have a few clumps- it doesn’t have to be uniform. The crumble mixture can be stored in the freezer in an airtight bag if it isn’t used on the same day (no need to defrost).

Wash the fruit and if necessary cut into small pieces.  Spread the fruit in an oven proof dish (I used several individual ramekins) so it covers the bottom in a thick layer. If the fruit are not as sweet as desired add a tablespoon or more of castor sugar and mix well.  Cover with the crumble mixture. Place in the oven until bubbly and golden brown, about 25 minutes.  Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Variations: Sometimes I add cinnamon to the crumble mixture and a squeeze of lemon to the filling.

stawberry crumble

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Rosa June 3, 2012 at 6:46 am

What wonderful crumbles! At the moment, I eat lots of them.

An interesting article. So sad to see that people don’t want to dirty their hands anymore…

Cheers,

Rosa

Reply

Yael June 3, 2012 at 9:06 am

I have a lot to say about the social issue, but the main fact remains that governments supported and pushed the policy of employing foreigners instead of supporting local labor which is more expensive. By the way food prices in Israel not necessarily correlate to how expensive is to make or grow them. It’s a matter of monopolies and cartels.
Other then politics, you have gorgeous photos and an inviting dessert.

Reply

Sarah June 3, 2012 at 9:35 am

Yael,
Wouldn’t that be great- employ local workers without having the food prices go up (something else would go up no doubt). As for monopolies, they should be regulated but in an arid country with limited resources food is going to be expensive. And its hard work! I am trying to grow 7 tomato plants and its exhausting. Thanks for the comments.

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Gayle Squires June 3, 2012 at 10:15 am

I love the idea of adding almonds to the crumble! Looks gorgeous.

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Eha June 3, 2012 at 7:34 pm

The photos are absolutely lovely . . . The social issues difficult, and, in one form of another, omnipresent in the ‘developed’ world. Somehow I look back in sadness to the time I finished High School here in Australia. My class had a large percentage of Jewish girls: a number of them very proudly were off to kibbutzim in Israel to do heavy physical work to build up the country. Oh, here these days the fieldwork is largely done by backpackers and brandnew migrants also . . .

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Sally - My Custard Pie June 3, 2012 at 9:02 pm

I was listening to a podcast about camels in Oman and how they area status of riches and wealthy people keep them as a nostalgic reminder of the reliance on this valuable beast. The Omanis that remain as camel farmers and herders ‘choose to be poor’ to keep the connection with these beasts and the past.

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Margit June 5, 2012 at 10:11 am

Such an interesting post – I think here in the “West” we have such a wrong image of Israel! We think of it consisting of industrious kibbutzim, working together for the good of the country, singing and maybe praying. I realise how naive and out of touch this is, but I haven’t got an image to replace it with. So reading about the reality helps shifting outdated preconceptions.

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Sarah June 7, 2012 at 2:59 am

Margit, Israel is still an incredibly productive country with more startup companies per capita than most other areas in the world. While Israelis themselves are not out in the fields, they lead the world in many areas of agricultural technology including drip irrigation, desalination, recycling water using bacteria and algae and aquaculture. It’s amazing how such a small country, lacking in most natural resources can be so innovative.

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rebecca June 5, 2012 at 7:45 pm

love crumble and how interesting that folks from Thailand grow your food

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lisaiscooking June 11, 2012 at 6:19 am

Interesting change in food growing. And, here, we’re happy for migrant workers to take these back-breaking, farm jobs, but we don’t want to change our immigration laws or pay workers a living wage. Hopefully, change for the better will start soon.

I love the thought of a strawberry war. And, a summer fruit crumble! I’d love an individual crumble with a scoop of ice cream.

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