Post 98: From Chubeza: description of the dreaded broomrape (Orobanche) parasite and it’s appearance throughout Israel, Arrabeh recipes from A feast of wild greens in Arrabeh

Chubesa is a Farm belonging to CSA Community Supported Agriculture.

If one joins and agrees to support them with a steady weekly order, they will supply fresh seasonal produce.

I signed up to get their newsletter. I don’t get their produce. Most of my produce comes from the Shuk. However, heir comments and photos are always great.

From Chubese Farm a fascinating description of a beautiful but deadly parasite.

Namely,  this quite beautiful, seemingly innocent flower seen growing amongst the lovely fava flowers. Take a close look:


Do not be misled! This comely flower is in fact none other than the dreaded broomrape (Orobanche) parasite. More accurately, it systematically extorts the plant’s (tomato/fava/carrot) water, nutrients and vitality. On a carrot, the Orobanche looks like this:


Of course, discovering this deadly embrace made us think twice before we smiled at that plant. When we discovered it in the carrot bed a few years ago our hearts sank: Orobanche in our field! Mohammed’s grim countenance added to our concern.  “This plant is called alouch in Arabic,” he explained, “If it attacks the fava bean, the plant won’t produce even one pod.” Clearly, the beauty of this plant is only skin-deep; its cruelty shines through.

The Orobanche is a complete parasite (holoparasite). A parasite is an organism living within or on top of another creature (the host) from which it acquires food and other materials necessary for its existence and reproduction. A holoparasite has virtually no chlorophyll and thus cannot perform photosynthesis, which is why it robs water and nutrients from its host’s tissues. Are you beginning to grasp the full problem here?

The tiny seeds of the broomrape or Orobanche (one quarter of a millimeter) can remain unseen and dormant in the soil for many years, even a decade, until stimulated to germinate by certain compounds produced by living plant roots. Broomrape seedlings put out a root-like growth, which attaches to the roots of nearby hosts, penetrates, and begins the process of fusion. Once attached, the broomrape robs its host of water and nutrients. By the end of the growth, the broomrape develops a light yellow stem that emerges above surface. By the time this stem appears, the host has already been damaged. Each of these plants produces hundreds of thousands of seeds which are ultimately spread by water, wind, animals, farming tools, plant residues– anything that passes through the field.

Within the botanical term Orobanche are hundreds of species. In Israel there are around ten, most of which reside in natural habitats. In nature, hosts of the various broomrapes are scattered throughout varied plant and environmental conditions, which is why they only rarely meet the Orobanche parasites. Even when these encounters occur, usually only one of the parasitic species turns up, so the damage is not great. However, on farms the situation is quite different. The hosts are densely exposed, and the growth conditions are improved, enabling the Orobanche to thrive to the point where a collection of parasites cling to one host, strangling it till it wilts.

Four of the Orobanche parasites existing in Israel settle in fields and attack agriculture: the Orobanche crenata (bean broomrape) which parasites legumes, carrots and celery; the Orobanche cernua (nodding broomrape) which adores the solanaceae: the tomato, eggplant, potato and tobacco; the Orobanche cumana which latches onto sunflowers, and the cruelest of them all, the Orobanche aegyptiaca, Egyptian broomrape, that is willing to parasite everything: tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, sunflowers, peanuts and many other crops. The Orobanche we discovered on our carrots, and more recently in the pea patch as well, is probably the Orobanche crenata. Its damage to the carrot is characterized by a dramatic decrease in the sugar level, which nullifies sweetness and damages quality. The fava that was injured by the Orobanche will yield very few pods, sometimes none at all.

The broomrape is major pestilence in agriculture. For some crops, the broomrape is deadly. In northern Israel, vast fertile areas where tomatoes were previously grown are now abandoned due to theOrobanche blight. Researchers are seeking solutions, including the usage of hardcore chemicals, but also in developing resistant species that can better withstand the Orobanche and other creative solutions.

In organic farming, the main solution is solar disinfection, i.e., spreading a transparent plastic sheet over the ground in the peak of summer heat, causing the earth to reach very high temperatures, and the fungus, pathogens, weed seeds (and also some beneficial earthly creatures) to cook to death. The result is a disinfected and “clean” earth, just before the start of the fall planting and seeding.

In the past, we tried the disinfection method, but were not very impressed by the results nor the shock caused to the earth which took some time to recover.  So we opted to hope, instead, that the variety we grow and the constant crop rotation (the fact that one type of vegetable replaces another) would aid in preventing the surge of Orobanche to the point of an epidemic. For some years now, despite our concern, we have chosen to rely on the strength of the combined vegetable garden and hope for the best. In the meantime, we have sighted Orobanche plants in places that were affected a few years ago as well, but have not yet seen it expand or spread to the point of being a genuine problem.

Hopefully, as time goes by, we will be able to tell you anecdotes about the Orobanche, a pesky little plant that requires our attention and some creative thought, but not a disastrous misfortune. Hopefully choosing the strengthening of earth, believing in the combined vegetable garden and the strength of the crops will continue to prove to be a viable solution.


I don’t know about you, but this Orobanche gave me the creeps. Hope that soon our agri geniouses will figure out a use for this plant. After all, every living thing has a purpose.

Arrabeh recipes from the Arava: A feast of wild greens

Discover the culinary wonders of the traditional Arab kitchen in the verdant Lower Galilee

March 3, 2015

Follow us: @timesofisrael on Twitter | timesofisrael on Facebook

Olesh (wild endive or chicory)

  • 1 kilo (2 pounds) endive
  • 1 large onion
  • Olive oil
  1. Remove any dried or yellow leaves. Cut bunched plant roughly into approximately two-inch lengths.
  2. After cut, soak for a few minutes and rinse well, to remove dirt and grit.
  3. Place rinsed endive in lightly salted boiling water (water must be boiling). Bring back to boil and cook for 10 minutes. Remove cooked greens from water, rinse briefly in cold water to stop cooking, and place in strainer until fully cool. Do not add salt to water while cooking.
  4. Once cool, working in lots, gently squeeze remaining water out of wild endive. Set aside.
  5. Meanwhile, chop onion and fry in olive oil until golden.
  6. Add greens to pan with onions and oil and gently mix through. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Chubeza (mallow)

  • 1 kilo (2 pounds) chubeza, rinsed
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • Olive oil
  • 1 lemon
  1. Slice the chubeza into small pieces.
  2. Place onions in a pot. Add ½ cup of olive oil, and place on high heat on the stove. When the onions are just starting to caramelize, add the cut chubeza. If the pot is not large enough to hold all the uncooked hubeza at once, add it in lots. It reduces quite quickly. Once all the chubeza is in the pot, add ¼ cup of water, cover and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and cook for 15 minutes, until soft.
  3. Add salt and pepper to taste. Squeeze juice of 1 lemon over chubeza just before serving. Usually served with lemon juice or quartered lemons as a condiment, on the side, for those that want more.

Watercress Salad

  • 1 large bunch watercress, rinsed well
  • 1 large onion, peeled
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (best possible quality)
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons sumac
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Remove the ends of the stalks of the watercress. Slice watercress into 1.5 inch slices. Place in a bowl.
  2. Chop onions and add to watercress. Sprinkle sumac over the vegetables and toss with the olive oil and lemon juice. Correct flavor with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Serve immediately.

 Recipes courtesy of Nazira Madi and Galileat

Read more: A feast of wild greens in Arrabeh | The Times of Israel
Follow us: @timesofisrael on Twitter | timesofisrael on Facebook


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