With lockdown over, Festival of Tastes in the Valleys has kicked off

This year the festival will be held in conjunction with KKL-JNF, currently celebrating its 120th anniversary.

WESTERN GALILEE delights await. (photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
WESTERN GALILEE delights await.
(photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
 Now that we’ve finally come out the other side of yet another lockdown but are still trying to be vigilant, this is the perfect time to step out into the great outdoors. February is one of Israel’s most gorgeous months due to the bright blossoming of anemones, especially in the South, so I’ve suggested some fun hikes and outings in the Jezreel Valley. 
The traditional Festival of Tastes in the Valleys (Teamim BaAmakim) has kicked off and will continue every weekend through mid-March. There are organized nature hikes, plenty of locally grown produce for sale and lots of tasty takeout available for purchase from stands that will make the rounds at a number of area locales. 
Anyone who has been to the festival, taking place for the 17th year, knows that the highlight in pre-corona times was a scrumptious meal in one of the many participating regional restaurants. As this is not yet possible, the eateries have prepared a system where visitors can enjoy their quality cuisine out in nature. 
This year the festival will be held in conjunction with KKL-JNF, currently celebrating its 120th anniversary. In honor of this milestone, there will be nature walks along the Tzipori and Beit Lechem Rivers, activities for the whole family on farms, in forests and at wineries, where visitors will be invited to partake in delicious food prepared by local chefs. The festival’s main event is on Wednesday, March 10 through Friday, March 12, as food trucks travel from one community to another throughout the region. A farmer’s market and live music will add to the joyous atmosphere. 
Visitors can sign up for time slots on the festival’s website. Pre-ordered three-course meals will be available for up to NIS 120. At the fair, there will also be special dishes available for NIS 30 for appetizers and desserts and up to NIS 50 for main dishes. In addition, visitors can pre-order picnic baskets. 
All in all, this is a fantastic way to support local businesses and get ideas for your next outing. 
1. Bussa Catering – Yokneam Moshava
If you’re a pastry lover, you’re sure to fall in love with Bussa Catering in Yokne’am Moshava. In addition to functioning as a full-time catering business, Bussa is open every Friday for locals and visitors alike who are looking to fully enjoy their weekend with delectable food. Due to corona restrictions, Bussa has gotten creative and now provides picnic baskets and packaged meals by pre-order all week long. In addition to their freshly baked pastries and breads, Bussa also offers quiches, burekas, local cheeses, spreads and olive oil. 
Details: 050-442-2903
2. Carmelim – Moshav HaYogev
Almost every Israeli is familiar with Carmelim produce, which can be found in almost every grocery store in aesthetic packaging. The Carmeli family has been involved in agriculture for over five decades and is now being managed by the third generation. Located in Moshav HaYogev in the Jezreel Valley, it is worthwhile visiting Carmelim just to view their hydroponic cultivation technique in which vegetables are grown without soil. Carmelim grows a variety of lettuce, sprouts, asparagus and corn, which is available at the festival, as well as at their store on the moshav. 
3. Har V’Emek Olive Oil
The Jezreel Valley is a great place for hiking, but it also offers great opportunities for agricultural tourism. Har V’Emek is a conglomeration of eight high-quality olive oil producers that have joined forces and carry out all the stages of processing, production and marketing as a single entity. They planted their first olive trees in 2010, and their olives now produce over 500 tons of cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil each year. Olives that are grown in the Jezreel Valley benefit from the excellent climate and ultimate growing conditions. Visitors will be able to purchase a bottle of olive oil at the fair at rock-bottom prices since the middleman fees have been cut out. In other words, this is a great opportunity to stock your pantry with quality products. 
4. Arab Cuisine with Lior Rivner
The coronavirus has turned our lives upside down and many people have had to be creative and come up with alternative ways to make a living. The long lockdowns and closed restaurants have forced many chefs to reinvent themselves. And that’s exactly what Lior Rivner, a specialist in Western Galilee cuisine, did. After working for many years in the catering field, Rivner recently opened up a food stand with tasty takeaway that can be eaten at home or out in nature, including kubeh and stuffed grape leaves. 
Details: 052-595-6002      
5. Yank Burgers
Next to Café Café in Kibbutz Yifat, a new food truck called Yank Burgers recently opened and is operated by Itamar Sharabi, who is a burger lover and also happens to be the owner of the nearby Café Café. Yank (a nickname for his son) uses only high-quality beef, and offers a variety of toppings, including fried onions, corned beef, mushrooms, eggs sunny side up, garlic confit and cheddar cheese. The burgers come with french fries, Caesar salad and onion rings. 
Details:  054-474-7650
6. Be’er Yosifin – Ramat Yishai
If you’re looking for a spot in the Jezreel Valley where you can go for a hike and then take a picnic out in nature, I recommend going to Be’er Yosifin, a spring that is also known by its Arabic name Bir al-Bustan, located on the outskirts of Ramat Yishai. The water from the spring feeds into the Beit Lechem River. The spring can be reached by walking along the path that winds around Ramat Yishai, which has already become popular among cyclists and joggers who are enjoying the fresh air and getting some much needed exercise. The easiest way to access Be’er Yosifin is by walking 60 meters across a field from the entrance of Kedmat Yishai located on Road 75 East. 
Translated by Hannah Hochner.