August 19th-21st 2019 – Lubia’s in the air…

Over the past weeks, Chubeza’s lubia has been ripening in abundant quantities, making a formal announcement that summer is at its peak. If you’ve been wondering why the latest green beans you’ve been receiving are so lengthy and coarse, well, it’s because they’re not green beans but rather… Thai lubia (yard-long beans) which arrive “gift-wrapped” in your boxes. They are indeed a present, albeit rather strange and unique. But don’t expect them to be green beans, because they simply are not…

Thai bean/lubia (V. unguiculata ssp. Sesquipedalis) is a relative of the common bean, chickpea, soy, fava bean and other members of the Faboideae family we so love to nibble on. Like them, the Thai lubia wears two outfits: the green cloak, eaten in long green pods, and the dry attire where only the dry seeds are consumed.

In English, Thai lubia is known as the yard-long bean, bora bean, long-podded cowpea, asparagus bean, pea bean, snake bean, or Chinese long bean. All names relate to this bean’s various characteristics: it originates in Southeast Asia, hence the “Chinese” or “Thai” title, and can reach the hearty length of half a meter (though it’s generally harvested young, at approximately 30 cm. long and 1 cm thick). Lubia is similar to asparagus in diameter and length, and because of its flexibility may resemble a green snake (to those of you with overactive imaginations, at least). Its taste ranges between that of green beans and fresh green lubia, whilst the texture is more akin to lubia, less crunchy than the green bean and more flexible.

In its growth, lubia requires more heat than the green bean, and manages quite well throughout the sweltering months of summer (which certainly cannot be said of green beans who faint under the scorching sun). It is seeded in late spring, and we trellis it like peas, on poles with a net spread between the stalks on which the young plants climb adeptly and efficiently. Blooms begin within three months with a couple of beautiful flowers on each pole, resembling two butterflies. A pair of beans ripens from those two, adjacent to each other at the ends, like a couple of twin green worms (how about that! I just managed to think up a new name!).

   

Contrary to green beans or peas, the lubia grows slowly and yields pods only after more than three months (compared to two or less). But this has its advantages – we can harvest the lubia on and on, till the temperatures drop in wintertime. These beans must be harvested with care, as the bloom pole continues to develop flowers throughout the season.

The Thai yard-long bean can be harvested, like at Chubeza, at a young stage at less than 30 cm long and 1 cm thick, and be used in the same way as one would prepare fresh lubia or green bean. You can also allow the pods to mature on the plant and use the black, red or white (depending on the variety) seeds as you would use dry lubia pods or any dry bean.

At Chubeza, we grow the green variety which bears black seeds, but in Asia there is a magnificent array of colorful, bountiful types. On the outside, the pods come in green and various violets while the seeds can be black, white, brown or red.

Thai yard-long beans can be used in recipes calling for green beans or fresh lubia, including soups, quiches and fresh salads. In China, it is lightly stir-fried, and is actually the original bean to have been used in stir-fried dishes. It tastes wonderful with fish and even pickled. The yard-long bean is rich in Vitamin A and Vitamin C as well.

The lubia recipes featured on our website range from easy to complicated, all delicious, of course. But if you don’t feel like firing up a cooking flame in this scorching heat, just help yourself to a long snake bean and nibble away!

Enjoy a week full of summer abundance and a true feeling of vacation,

Alon, Bat-Ami, Dror, Orin, Yochai and the entire Chubeza team

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Potatoes, corn, onions/okra, eggplant, cucumbers, tomatoes, lubia Thai yard-long beans, slice of pumpkin, parsley/coriander, cherry tomatoes, red bell peppers

Large box, in addition: Butternut squash, New Zealand spinach, garlic/scallions.

ALL FRUIT BOXES: Pears, apples, plums. Small boxes, in addition: Bananas. Large boxes, in addition: Nectarines

Wednesday: Potatoes, onions/okra, eggplant, cucumbers, tomatoes, lubia Thai yard-long beans, slice of pumpkin, parsley/coriander, cherry tomatoes, red bell peppers. Small boxes: Butternut squash/corn

Large box, in addition: New Zealand spinach, scallions, Butternut squash and corn

ALL FRUIT BOXES: Pears, apples, plums, bananas. Large boxes, in addition: mango

August 12th-14th 2019 – The Long-Fingered Lady

The myth is that people of Ashkenazi origin can’t tolerate okra and do not appreciate it, but as a descendent of a German father who can eat okra for all three meals daily, I can vouch for the fallacy of this myth. At our house too, okra is very much loved, and makes us happy every summer. Versatile as ever, okra can be crispy, stir-fried in lemon, tender in tomato sauce, roasted in the oven or chopped up raw to become little “stars” in a salad.

Okra likes to prance around using her fancy name “Lady Fingers,” indicating that she must be treated with gentle respect: Before cooking it, the tip must be gently cut off, taking care not to hurt the pod. In olden times, when a groom’s family wanted to “check out” a bride, they handed her a knife, a pile of okra, and put her to work. If she was able to properly slice it, this meant she was gentle and skilled.

But to the harvesters, okra does not put on her dainty lady show. The branches of the okra bush contain etheric oil and any brush against them causes a terrible itch, which is why okra is harvested wearing long sleeves and gloves. This crop is harvested in large quantities, and we visit the okra beds every other day so as not to find ourselves standing in front of a lady who totally forgot to trim her fingernails… Harvesting takes a really long time, as the pods must be searched for among the tangled brush of foliage and then picked one by one. Very personal treatment.

But although she is royalty, okra is also one of the only crops which does not force us to kneel down before them. The bushes quickly grow taller, reaching an impressive height of 3 meters! At that point, it is already way above us and we must bend its flexible branches in order to reach its pods. Another thing that makes us happy when we harvest okra is the beauty of its flowers. Okra belongs to the Malvaceae family (along with the chubeza, cotton, hibiscus and hollyhock). Not many members of the family are edible, but they are indeed rather beautiful. Our okra boasts large, lush yellowish flowers, with a vivid purple center.

Okra began its domesticated path in the world over 1,000 years ago in tropical Africa, in the Ethiopia-Eritrea-Sudan area, where it can still be found growing wild today. From there it crossed the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia and took off to North Africa, the Middle East and India. It is not clear how this journey occurred, and there are very mysterious periods within okra history, but it became a unanimously loved food in all those countries. Okra arrived in Europe, compliments of the Muslim Moors in the 12th century. It made its debut in the new continent, America, via two sources: African slaves brought to work in the colonial colonies carried okra to Brazil and South America, and simultaneously French settlers, who knew it from Europe, brought it to Louisiana. Over the past decades okra became a vaunted vegetable in the Asian kitchen, specifically the Japanese. So one does not have to be Egyptian or Greek to hold this vegetable in esteem.

The local okra variety indigenous to Israel has small – even tiny – pods. Traditionally you’ll be told to steer clear of a pod larger than your pinky, as this is a sign of an okra which is over-mature and too fibrous. On the contrary, the green and red okra variety that Chubeza grows is the Thai okra: longer, bigger and a little less slimy. Don’t be put off by the size ­– it’s simply a different cousin, but not any less amazing than other family members. If I dare say so myself, in many recipes it’s even better!

(Thanks you, Dafna. for the beautiful picture)

But despite its beauty and my father’s deep affection for it, some people are repulsed by the modest okra. The reason generally cited is its “texture,” or in other words: “that slimy stuff that oozes out when it’s cooked.” That’s a pity, because that “slimy stuff” holds the okra in its Cinderella state, still in rags, waiting to be discovered for all its charms. There are many ways to reduce the slime, which I will get to soon, but let us first discover the charms of Cinderella.

One of the most amazing things about okra is that it can be used in a great variety of ways, some of which aren’t fully utilized today. We usually cook, roast or fry the young pods (3-5 days old), which is, of course, great. They are rich in vitamins K, A and C, plus folic acid, calcium, magnesium and potassium. The dietary fibers aid in preventing constipation and in stabilizing blood sugar levels by slowing down the process of sugar absorption in the digestive system. Okra also absorbs cholesterol and removes stomach acids containing the toxins that did not pass through the liver’s filtering system. Its dietary fibers are unique in that they feed the good intestinal flora. As it matures, okra’s fibers grow more and more rigid (which anyone who ever tried to chew a mature pod can attest to) and hold an unfulfilled potential as raw material for the rope and paper industry.

Yet its assets are not only in the pod fibers, but also in its little seeds: the oil produced from them is quite healthy and unsaturated, with characteristics resembling the lauded olive oil. The tiny seeds contain vegetal protein, like soybeans, and they are rich in tryptophan and contain amino acids- a very important combination for vegetarians. Ground okra seeds were used in the past (and in some places, in the present) as caffeine-free substitutes for coffee, like the chicory root.

So what about that “slime”? It, too, can be efficiently used to thicken soups and other dishes (sometimes okra pods are dried and ground to be used for thickening, similar to gelatin) and some say it can be beneficial to heal wounds and soothe burns, like the gel inside the aloe vera plant.

But if you still wish to reduce the slime level in cooking, there are several options:

– Leave the pod whole (cut off the stem, but do not open the pod)

– Prepare quickly and easily by stir-frying or frying, not by lengthy cooking in liquids.

­_ Roast it! Rinse and dry the okra with a towel. Trim off the stems and tips, place in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil and some salt. Place okra on a foil-lined cookie sheet or oven pan and roast in a hot oven for around 15 minutes, stirring the okra every 5 minutes. Serve warm.

– Combine with acidic foods: tomatoes, lemon juice or vinegar.

Another surprising and attractive use for okra is in arts and crafts. Okra pods make fancy dragons, or can be cut horizontally to become delicate star-shaped stampers. Note the pictures:

This week is a week of holidays, the Muslim Eid El Adha, and the Thai Queen day. We’d like to wish happy holidays to our celebrating workers

Due to the holiday vacations, some young workers (on school break) came to help pack your veggies – thank you to Netta, Matan, Shahar and Talya!

Alon, Bat Ami, Dror, Orin, Yochay and the entire Chubeza team

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Okra, lettuce/potatoes, onions, eggplants, cucumbers, tomatoes, Thai long beans, A slice of pumpkin, parsley/cilantro, cherry tomatoes, peppers.

Large box, in addition: Corn, Amoro/butternut pumpkin, New Zealand spinach.

Fruit box: Apples, grapes, pear. Small boxes: Banana. Large boxes: Nectarine.

Wednesday: Okra/potatoes, onions, eggplants, cucumbers, tomatoes, Thai long beans, A slice of pumpkin, parsley, cherry tomatoes, Amoro/butternut pumpkin, peppers.

Large box, in addition: New Zealand spinach, garlic/scallions, cilantro.

Fruit box: Apples, nectarine, pear. Small boxes: Banana. Large boxes: Grapes.

August 5th-7th 2019 – Here Comes the Sun

Our order system will close earlier for next Monday’s deliveries.

Due to the upcoming Tisha B’Av fast on Sunday, the order system for next Monday’s deliveries will close this Thursday, August 8th at 10:00 PM.

Thank you for your cooperation.

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Last week I mentioned that we covered the ground in the growth tunnels with plastic in order to carry out “soil solarization.” This Newsletter is dedicated to a full explanation of this fascinating procedure.

Why should we disinfect the farmland to begin with? For the same reason we wash our hands with water and soap – to prevent the transfer of and infection from viruses, fungus and germs. Pathogens exist in the ground as well, and they stress and harm the plants. One of the most infamous is the fungus that caused the Irish potato blight of 1845, devastating the crops and bringing on the greatest famine in Ireland’s history. Some one million people died of hunger, and a similar quantity emigrated to the U.S. Here at Chubeza, we meet soil-borne diseases every year. Fortunately, they are not on a large scale, and of course, they do not cause disasters of Irish potato-famine proportions. Sometimes the problem is manifested by non-uniform growth in the bed – some parts of the bed have hearty plants, while in other sections the growth is sparse. In such cases, we attempt to regain soil balance and renew the helpful organisms within by disinfecting the soil.

Soil solarization means taking a preemptive step. The idea is to cleanse the earth of pathogens before seeding, in order to prevent attacks on the plant. There are several methods to sanitize the earth. The first, developed at the end of the 19th century by German researchers, is to heat up the earth and disinfect it using steam. Subsequently, a chemical method was developed in which the earth is cleansed by volatile chemicals, particularly the strong, familiar (and extremely toxic) methyl bromide. Chemical fumigation was very popular and common in large agricultural settings, where it seemed essential and irreplaceable.

But chemical soil fumigation is also very problematic, to say the least. The immediate problem is clear: these chemicals are extremely toxic to humans, animals, insects and earth. Methyl bromide also injures the ozone layer and is therefore forbidden.  But chemical fumigation has other disadvantages as well: unfortunately, the disinfectants are not so picky about who and what they disinfect. They frequently harm the beneficial natural enemies together with the pathogens, thus destroying the earth’s positive micro bacterial texture and violating the soil’s biological balance. The result is an ecological blight to the earth and the environment. Upsetting the balance can be a double-edged sword: the moment the “good soldiers” are destroyed, the earth and plants no longer have any protection against diseases or pests which swoop in after the disinfection.

In 1976, an alternative method was developed by Professor Ya’akov Katan and his colleagues: disinfection by heating the earth via solar rays. The idea is that the ground will reach a sufficiently high temperature to kill disease-causing organisms and cleanse the earth of future ills. Weed seeds are also destroyed by the heat, which is why this method can be used successfully to rid an area loaded with weed seeds, and start off “on the right foot” with fewer weeds-in-the-making.

Soil solarization is gentler towards the biological processes conducted within the soil. Research has shown that the temperatures reached by the earth (40-45 degrees Celsius) do not destroy all the pathogens and certainly do not kill the earth’s biological activity. Another development of the method, where compost is dug into the earth prior to the solarization, contributes to the increase of the microbial activity.

How is soil solarization conducted?

  • Wait for the right season, i.e., summertime (July and August). Prepare the earth as you would prepare it for seeding and planting: clean remnants of previous plants, loosen the earth and add compost; form beds.
  • Water the ground, usually with sprinklers. The moisture conducts the heat deeper and encourages biological activity. The earth should be saturated to a depth of 70 centimeters.
  • After the earth is sufficiently wet, cover it with a clear plastic sheet to heat it up.  This should be done very early in the morning, when there is no breeze and it is not too hot, and we are as patient and precise as possible. The sheet is pulled and stretched across the earth, then sealed by dirt along the sides to create a vacuum.
  • Then wait. It is recommended to keep the sheet cover over the earth for four to six weeks.

During this time, the earth heats up slightly more than the outside temperature, and strong gases accumulate within the vacuum under the cover. These materials are naturally secreted from the compost mixed into the soil, but thanks to the cover they do not evaporate. Instead, they convene in the earth at higher levels than usual, leading to an extermination of pathogens. The result is a weakening of the pathogens, and an induction of “soil resistance”- basically bolstering the earth’s immune system. Unlike other disinfections, no “biological void” is created with soil solarization, nor is the biological balance violated within earth. Of course, there is shock and a change from the previous condition. Instead, a different microbial deployment occurs in the earth, one that is still rather balanced.

Our first attempt at soil solarization eight years ago did not fare well. After the first week of covered soil, we discovered that Noah, our good- hearted but frisky dog, had decided to use the covered plot as his very own running course, and his paws had neatly punctured the plastic along the beds… Needless to say, we were deeply disappointed. However, more successful attempts followed, and this is now the third year we are disinfecting our growth houses by soil solarization. We reuse the plastic from the tunnel roofs, even though it has lost its crystal-clear transparency through use. We still prefer to recycle the plastic, even if the highest temperatures cannot be reached in the process of disinfection.

At the end of the process, we remove the plastic sheets, give the earth a bit of time to recuperate, and let its positive microorganisms return to operation. Then it’s time to begin autumn seeding and planting. (Yes! There is an autumn on the horizon.) We shall report our progress in the near future.

May we enjoy a good week, filled with sun and breezes!

Alon, Bat Ami, Dror, Orin and Yochai and the Chubeza team

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Amoro pumpkin, lettuce, corn, eggplant, cucumbers, tomatoes, Thai yard-long beans, Napolitana pumpkin/butternut squash, parsley/coriander, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers/zucchini.

Large box, in addition: Onions/scallions, New Zealand spinach, okra.

ALL FRUIT BOXES: Sabres, mango, apples. Small boxes also: Bananas. Large boxes also: Plums

Wednesday: Lettuce, corn, eggplant/potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, Thai yard-long beans, Napolitana pumpkin, parsley/coriander, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, okra/zucchini.

Large box, in addition: Onions/scallions, New Zealand spinach, Amoro pumpkin/butternut squash.

ALL FRUIT BOXES: Plums, grapes, apples Small boxes also: Bananas. Large boxesalso: Sabres

July 29th-31st 2019 – Mid-Summer Field

The new, beautiful, innovative, and informative 2019-2020 edition of Luach Shana Bagina is arriving! This calendar is an essential companion for the Israeli home gardener and farmer alike.

The 2019/2020 calendar was inspired by the abundance prevailing in the home, kitchen, garden and nature. All recipes this year are dedicated to food conservation in a bevy of methods and flavors.

Each Shana Bagina Calendar page is chockfull of *professional tips for your home garden *seeding and planting schedules *info on growing your plants from seed to fruit * seasonal recipes for food conservation * solar and lunar events, green events, and much more.

This year, Luach Shana Bagina is extending new branches blossoming with new, sweet fruit:

A tabletop calendar (similar to the regular calendar in content and illustration)

Illustrated weekly calendar journal (differs in content and illustrations)

And decorative magnets with detailed schedules of seeding and planting for spring/summer and fall/winter:

  • Coming soon – the English edition!!

Order via our order system.

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And there in those wild bowers
A lovely form is laid;
Green grass and dew-steeped flowers
Wave gently round her head.

(Emily Bronte)

Our calendar notes that we’re almost at the midpoint of summer, and a look at Chubeza’s field (through the sweat-screen) reveals a very summer- crop landscape, i.e., relatively empty. The small-sized pumpkins, the garlic and onion have ripened and been gathered to our shade net to be stored for the next few months. The giant-sized pumpkins are almost ready, after five months of plumping up nicely, and will soon make their way to the storage net. The zucchini, watermelons and melons have almost sealed their season, with only the bravest now remaining upright in the open fields (covered lovingly with mesh and shade nets to help ease the heat). Tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers are mostly planted within tunnels and growth structures, covered with shade nets to protect from the scorching sun. Look at this beautiful tomato, marching to her own beat as she blushes in Harvest Rhythm. (Thank you, Dafna, for capturing this sight!)

In the open fields, it’s survival of the heartiest. Under the vast shade nets are the leafy greens that somehow endure the summer: lettuce, parsley, coriander, scallions and New Zealand spinach. In the open beds, the lubia (yard-long beans), okra, eggplant, and of course, the uncontested king of summer, corn – turn their faces towards the blue skies.



The Jerusalem artichokes stand erect as they wait for autumn, their cue to blossom and grow their bulbs, alongside the sweet potatoes – who have not yet made their debut in your boxes – lazily spreading out to soak up the sun, creating a marvelous carpet of sprawling intertwined stems soon to blossom in beautiful purple array.

2016-07-24 12.25.15

But the field is always planning ahead, with one foot in the next season, so that even what seems desolate and static is in fact forward thinking. Clear plastic sheets have been spread over the earth in our growth tunnels in a process called “soil solarisation” that cleanses the earth of pathogens before seeding (more about this process over the next few weeks) in order to prevent attacks on the new winter crops being planted. The piles of organic waste at the edge of our field (already nice and warm and transforming to compost) have been mixed with bird droppings and turned over by Gabi’s tractor. When these piles settle down again, a process of decomposition will take place within, assisted by billions of microbes, tiny organisms, worms, beetles, fungi and other earth dwellers to produce excellent aromatic compost.

In Hebrew, the word summer also means “ripe fruit” – probably in regard to figs. And the fig trees in our locale of Kfar Bin Noon are indeed bowing under the weight of succulent fruit, alongside the sweet fruit of the sabres growing at the edges of our field, plus the fruit within the field at its seed-producing prime. Now is the time to hold onto the seeds of pods that have ripened and dried up altogether, like our amazing okra:

The fields are buzzing with excitement, and everything is blooming: the plants flowering before they produce fruit, the weeds rushing to blossom and produce seeds before we pluck them out (which we attempt to do before their seeds ripen with the next generation in tow). And where there are flowers, well – there are insects paying visits, sharing information, drinking up some nectar and chattering away in insect-ish. When harvesting, it’s important to watch out for the scared bee that will scare us back with a venomous sting (speaking from experience…..). Here are some close-ups of the effervescent activities underway in our summery field:

      

Even the empty plots which have been in bedrest for several months have been cleansed, refreshed and allowed to gather strength as they return to work one after another. You can probably imagine how hot and dry the earth is at this time. Turning over dry earth pounds the clods out till they are dust, destroying their ventilation and breathing texture. Thus, in order to cultivate the earth, we dampen it with sprinklers. Only after the water is well-absorbed and the dirt is moist can we turn it over and prepare a place for the upcoming planting, due to begin in two weeks’ time.

The fall guests are already standing at the door. So, who’s marching towards the appointed plots? From the beginning of August, we will plant lettuce, Swiss chard, white cabbage, cauliflower, beets, fennel, celery and celeriac, leeks, broccoli, scallions and kale. These plantings allow us to stretch the autumn season just a little longer, but when you’re hosting guests from cold climates in the Israeli sweltering summer, you must take pains to provide wide-brim hats, parasols and ample water. This is exactly the kind of comfort we will be providing our autumn field friends at Chubeza, under shade nets, assisted generously by the irrigation system.

Chubeza’s field is always before, during and after. Somewhat like this summer vacation time now, with the schoolyear entirely behind us, day camps finished, and us amidst our own summer R&R or juggling children, work, and life as the new schoolyear beckons ’round the corner with brand new beginnings in its wings.

Wishing you all great summer getaways and relaxation, with lots of water, blue skies and family time. And best “King’s Day” holiday wishes to our Thai workers!

Shavua Tov,

Alon, Bat-Ami, Dror, Orin, Yochai and the entire Chubeza team

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Butternut squash/Amoro squash/melon, lettuce, corn, New Zealand spinach, cucumbers, tomatoes, okra/Thai yard-long beans, slice of Napolitana pumpkin, parsley/coriander, cherry tomatoes, onions.

Large box, in addition: Red bell peppers/zucchini, eggplants, garlic.

ALL FRUIT BOXES: Apples, grapes, mango. SMALL BOXES: Bananas LARGE BOXES: Plums

Wednesday: Butternut squash/Amoro squash, lettuce, corn, New Zealand spinach, cucumbers, tomatoes, Thai yard-long beans, slice of Napolitana pumpkin, parsley/coriander, cherry tomatoes, okra/onions.

Large box, in addition: Red bell peppers/zucchini/potatoes, eggplants, garlic.

ALL FRUIT BOXES: Apples, grapes, mango. SMALL BOXES: Bananas LARGE BOXES: Plums.

July 22nd-24th 2019 – Reddish charm

The tomato is one of Chubeza’s pioneer crops, together with us in the field from Year One.   Her prime position in the kitchen, the Israeli vegetable salad, and the garden made her a    pivotal inclusion in the weekly fare of our boxes. Last week we gave you an inside glimpse at growing tomatoes in the fields of Chubeza. This week our focus will expand to the fascinating saga of the tomato’s historical and geographic journeys.

IMG_0170

Let’s start with the family tree: the tomato belongs to the selenium family, along with fellow family members the eggplants, peppers, potatoes and… tobacco. Of course, there are many others in the extended family, including wild and cultivated ornamental plants totaling over 2,800 different species. The tomato is a tropical plant originating in Central America. The world’s first tomatoes probably grew in today’s Peru and Ecuador, where they were cultivated before migrating to Mexico to be raised by the Aztecs, who gave them the name tomatel. The habitants of America raised the tomato and realized its value. The Spanish were impressed by its beauty and brought it to Europe in the 16th century. Tomatoes of those times were yellow, thus the origin of its name pomodora – a golden apple in Italian, which became pomo dei Mori – the apple of the Moors, a name later corrupted by the French to become pomme d’amour – the apple of love. The Arabic name bandora probably derives from the Italian name. We will discuss the Hebrew name soon.

When the tomato was first brought to Europe, it was raised only as an ornamental plant. The women of 16th century haute couture adorned their hair with tomato blossoms for special occasions. Yet health experts of the time warned against the fruit, which they considered toxic. The golden tomato may thus have been forgotten, if not for two 18th century Italian priests who brought the red variety from South America to grow in their yard. Here, in southern Italy, red tomatoes met their first great success among the peasants. Thanks to their courage and willingness to try out many new vegetables that the aristocracy shied away from, we enjoy great vegetables today. The first mention in writing of tomato sauce was a recommendation by a Neapolitan abbot in 1778 for using this as a sauce for meat and fish (not yet pasta or pizza). However, the 19th century firmly belonged to the tomato: by then it was discovered worldwide – including via its the immigration to our country, with a little help from some French monks.

It is hard to imagine a kitchen without tomatoes, specifically the Mediterranean kitchen with its shakshukas’chug, Italian pasta and pizza sauces, as well as being an essential for Spanish, Provence, Greek and Turkish sea and land foods. It’s hard to believe that history mounted the tomato atop European tables only 200 years ago, and that it was completely unknown in the Western world before Columbus made his grand discovery… Even so, the tomato was not so warmly received at its initial debut, and an aura of controversy surrounds it till today. Reading about the tomato, you can find mention that it is lofty and exalted, healthy, essential and important, or that it is poisonous, harmful and even dangerous. So… where are we? Are we poisoning you with tomatoes every week, or saving your souls? Alas, the story of the tomato is neither black nor white. (It is, of course, red, yellow, purple, pink, green…)

tamuz - tomatoes

As mentioned, the tomato belongs to the selenium family. Some of the plants in this family are in fact poisonous and pose a health danger. This poison is due to alkaloids that exist in different parts of the plant. Alkaloids are organic compounds of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen, usually plant-based in origin. They are considered to have an influence on the function of nerves, muscles and the digestive system. The problematic alkaloid in the selenium family is the solanium, which gave it its name, and exists in various levels in family members. The solanium content in edible selenium plants is minute, and is reduced by 40-50% with cooking, which is why most of us can consume it without any problem. And yet, macrobiotic nutrition is very wary of the selenium family, which is considered most problematic when the vegetables are green (green tomatoes, green peppers, etc.) or raw.

On the other hand, tomatoes contain lycopene, the pigment that gives them (as well as watermelons) their red color, considered to be a hue that piques appetite and desire. Lycopene is a very potent antioxidant. Scientists claim that it is one of the “predators” of free radicals which are very active in nature (free radicals are the harmful substances that accelerate the processes of aging and disease). Lycopene is beneficial in battling various types of cancer, particularly prostate, lung and pancreatic cancer. Together with other components of the tomato, it also reduces the danger of heart disease and stroke. Lycopene’s ability to act as an antioxidant also contributes to the healthy function of eyes, to brain cognition and protection against harmful sunrays. The tomato is rich in Vitamin C, which protects against heart disease, stroke, cancer and probably cataracts and complications of diabetes.

Yehiel Mikhal Pines, who worked with Eliezer Ben-Yehuda to revive the spoken Hebrew language, translated Liebesapfel (love apple) from the German to agvaniah, from the root ע.ג.ב- “to love, desire.” The Ben-Yehuda household was not particularly pleased with the immodest agvaniah title, and thus suggested the name badura, Hebraizing the Arabic bandura. Rav Kook preferred a “pure and clean” Hebrew name for the vegetable. Prompted by the red color of the tomato, the venerable rabbi suggested admonia as an alternative. Over various decades, the agvaniah and badura co-existed, each with its own fan club. In the end, love and desire won out, and agvaniah it was.

Most of the tomatoes we know are indeed red, but the full picture boasts a colorful, wide, rich range of varieties. In most agricultural farms, a slim variety of tomatoes are grown, but there are organizations and individuals who work to uphold the heritage of the multitude of tomato varieties (as well as other plants and vegetables). See this Mandala from the French Kokopelli Foundation website (thank you, Yiftah, for the link):

mandala-tomatoes

Over these weeks of joyful ripe, rich red summer delights, we’re attempting to send both cherry tomatoes and regular tomatoes your way.  Take a look at our Recipe Section for great ideas on preserving tomatoes: drying them, turning them into sauces, and even tomato jam.

Bon appetite!

To Mohammed, the delighted grandfather, Majdi and Ali, the proud uncles, and to the entire Aiezi family, our congratulations on the birth of your granddaughter/niece!

Wishing you all a good week,

Alon, Bat Ami, Dror, Oreen, Yochai and all the Chubeza team

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Red bell peppers/zucchini, lettuce, corn, New Zealand spinach, cucumbers/fakus, tomatoes, okra/Thai yard-long beans, butternut squash/slice of Napolitana pumpkin, eggplant/Amoro pumpkin, cherry tomatoes, leeks/onions/garlic.

Large box, in addition: Watermelon/melon, parsley/coriander, acorn squash.

FRUIT BOXES: Apples, grapes, mango, plums.

Wednesday: Red bell peppers/zucchini, lettuce, corn, New Zealand spinach, cucumbers/fakus, tomatoes, okra/Thai yard-long beans, butternut squash/slice of Napolitana pumpkin, eggplant, cherry tomatoes, onions.

Large box, in addition: Amoro pumpkin/melon, leeks/garlic, parsley/coriander.

FRUIT BOXES: Banana, grapes, mango, plums.