July 17th-19th 2017 – Sweet sweet summer

There was once a woman, let’s call her Helen
Who made her home in a watermelon
She brought in two stools, a chair and a broom, 
Carved out a window and a living room, 
Bought a cat to catch mice and named him Grover
Then all of a sudden… the season was over…

(Nurit Zarchi, Translated by A. Raz)

I have a sneaking suspicion that this woman living in the watermelon is actually residing in Chubeza, though it’s hard to imagine her fitting all of her belongings into our small fruits. Yet, the feeling of the watermelon season ending so abruptly is too familiar to me. It really is a short season – approximately a month – so before it ends, we wanted you to know a few facts about the wonderful watermelon. This week’s Newsletter is green and red all over…

While the rest of us are melting away in the oppressive heat, the watermelon remains unfazed. It just loves the heat, a throwback to its origins in South Africa and the Kalahari Desert. In the desert, the watermelon, which contains over 90% water, was an important and vital source of liquid to man and wild animals. The difficulty in choosing a good watermelon is an old story. In its wild form, the sweet watermelon is identical on the outside to a bitter watermelon, which is why the thirsty passerby would punch a hole in the watermelon rind to check its taste.

From South Africa, the watermelon spread across Africa, and was cultivated in Egypt over 4,000 years ago. Ancient Egyptians drew depictions of watermelons to decorate sarcophagi and cave walls, and they would leave a watermelon near the dead to nourish them on their journey to the New World. The Hebrews knew it from Egypt, reminiscing, “We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons…”

From North Africa, the watermelon entered the Middle East where it grew well and was even mentioned in the Mishna. It arrived in China in the 10th century, and today China is the champion watermelon grower, followed closely by Turkey and Iran. In the 13th century, the Moors brought it with them to Europe, along with other plants they met in Africa and Asia. The watermelon arrived in America with the black slaves and the European settlers.

Chubeza’s love affair with watermelons began with naiveté, pretentiousness, and… failure. During my last year in California, just before I established Chubeza, I raised red, orange and yellow watermelons (these are the colors inside) in a farm owned by Joe Perry, my mentor. We had nice success with the yields, and I was under the impression that growing watermelon would be simple, so I added watermelon to Chubeza’s nascent crop list. The first year, the watermelons simply did not grow, and we only picked a few dozen from our fancy beds. Fortunately, back in 2004, our entire clientele also numbered a few dozen, so they received the watermelons as planned (which, admittedly, weren’t too sweet). One of the main reasons for this failure was the timing. I seeded watermelons like we did in California, at the end of spring. Yet springtime in Israel is fraught with viruses and disease, particularly among the cucurbit family to which our watermelon friend belongs.

After taking a hiatus of several years, chalking up experience with cucurbits and their viruses, we made a second watermelon attempt seven years ago. This time we seeded earlier and harvested a larger yield. A year later we did even better, and five years ago we dared to plant seedless watermelon plants. This sort of watermelon-growing is more complex than raising a standard seed-filled watermelon, for we are essentially trying to buck nature. The mission of every fruit and vegetable is to reproduce and generate offspring (seeds). Man, meanwhile, is bent on getting rid of the seeds, and not by spitting them out, Human beings had grown weary of seeded fruits and set out to develop seedless varieties. Actually, a seedless watermelon does contain some tiny seeds, however most are transparent as well as infertile. You must admit this is strange, to try to develop a fruit which cannot produce seeds or offspring. On one hand, a vast scientific effort is being placed upon refining and improving human fertilization via IVF, freezing embryos and sperm, surrogates, etc., while simultaneously we are encouraging sterility in fruits.

So how do these “seedless” watermelons work? Regular watermelon seeds are diploid seeds, i.e., containing two sets of X chromosomes. Those used in order to produce seedless watermelons are tetraploid, possessing four sets of X chromosomes. Seedless watermelon seeds have a harder than average shell, which is why it is more difficult to grow the melons from seeds. In most cases, they are planted as transplants that were started in the nursery under controlled conditions. The tetraploid seeds sprout and become plants that will generate leaves and flowers but no fruit, unless they’re fertilized from flowers of a regular seeded watermelon. Therefore, you must plant one plant of regular watermelons for every three to four plants of seedless ones. During pollination, each seed contributes half of its chromosomes: 1+2, resulting in a fruit whose seeds are tetraploid, possessing three sets of chromosomes. This number disrupts the seed’s ability to reproduce, and ultimately sterilizes it. Thus we receive a fruit which is juicy and sturdier than its seeded friends, but it evolved from the “virgin birth” of an unfertilized cell. It’s called a “Parthenocarpic fruit,” in essence, the mule of the botanical world.…

Man is not alone in adoring the watermelon – they are also loved by animals and, of course, birds. More specifically, intrepid sweet-toothed hard-beaked blackbirds. We protect our fruits with a passion, otherwise, we find them looking like this:

Which is when we cover the bed with a bird’s net preventing the blackbirds from feasting on this red, juicy delight.

Watermelon is a healing fruit. Its high water content cleanses the body, making watermelon juice well-recommended for those suffering from bladder and liver deficiencies. It is also beneficial for cleansing the kidneys. Watermelon even helps to clean the body of cigarette smoke – highly recommended for active and passive smokers alike.

Traditional Yemenite folk cures use watermelon seeds to rid bad breath and stains from the teeth and mouth. Crush the seeds well, immerse them in water, and then strain for a super mouthwash. In Iraq, the watermelon rind is used to treat fungal infections. Lybian Jews are known to rub their skin with watermelon rind to lighten age spots. Watermelon contains vitamin A in the form of carotenoid, vitamin C, and vitamins from the B group as well (B1 and B2). It is low in nitrogen and high in potassium.

Further information about the nutritional and therapeutic virtues of our round, red, delicious friend can be found here (Hebrew).

So… how does one select a ripe, sweet watermelon?

–       We pick the watermelon at its ripest, when the tendril near the stem dries up. Therefore, when choosing a watermelon at the stand, look for the drier stem, indicating that the watermelon wasn’t picked while green.

–       The part that comes in contact with the ground changes its color to yellow, so you should look for a yellow (not white) spot on one of the watermelon sides.

–       And the most mysterious signal of all: if you tap on the fruit, you will hear a dim sound reverberating back to you.

Check out this live demonstration

How to store a watermelon:

The best temperature to store a watermelon is 12°C, but even at room temperature (23°) the watermelon will keep for a week to 10 days. Don’t overdo it, though. A watermelon stored for too long will lose its taste and change its texture.

It is not recommended to freeze a watermelon or store it in the cooler compartments of your fridge. Overexposure to cold can cause frostbite, taking a toll on the watermelon’s flavor and making the inside soft and powdery. To store it after slicing open, wrap in plastic wrap and store at a temperature of 3-4°.

And once you have that excellent watermelon, slice it, add mint and feta cheese, and sit back and enjoy this spectacular summer treat, while reading a collection of surprising, interesting and humorous facts about watermelons (Hebrew)

Check out our recipe section for interesting things to do with watermelon, aside from slicing cubes and semicircle smiles and devouring it on the spot. Enjoy!

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

WHAT’S JOINING THE WATERMELON IN THIS WEEK’S SUMMER BOXES?

Monday: Parsley/coriander, acorn squash, yard-long beans/okra/edamame, cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, corn, eggplant, potatoes, melon/water melon. Small boxes only: parsley root.

Large box, in addition: New Zealand spinach, lettuce, leeks/onions, cherry tomatoes.

Wednesday: Parsley/coriander, acorn squash, yard-long beans/okra/edamame, cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, melon/water melon/white squash, New Zealand spinach/lettuce. Small boxes: corn/cherry tomatoes

Large box, in addition: Parsley root/leek, garlic/onions, corn and cherry tomatoes.

And there’s more! You can add to your basket a wide, delectable range of additional products from fine small producers: flour, sprouts, honey, dates, almonds, garbanzo beans, crackers, probiotic foods, dried fruits and leathers, olive oil, bakery products, apple juice, cider and jams, dates silan and healthy snacks and goat dairy too! You can learn more about each producer on the Chubeza website. On our order system there’s a detailed listing of the products and their cost, you can make an order online now!

King Corn – Part 2! – July 10th-12th 2017

The excellent Iza Pziza dairy in Tal Shachar is pleased to invite you for a visit and activities over the summer. You will meet the goats and kids in the pen, try your hand at your very own cheese-making, and sample all the dairy goodies. What a great activity for a hot summer day!

See more details here.

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One last dance before we say goodbye…

After a fruitful collaboration (sometimes a pun is just – well – perfect…) of several years, we will bid farewell to Helaf and Melo Hatene fruit boxes. The last fruit boxes will be delivered Wednesday, July 12th.

You will still be able to purchase Melo Hatene tahini and coffee via our order system.

We wish to thank Helaf, the very devoted head of Melo Hatene, for years of partnership. Melo Hatene is still active, and you are more than welcome to visit and enjoy all its abundance and unique beauty. The diverse farm hosts a fruit orchard, olive press, apiary, as well as locally ground sesame and coffee. A great place to visit and enjoy.

Take a look

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King Corn – Part 2!

In every Chubeza corn seeding, we insert two beds (4 rows) of hard wrinkled yellow seeds into the earth. When I say we “insert” them, I mean it, because after many attempts to use a seeder, we realized that the best method is still to do it by hand. We notch furrows in the earth and scatter the seeds at a distance of 10-15 cm apart.  Afterwards, we cover the furrow, water it, and start praying for healthy growth.

After the initial sprouting, the corn grows rapidly, producing tall, strong, erect stalks that you can actually get lost in. At a farm where I worked in California, each year they would plant a huge corn maze where everyone, young and old, would love to get lost in during the October Halloween festival. At Chubeza, a group of kids decided to find out what it feels like to enter the corn bed jungle:

corn4  corn2

corn1   corn3

Since we seed the corn repeatedly within relatively short spans of time, a tour of the field reveals corn beds of varying heights, from 20 cm munchkins, through 50, 80 and 150 cm tall guys, all the way to towering stalks of 2 meters and more! Even the plants that have already been harvested and are currently retired are in no hurry to migrate to Miami, but rather stand there yellowing away in the summer sunshine. (I harbor a special fondness for them…)

IMG_0213

The type of corn Chubeza grows belongs to the “super-sweet” variety (SH2). True to its name, this corn is indeed super and sweet. Who would have believed that such incredibly tasty corn is actually the result of a mutation! And before you ask – I do not mean a genetic-engineered mutation (perish the thought), but rather one which occurred naturally, in the field, far away from sterile labs, and consequently developed by simple hybridization just like any other hybrid seeds. Here’s how this works:

Most of the corn seeded in the world is not even sweet (field/dent corn), but is produced primarily for animal fodder, for cornflower production, and for industrial uses such as ethanol for gas, the plastic industry, corn oil and various other additives. This field corn is actually the ancient corn variety that was grown in Southern and Central America thousands of years ago.

A primary advantage of corn is that it is unstable. It is a crop that is genetically sensitive to mutations and changes that occur in nature, in its genetic composition, which makes it an honored guest within the annals of scientific research (corn plants were instrumental in reaching some of the most important discoveries in genetics, like the Transposons) and a huge variety of corn types – in different colors, shapes and sweetness. Here are some examples:

 Cornvarieties

Sweet corn has been known in Western civilization since 1770. It is not clear when this natural mutation first occurred, but it caused the storing of a double amount of sugar in the storage tissue (endosperm) of the seed. There are hundreds of sweet corn varieties in this group, and it is the common form of fresh corn (on the cob) here in Israel. But this sweetness lives on borrowed time – corn is a cereal crop, and thus from the moment it ripens and is picked off the stalk, an internal process occurs where the sugars turn to starch. During this process, corn loses its sweetness and becomes floury and starchy, thus corn that is eaten more than 3 or 4 days from harvest loses a great deal of its sweetness.

Over the past few decades, two other groups of corn were developed, both based on mutants that occurred naturally which were then carefully developed to create stable varieties for agricultural use. One is the “sugar enhanced” (SE) corn, boasting higher sugar content than traditional sweet corn, which is why when refrigerated it retains sweetness 2-4 days after harvest. The second group is the Super-Sweet corn (SH2), three times sweeter than the other varieties. And most important here, the process of the sugar-transforming-to-starch is much slower, allowing it to remain sweet up to ten days after harvest (when refrigerated). This has, of course, many advantages, specifically when dealing with export to distant markets—but the Chubeza family has the chance to enjoy these nice mutants on the same day they are picked: triply sweet and fresh.

If you cook our corn, this sweet treat blends perfectly with so many flavors: salty, spicy, and sour ingredients all add a distinctive, complementary savor. But really, the best way to enjoy this corn is by simply cooking it in water for a few minutes and then biting right into the fresh cobs. Perhaps it’s too early just yet, but in two months’ time when you may feel the need for a change of pace, take a look at our recipe section for some intriguing non-standard uses for the sweet king of summer.

Here’s to a sweet and summery week, and don’t forget to drink!

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

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S SUMMER BOXES?

Monday: Parsley, Amoro pumpkin, cherry tomatoes /okra, fakus/cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, corn, eggplant, potatoes, melon/water melon. Small boxes only:  leeks/garlic.

Large box, in addition: New Zealand spinach/ lettuce, parsley root, slice of Provence pumpkin/butternut squash, yard-long beans.

Wednesday: Parsley/cilantro, Amoro pumpkin, fakus/cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, corn, eggplant, potatoes, melon/water melon. Small boxes: cherry tomatoes/okra/yard-long beans. Small boxes only: New Zealand spinach/ lettuce.

Large box, in addition: Parsley root, slice of Provence pumpkin/butternut squash, leeks/garlic, yard-long beans and cherry tomatoes.

And there’s more! You can add to your basket a wide, delectable range of additional products from fine small producers: flour, sprouts, honey, dates, almonds, garbanzo beans, crackers, probiotic foods, dried fruits and leathers, olive oil, bakery products, apple juice, cider and jams, dates silan and healthy snacks and goat dairy too! You can learn more about each producer on the Chubeza website. On our order system there’s a detailed listing of the products and their cost, you can make an order online now!

July 3rd-5th 2017 – KING CORN – part I

One last dance before we say goodbye…

After a fruitful collaboration (sometimes a pun is just – well – perfect…) of several years, in two weeks we will bid farewell to Helaf and Melo Hatene fruit boxes. The last fruit boxes will be delivered Wednesday, July 12th.

You will still be able to purchase Melo Hatene tahini and coffee via our order system.

We wish to thank Helaf, the very devoted head of Melo Hatene, for years of partnership. Melo Hatene is still active, and you are more than welcome to visit and enjoy all its abundance and unique beauty. The diverse farm hosts a fruit orchard, olive press, apiary, as well as locally ground sesame and coffee. A great place to visit and enjoy.

Take a look

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cornsky

For two weeks now, your boxes have proudly contained the king of summer, his royal highness the corn. Every year it accompanies us from June to November, joins us as we bid the schoolyear farewell, enjoys our summer vacation and then goes back to school with us, come fall. In essence, the corn crop begins to ripen when the weather turns warm but still has an occasional breezy day, moves headlong into the intolerable heat of July-August and the heatwaves of September, breathes a sigh of relief in October, makes certain that moderate weather has returned, and only then says goodbye in November. Now that’s what I call a king!

This week, American citizens celebrated the independence of their homeland, the Birthplace of Corn, so in everyone’s honor, we shall sing a song of praise to the sweet, yellow cob!

Corn is probably one of the first crops the Americans learned to grow. Approximately 7,000 years ago, some gleaners (probably Mayan women, or women of a neighboring tribe in Central America) noticed a spontaneous mutant among the weeds, a teosinte, with a cob that was longer and filled with seeds that were larger than your average ancient weed. Something sparked their intuition, and they tasted it – to their great delight. They also discovered that seeds which fell to the ground sprouted and became a mature plant that yielded more cobs. After some time, they learned that if they kept the better seeds and planted them, the next crop would be even more improved!

At the next stage, they (no longer gleaners, but now also farmers) discovered that if they grow corn, beans and squash, they could actually make a decent basic diet out of them. The plants also grew well together: the corn acted as a supporting pole for the bean to climb upon, and the squash grew on the earth as live mulch, preventing weeds and keeping moisture in. This proved to be so time-efficient that it gave the people enough spare moments to build houses, weave rugs and baskets, develop astronomy and math, and of course – party…

To your left is the olden corn, and to your right is its current cultured form:

Today, corn is one of the only plants which cannot reproduce without a human helping hand, as it requires the planting of separate seeds in order for the plant to sprout.

In various languages, corn was granted venerable names. The first to bring corn to Europe were the Spanish, and they gave it a name from the native Taino: mahis in Taino, maize in Spanish. The meaning in Taino is “the seed that gives life.” The Latin name continued this theme, calling it Zea (life giver) mays.

Only when the wonder vegetable emigrated to Europe did it receive its dull, listless name “corn” that was a generic name for grains (even salt grains, hence “corned beef”), and the derogatory titles “Turkey wheat,” “Turkey/Egyptian corn,” or “Indian corn.” Apparently they were not referring to the origins of the grain, but rather making a social comment that this was an uncultivated, wild, barbaric grain, as compared to “polite” cultured European grains. The Hebrew name tiras was given based on the English “Turkey corn,” or the Yiddish equivalent Tirkishe Veitzen. In an old nature book, The Genesis of Learning, Baruch Linda describes “Turkey wheat” (חטי טורקיא) as “a grain with yellowish round seeds… each plant containing three towers, each tower or stalk containing two hundred and forty adhered seeds.”

So how did the Hebrew tiras derive from the Turkey? The word tiras is mentioned in the Bible in the books of Genesis and Chronicles. Tiras was Jefeth’s seventh son (Noah’s grandson). Scholars identified Tiras as the father of the Turkish nation (Tractate Yoma), which is why the “Turkish” grain was granted this name.

Naomi Shapiro of Kvutzat Kineret described an agricultural summer festival in a letter from 1912: “We left from Sejera in six carts with Hebrew and Turkish flags at five am. Nature was impeccably beautiful and thus we arrived in Kineret within two hours, singing and clapping our hands… all sorts of vegetables were displayed from the various farms and moshavot, beans and peas and beets, tiras wheat, pumpkins, squashes, bandoras, cucumbers, grains and wheat – all neatly arranged…” Over the years, the “wheat” was dropped, leaving only the tiras.

Its lackluster name certainly does not reflect the sweet, positive nature of this wonderful grain, upon which the world of South American natives was once so dependent. And perhaps the come-down of the name from “life giving” to “wild grain” somewhat reflects the devaluation of this outstanding plant in the Western world.

American natives used corn in various manners: eating it fresh or cooked, drying the cob and grinding it into flour, pounding the fresh grains to produce polenta, a wet corn porridge; decorating the house with colorful strings of corn, fashioning cornhusk dolls, popping it for popcorn, feeding animals the cobs, etc. All parts of the corn had advantages and uses: corn stalks were used in building, fishing, etc.; the corn “beard” was used as a medicinal herb to cure kidney ailments, and the cornhusks were used to weave mats and baskets and create masks, moccasins and dolls.

Today, too, we are dependent upon corn in every realm, especially food: Almost every processed food contains corn, but corn of a very limited genetically-engineered variety that appears in its processed, worn and abused form, totally bereft of nutritional value, and of course, a product which demands an excessive exertion of energy.

We use corn starch for thickening and gluing, and corn syrup for sweetening. Expansion materials, emulsifiers, food coloring, and citric acid are all are derived from corn, as well as most of the animal fodder in the meat industry. Corn also serves a role in the production of plastic and oil. (If you wish to learn more about corn and food in our world, I highly recommend Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma.)

But for all its many uses, there is nothing like simply sinking your teeth into a fresh ear of corn. There are those who do not trust the Kashrut of corn. They fear that tiny insects lying within the corn silk will find their way into the kernels, becoming impossible to detect and remove.  Dror, one of our loyal deliverymen, recently told me that he heard from a “Sunfrost” mashgiach (kashruth supervisor) how to deal with this matter. According to him, the bugs run towards the cob when they are exposed to light, as the corn is peeled and its silk removed. The solution is simple and creative: peel the corn in the dark! This way, the bugs remain in the silk and get tossed to the compost. You are more than welcome to try this out at home…

Wishing us all a great week,

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

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WHAT’S COMING ALONG WITH “THE KING” IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Parsley, Amoro pumpkin, beets/edamame (green soybeans)/yard-long beans, fakus/cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, corn, eggplant, potatoes, melon/water melon. Small boxes only:  Parsley root.

Large box, in addition: New Zealand spinach/ lettuce, leeks/garlic, acorn squash/white squash, cherry tomatoes

Wednesday: Parsley, Amoro pumpkin, yard-long beans/cherry tomatoes/okra/acorn squash, fakus/cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, corn, eggplant, potatoes, mini watermelon, leeks/parsley root.

Large box in addition: Beets, white squash/slice of Provence pumpkin, New Zealand spinach/lettuce.

And there’s more! You can add to your basket a wide, delectable range of additional products from fine small producers: flour, sprouts, honey, dates, almonds, garbanzo beans, crackers, probiotic foods, dried fruits and leathers, olive oil, bakery products, apple juice, cider and jams, dates silan and healthy snacks and goat dairy too! You can learn more about each producer on the Chubeza website. On our order system there’s a detailed listing of the products and their cost, you can make an order online now!

June 26th-28th 2017 – Summertime, and the livin’ ain’t so easy…

Last week, June 22, marked the formal start of summer. We were rewarded with a few days of not-so-hot weather, but this week summer has hurled its scorching heatwaves straight at us.

The livin’ ain’t that easy for the withering potato plants that stood green and erect only a few weeks ago, as summer signals us to pull up the last of them, already. It urges the corn stalks to valiantly stand upright, flying, fighting to fertilize and produce oh-so-sweet cobs. Old Sol is rapidly ripening the cucumbers and fakus, causing the tomatoes to blush furiously. Meanwhile, at the same pace the viruses are quickly spreading to our zucchini, warping the shape of the elder portion of the crop. (Not to worry: these are plant viruses, not human!)

The loquat tree near our packinghouse yielded fruit a while ago, leaving those fruits remaining on the tree to dry and become carved into the branches. The grapes covering the shed by the office are already clustered, heavy and bountiful, winking at us from above as we wait for them to become plump and soft.

The Chubeza team gets very hot by the middle of the day. Our water containers empty quickly, and we remind each other to drink. We all work with long-sleeved shirts to protect us from the relentless sun, and for some time now we have the blower in the packinghouse working heroically to suck out the hot air and slightly cool off the facility. It’s still not oppressively hot, we know, and we’re appreciative of the mild, temperate summer we’ve had till now. And yet, the body that still recalls the pleasure of the cool winter and spring must now get used to the burden of summer. This is why it’s harder for us now than during the peak of the season when were already accustomed to the heat.

This season is full of beginnings, reflected in the changing composition of your boxes. After remaining fairly constant from week to week with only minor changes, it’s time to greet the array of happy newcomers who arrived over the past few weeks. Let’s hear your applause for: The corn! The acorn squash and other squash varieties! The eggplant! The melon! And the watermelon and even the soy bean, signaling our summer makeover! In close proximity, our tomatoes are ripening nicely, along with the okra. Coming very soon: more pumpkins, peppers, yard-long beans, lubia and other happy summer vegetables.

The melons are ripening rapidly, juicy and sweet with a heavenly scent, and they have already graced your boxes. On harvest days our packinghouse is filled with the fragrance of melons. This year we are growing the elliptical pineapple melon, with light orange-tinted flesh.

 

The first watermelons have ripened as well. How do we know? We watch the blackbirds. These intelligent birds are the first to identify good, sweet watermelons. They never touch one that’s not ripe, but they adore plunging their beaks into the sweet ones. For this reason we’ve rushed to cover the watermelon bed with netting to keep out the birds and call off the big watermelon bash they were planning. Stay tuned, coming soon to your boxes! (the watermelons, not the birds…)

The eggplants, too, are ripening slowly, as is their wont. This year we planted our first eggplant bed at the end of March, when winter was still there in full blast. These brave summery fellas are placed in the earth and try to grow and flourish despite the low temperature. Since then, the weather has become warm and summery, and the eggplants have shown their appreciation by turning plump and soft. What a pleasure to harvest summer eggplants again, which absorbed the sunny warmth into their soft skin and show their thanks with their shiny black-purple mane and an absolutely delectable summer savor in your plates. Welcome Mr. Eggplant!

Our tomatoes have begun ripening quickly, and more and more tomato crates are piling up in our packing house. Our first cherry tomatoes were harvested today. They’re still rather large compared to other varieties, but they’re super sweet and taste great! Summer helps them ripen easily. We pick our summer tomatoes red and ripe so they reach maximum sweetness, which is why they are sometimes softer than the winter tomatoes you are used to. Don’t let that bother you – just dig in!

This year we planted six varieties of winter squash and pumpkins, now ripening according to their sizes, with the small acorn squash coming in first. Next in line are the bright orange Amoro pumpkins and the creamy butternut squash. Some of the Provence pumpkins have already turned color and are ready to be harvested, along with a new type we’re trying out this year – round, cute orange pumpkins with edible green seeds (but most of them still need some more time in their royal beds). You’ll get the full pumpkin/squash story in the very near future.

This week we harvest a brand new interesting squash – the squash mashed potato (how cute and tempting is that name?). It’s very white, inside and out, and has a very delicate not-too-sweet taste that combines smoothly with salty fare, and a very unique texture – one that is truly reminiscent of mashed potatoes! This is what it looks like:

Our big Tripolitania pumpkins still aren’t ready, so we’re giving them all the time they need (till midnight, of course, when they turn into royal coaches…).

This year we are adding the green soy, aka edamame, to the beginning-of-summer vegetable collection. Usually we grow it in the throes of summer for a very short period. This year, we are experimenting by seeding it early, at the beginning of May. The first seeds enjoyed the spring weather, not the usual summery heat it is used to, and over time it yielded pods that filled up with chubby peas. Last week we began harvesting bunches of those yummy green pods. We seeded more rounds, testing its ability to deal with various stages of the season. At the end of the season we will be able to report on our results. As a summer tenant, soy beans will be with us all the way to autumn.

And the happiest, most joyful beginning: a brand new beautiful Chubeza baby girl born to Yochai, our loyal Jerusalem delivery person, and his wife Oryn. Some of you will remember Yochai and Oryn from the first welcoming phone call you received as new Chubeza members. We are now overjoyed to greet tiny Yaela with a warm embrace. Much love to Yochai, Oryn, Lavie and Yaela!

These days of beginning are also days of endings – Last week the high school students completed their schoolyear and this week marks the end of the schoolyear for the elementary and kindergarten set. Wishing all the hardworking students a well-earned break and a happy, relaxing summer vacation full of fun.

Shavua Tov from all of us – Alon, Bat Ami, Dror, Yochai and the entire Chubeza team

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Parsley/coriander, acorn squash/yellow beans, lettuce, fakus/cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, edamame, eggplant, potatoes, melon/water melon, corn.

Large box, in addition: Parsley root, butternut squash/Amoro pumpkin, beets.

Wednesday: Parsley/coriander, acorn squash/white winter squash, lettuce, fakus/cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant/green beans, potatoes, melon/water melon, corn. Small box only: New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard.

Large box, in addition: Cherry tomatoes/edamame, parsley root, Amoro pumpkin, beets.

And there’s more! You can add to your basket a wide, delectable range of additional products from fine small producers: flour, fruits, sprouts, honey, dates, almonds, garbanzo beans, crackers, probiotic foods, dried fruits and leathers, olive oil, bakery products, apple juice, cider and jams, dates silan and healthy snacks and goat dairy too! You can learn more about each producer on the Chubeza website. On our order system there’s a detailed listing of the products and their cost, you can make an order online now!

“June 19th-21st – “Chubeza and the Beanstalk

Said Rabbi Yona:
How did beans get their name?
They amuse the heart and tickle the intestines.
     – Yerushalmi Talmud

Beans just love moderation. As for the rest of their Legume family relatives, they just love the extreme. Fava beans and peas thrive on frigid cold weather, while soy beans and black-eyed peas adore the scorching sun. The beans, however, seek weather that’s just warm enough and just ventilated enough – in essence, an in-between-season climate. Which explains why beans are one of the only crops to be associated with spring and autumn in our field, always dropping in for a very short visit timed to avoid the onerous summer heat or the winter chill that follows their autumn visit.

When Rabbi Yona says that the bean (shu’it) is amusing (mesha’a’sha’at), he must have been referring to the black-eyed pea (lubia), which has been prevalent in the Middle East since way back when. In contrast, the common bean (or Phaseolous Vulgaris) originated in the tropical areas of the American continent, one of the “three sisters” of ancient American cuisine: corn, zucchini and beans. In those areas, peas were grown over 7,000 years ago, but until the discovery of America, no bean varieties were known in Europe.

Like the rest of the legumes, beans are an annual crop with butterfly-like flowers which become pods for the seeds to lie inside. There are many varieties of beans, which are divided into two categories. One is the fresh bean, eaten in the pod young and green (or yellow, purple, spotted). Fresh varieties include cylinder-like pods, wide or flat, thick or thin, and more. The fresh beans are not yet ripe, which is why they’re soft and can be eaten raw or after a short blanching.

The second variety is the dry bean, only harvested after the seeds are ripe, hard and full within the pod, which has to be peeled in order to extract the beans for use. Dry beans also come in a variety of colors and sizes: white, red, spotted, spotted, pink, brown and others. This bean must be cooked well and should also be soaked in water prior to cooking. As Rabbi Yona reminds us, it tickles the intestines….

beans seeds

Various beans grow differently. Many are bush variants: short and compact plants which yield within a very short time, and that’s that. Then there are the climbing types, which have to be trellised upright and which take their time yielding. The bean’s tendency to climb brought it much respect in ancient American farming, as one of the “Three Sisters.” Archeologists have frequently found ancient Peruvian and Mexican farming sites with remnants of bean seeds together with those of corn and squash. The bean was seeded together with the corn and squash, while the corn plants were used as trellising poles for the climbing bean. The squash covers the earth as a living mulch that serves to prevent weeds and water drainage, and the bean fixates nitrogen (see explanation below,) providing nutrients for both of her sisters:

3sisters

An interesting fact regarding the differences in growth of the two types of beans is that the climbing and bush species apparently developed separately and in parallel by different farmers in different areas. In Mexico, the farmers chose to grow species that tended to crawl, since the bean grew near the corn that was used as a natural trellising pole, saving extra work for the farmer. In contrast, in Peru the cornfields were limited, making a climbing-specie an additional burden for local farmers needing to support the climbing plants. Thus, Peruvian farmers must have chosen to raise plants from seeds that grew in the form of a bush, and those were the species that developed there. The bushy species developed in Peru contain a gene that makes them grow in miniature form by limiting the number of branch segments, while turning the plant tissues (the branches and leaves) to reproductive tissues (flowers and pods).

The climbing beanpole was immortalized by the tale of Jack and the Beanstalk, the story of a poor boy who climbs a huge beanstalk that he grew from magic seeds, embarking on a search for his identity. Via the beanstalk, he finally finds happiness and wealth, and of course triumphs over evil. The bean is indeed magical in another sense: as a member of the legume family, it has many characteristics that help improve the earth. In a symbiotic process with certain bacteria, it can fixate nitrogen from the atmosphere and store it in the earth in a form that is available to plants that grow simultaneously or afterwards. The bean’s long roots grasp the earth and assist in preventing erosion, a feature that makes it very easy to grow, as it will cling well to difficult and barren earth.

In South America these qualities make the local plant “worth its weight in gold.” The Mucuna bean is seeded in Brazil, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras and other places in small, local farms, on the slopes of rocky mountains as a “cover crop.” The plants are cut and left in place while still green, and the next crops (specifically corn), are planted in the organic matter. The result is a doubling and even tripling of the corn yield, and an improvement of the soil for years to come. Indeed, a magic bean!

Beans are high-nutrient vegetables. Dry beans are rich in protein stored within their pods, while the fresh, youthful beans contain a lot less protein, and thus, in nutritional terms are not considered “plant-based protein.” Not to worry – fresh beans have lots of other great virtues: an excellent source of vitamins C, K and manganese, they are rich in dietary fibers, potassium, folic acid and carotenoids (pro vitamin A.) In addition, fresh beans contain a good quantity of copper, calcium, phosphorus, protein, omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin B. Beans can be – of course – cooked, steamed, roasted, pickled, added to pasta, rice, salad and any vegetable stir-fry to add taste, color and festivity to your meal. Bon appetite!

Wishing you all a good and amusing week. It is the last week of the Ramadan fast for the Aatzi family – Mohammed, Ali and Majdi.

May we enjoy a quiet, summery, joyful week!

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

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Parsley/coriander, butternut squash/slice of Provence pumpkin, lettuce, fakus, zucchini, tomatoes, green beans/yellow beans, eggplant/melon, potatoes. Small boxes only: parsley root, beets.

Large box, in addition: Cucumbers, acorn squash, onions/garlic, New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard, corn.

Wednesday: Parsley/coriander, lettuce, cucumbers/fakus, zucchini, tomatoes, green beans/yellow beans/edamame (green soy), eggplant/beets, melon/mini watermelon, potatoes, corn. Small boxes only: parsley root.

Large box, in addition: Butternut squash/slice of Provence pumpkin, acorn squash, onions/garlic, New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard.

And there’s more! You can add to your basket a wide, delectable range of additional products from fine small producers: flour, fruits, sprouts, honey, dates, almonds, garbanzo beans, crackers, probiotic foods, dried fruits and leathers, olive oil, bakery products, apple juice, cider and jams, dates silan and healthy snacks and goat dairy too! You can learn more about each producer on the Chubeza website. On our order system there’s a detailed listing of the products and their cost, you can make an order online now!