June 20-22, 2022 – Making our Garden Grow

We are excited to tell you about Noam Cohen-Levi, a new local farmer joining our cottage industry producers. The reason we’re so excited by this news is that Noam is an ex-Chubeza worker, and he is charming, professional, thorough and talented. He grows sprouts in Moshav Sataria, not far from Chubeza. But we will allow him to introduce himself, his products and his work methods:

My name is Noam Cohen-Levi and I grow sprouts, arugula and distinctive leafy green assortments in Moshav Sataria. For just over a decade, I have worked in the realm of agriculture (including Bat Ami and Alon’s amazing field) and learned the secrets of organic agriculture. Two years ago, I decided it was high time to put my experience into practice, drawing from everything I learned, to make it my own. 

Our agriculture is based on the working hands of my family and myself, and we believe in simplicity and hard work. We work only manually, with no heavy machinery, attempting to preserve the natural surroundings as much as possible. 

We started our small company with our sprouts, which we grow from organic seeds that are neither sprayed, fertilized or assisted by any such artificial conditions as refrigeration, heating or lighting. Everything we grow is organic from seed to box, though we are temporarily without supervision. We believe that our sprouts and other greens are receiving the best conditions to grow as healthy, nutritious and fortifying vegetables. We are happy to work the land for you and serve you authentic, natural food. 

Add Noam’s sprouts today to your boxes (sprouts with soil, see photograph) via our order system, under “Sprouts and Mushrooms”.
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This week we would like to request your help in expanding the circle of the Chubeza community by spreading the word about Community Supported Agriculture and direct purchasing from the farmer. Before we tell you exactly what we need from you, let’s take a moment to discuss the larger picture of the idea and phenomenon.

When Ecclesiastes said, “To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven,” he was surely referring to the CSA movement ideology of partnership between farmers and consumers – a movement Chubeza is a part of. And not just because farms grow vegetables in season and send fresh produce in boxes, but also because this model arose simultaneously and independently in Japan, Chile and Europe– without either country being conscious of the other (in the pre-“like us on Facebook” era). This happened in the 1960’s, when an awareness of the dangers lurking in modern chemical-based farming and global market economy were beginning to emerge. Countries were losing farming viability because import was more economic (sounds very relevant and familiar). In short, people began waking up to the problem of agriculture that moves further and further away from the mouth that consumes them, and began searching for answers.

At that time, Japan became concerned with food safety following a disturbing revelations on “Minamata Disease“, where a village was badly struck by mercury poisoning. This episode, among others, caused more and more Japanese citizens to opt for organic food, but they encountered difficulties in this endeavor as well: on one hand, the increased import of agricultural produce posed a threat to local Japanese farming. On the other hand, forgeries and fabrications in labeling organic products sent consumers in search of an alternative. Japan is a country with a longtime tradition of cooperatives, thus it’s no surprise that a small group of woman formed the first farm-consumer cooperative, going in search of a farmer who would create a partnership of mutual support. They integrated the TEIKEI commonly translated as “food with the farmer’s face on it.”

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world:

At the beginning of the 20th century the anthroposophist movement was established, based on the ideology of philosopher, architect, and Austrian teacher Rudolf Steiner, and on his writings in education, medicine, arts, religion, economy and agriculture. The anthroposophist philosophy is broad and complex, and its specific relationship to agriculture is otherwise known as “biodynamic agriculture.” The foundations for applying anthroposophist tenets to practical farming were set out in a series of lectures given by Steiner in 1924, in which he characterized the optimal agricultural system as a complete ecologic system where people, animals, plants, microorganisms, earth, water and air exist in a dynamic balance and equilibrium.

Steiner also focused on “associative economics,” to create an alternative to a competitive economy by cultivating reciprocation and communication between manufacturers, merchants, credit suppliers and consumers to deal with issues of fair prices, actual needs, reduction of poverty and expansion of social equality and environmental influences. Is this sounding a little too “Summer of 2011”? To think that this happened nearly a century ago!

A combination of the two approaches–biodynamic organic agriculture and an economy based on cooperation and reciprocation–served to create the ultimate model: a partnership forged between farmers and the non-agricultural community to confront these issues.

At the end of the 1960’s, the Buschberghof Farm, a German collective farm based on these principles, was established alongside a “collaborative agricultural community.” In Switzerland, a similar process took place, influenced by the Chilean cooperative movement during the regime of Salvador Allende (1970-1973).

The development of the CSA movement in United States was quite similar to that of its European counterparts. I won’t go into the details here, but for those interested, I recommend this very informative and interesting article about the origins of the movement, focusing on the nation’s pioneer CSA farms in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

What about Israel? Leah Sigmund was the pioneer of the Israeli CSA. A biodynamic farmer from Kibbutz Lotan in the Arava, she grew an organic vegetable garden in her kibbutz and operated a CSA over the years 2000-2001. They distributed approximately 30 boxes to various places, specifically Eilat, but also to Metzokey Dragot, Mitzpe Ramon and even to a group in Jerusalem! After a few successful years, the program closed down when Leah pursued advanced studies in the U.S.

Leah’s endeavors at Lotan were the example I set for myself when I established Chubeza in 2003. When I first established the farm I encountered a lot of sarcasm from veteran farmers, who assured me, “It will never work– Israeli’s aren’t suckers like the Americans and won’t buy a vegetable they haven’t seen.” or  “It’s been tried before, and people are just unwilling to have someone else determine what vegetables they will eat” or “yeah right, just try to tell them there are no tomatoes in January…” In my naiveté, 19 years ago I decided it had to work.

In the beginning, we were loners in the realm. Over time, more and more new and veteran farms chose the CSA path, and they are now thriving and succeeding. Today there are multiple small farms in Israel which act in a similar manner, adhering to the social communal perspective, and not solely out there for the money (though I do not underrate the importance of that matter).

The original idea of the CSA is in its title – Community Supported Agriculture, creating agriculture supported by the community surrounding it. Over the years, many farms have been established under the umbrella of agricultural-community partnership, spanning a wide range of commitment and involvement on the part of the community. At one extreme is the actual communal farm, belonging to, operated by, and supported by the community. In this type of farm, the members set the budget, as well as the annual membership fee to finance the budget. The community is also involved in determining what to grow, how to grow it, the variety of vegetables selected, purchasing equipment, etc. In many such farms, the members commit to a number of hours or work days in the field or in the management of the CSA.

At the other extreme are the majority of CSA’s, farms such as Chubeza that offer a “membership plan” where the clients commit to a short-term period (weekly, half a season or a full season) and pay the weekly fee in advance or by monthly payments. In this type of farm, it is the farmers who are responsible for the ownership and management; the clients are partners by virtue of their willingness to commit to membership and payment in advance for next season’s crop. Sometimes they lend a hand by organizing distribution or by working in the field. On the whole, members’ level of involvement is their own choice, with different people involved in different ways.

The common denominator between the various farms, and what makes them a partnership of farmers and community, is expressed in direct sales from the field to consumer, direct communication via the newsletter, the growing-protocol and the estimated crop schedule, seasonal feedback, and the encouragement of clients to comment and make recommendations and requests. Involvement is almost always augmented through visits to the field, pick-your-own days, planting events and seasonal celebrations. And again, the clients themselves determine the level of involvement and their willingness to take part in these events, read the newsletter, respond or give seasonal feedback.

So it’s true that this phenomenon may be small and relatively marginal, and perhaps this is how it will stay. But these “hedgerows” are so beautiful and green, nourishing and joy-inspiring. In our little Israel, where there are no “suckers,” there are enough people who believe this is a way of life, and choose to receive a “weekly box of surprises” and learn of a different sort of agriculture: one that is manual, varied, balanced, surprising and alive.

This is where you come in. We’ve had some openings freed up and we are glad to welcome new members. We believe the best way to understand what’s it all about is to hear it from someone who already receives Chubeza vegetables and can share his/her experience, challenges and advantages of joining Chubeza.

We’ve prepared an information leaflet (in Hebrew) you can forward by whatsapp or Facebook or any other way.

Thank you for your support throughout the years, and in the present.

Have a good week,

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

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Cherry tomatoes, zucchini/onions, parsley/coriander/dill, potatoes, beets/carrots, eggplant/green peppers, lettuce, Swiss chard/kale/New Zealand spinach/basil, tomatoes, cucumbers/fakus, melon/watermelon.

Large box, in addition: Corn, butternut squash/acorn squash/slice of pumpkin, scallions/ yellow beans/garlic.

FRUIT BOXES:  Peaches/nectarines, avocados, cherries, bananas.

Wednesday: Cherry tomatoes, zucchini/onions, parsley/coriander/dill, potatoes, beets/carrots, eggplant/green peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers/fakus, melon/watermelon, corn/butternut squash. And a free gift: Swiss chard/New Zealand spinach/basil

Large box, in addition: Acorn squash/slice of pumpkin, scallions/leek/parsley root/garlic, yellow beans.

FRUIT BOXES:  Peaches/nectarines, avocados, cherries, bananas.

June 13th-15th 2022 – Tickled to Beans

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 extremes. Fava and peas thrive on frigid cold weather, while soybeans and black-eyed peas adore the scorching sun. The beans, however, seek weather that’s just warm enough and just ventilated enough – in essence, a transition-season climate. Which explains why beans are one of the only crops belonging to spring and autumn in our field, dropping in for a very short visit before the onerous summer heat prevails. This particular spring has been perfect for Ms. Bean: moderate and gentle with no major heatwaves. A true field day for the bean!

This spring we seeded three types of beans: green, yellow and light-green flat. You’ve met the first two in your boxes, cloaked in green or gold, summery, crunchy and delicious. The flat bean, Hilda, is climbing up the trellising net in our net house and will make her appearance a bit later.

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 and not hardened, making them soft and readily edible 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 dry 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, black, red, 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…

Various beans grow differently. Many are bush variants: short and compact, yielding within a very short time, and that’s that (like our thin yellow or green beans.) Then there are the climbing types (like the Thai black-eyed pea), which have to be trellised upright and which take their time yielding (like the Thai black-eyed pea or the wide hilda we grow in the field. 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 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). In contrast, 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 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.

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 the Resovia 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 magnesium, 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!

My we enjoy a “tickling” pleasant summery week!

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

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

 Monday: Cherry tomatoes, yellow or green beans/garlic, parsley/coriander, potatoes, beets, parsley root/scallions/onions, lettuce, acorn squash/spaghetti squash, tomatoes, cucumbers/fakus,

melon/watermelon. FREE GIFT IN SMALL BOXES: Basil/ dill

Large box, in addition: Swiss chard/kale/New Zealand spinach, zucchini, eggplant/butternut squash/slice of pumpkin.

FRUIT BOXES:  Peaches, avocados, bananas, nectarines, cherries.

Wednesday: Cherry tomatoes, yellow or green beans/garlic, parsley/coriander, potatoes, zucchini, beets/carrots, lettuce, acorn squash/butternut squash/slice of pumpkin, tomatoes, cucumbers/fakus, melon/watermelon. FREE GIFT IN SMALL BOXES: Basil/dill

Large box, in addition: Swiss chard/kale/New Zealand spinach, parsley root/scallions, eggplant/onions.

FRUIT BOXES:  Peaches, avocados, bananas, nectarines, cherries.

June 7th-8th 2022 – NO HOKUS FAKUS…

In perfect step with Shavuoth, the Harvest Festival, we harvested the maiden fakus, aka “Arabic cucumber” crop over the past few weeks. After previous years when we’d get a barrage of comments like, “This week I received two portions of zucchini and no cucumbers,” we’ve now decided to place the fakus directly in the cucumber bag. This way, it’s easier to spot those who are in the know, and to introduce the fakus to those who are not yet acquainted.

So, for those who could not identify the New Guy in the Bag, here’s a handy key to distinguish between a fakus and a zucchini, which I learned from our long-time client Tzipi of Jerusalem: The fakus stem resembles that of a cucumber, not a zucchini! If you received a light-green elongated vegetable that kind-of-resembles-zucchini-but-kind-of-doesn’t, check out its stem (the part where it attaches to the plant). If it is wide and star-shaped like a zucchini, well… it’s a zucchini. If it’s thin and willowy like a cucumber, then say hi to our friend the fakus.

Here, ladies and gentlemen, is The Fakus in all its glory:

 

At the heat of the day in the scorching Sinai desert, the Israelites craved the Egyptian fare, reminiscing, “We remember the. . . .  cucumbers, and the melons…” (Numbers 11, 5). The “cucumbers” they missed were most probably the fresh fakus. And to be honest, I totally understand them. Fakus is definitely worth pining for. Thus, every summer, we descendants of those Egyptian exiles are proud to bring to you the vegetable hankered by our great-great-great-great-great-great-greeeaaaaaat-grandparents….

Tiberius Julius Caesar Augustus was also known for his fondness for cucumbers. He would eat cucumbers every day of the year, necessitating the Roman farmers to develop artificial methods to grow the vegetable year-round. According to Historia Naturalis by Pliny the Elder (Book XIX, Chapter 23), “Indeed, he [Tiberius] was never without it [cucumber]; for he had raised beds made in frames upon wheels, by means of which the cucumbers were moved and exposed to the full heat of the sun; while, in winter, they were withdrawn, and placed under the protection of frames glazed with mirrorstone.”

However…

Tiberius was probably not munching on the cucumber we all know and love, i.e., the Cucumis Sativus, but rather on the light and somewhat hairy fakus, aka Armenian cucumber. And today’s surprising revelation: The fakus is in fact …a melon. Also coined the “snake melon,” on account of its looks, in botanical terms this is the Cucumis melo var. flexuosus melon. However, we do not let the fakus mature like our melons—we pick it in its crunchy sweet youth, like the cucumbers (which is a good thing, really, because the fakus just would not ever become a real tasty melon at full maturity). There are all sorts of fakus varieties grown worldwide: light green, striped, long and curved, or short and light like a cucumber. At Chubeza we grow two types of the light-colored variety: the small fakus, about the length of a cucumber, and one which is long and curved.

Melons and cucumbers belong to the same family, but they are two different entities with diverse characteristics. When you look at the leaves, you can tell that fakus leaves are rounder and less serrated, similar to their melon brothers. Its flavor and appearance are closer to the cucumber, but not really: the fakus is not thorny at all. It is covered with soft fuzz and is sweeter and crunchier than the cucumber. However, like the cucumber, it is picked in its youth, before its seeds mature, which is why it is not as soft as a melon.

Like the cucumber, the fakus sometimes tends to be bitter. Various attempts to overcome this bitterness have proven that we must carefully choose the plants whose seeds are to be kept for next year, making certain that they are non-bitter plants. We hope you will not receive a bitter fakus, but to be on the safe side, when you slice them up into a salad, first nibble at the point where the fakus was attached to the plant. That’s where the bitterness begins. If you like what you taste, slice away. If it’s bitter, take a bite further down. Sometimes the bitterness remains contained at the end…

The fakus is lauded by chefs as part of the trend to return to local, homegrown “baladi” food of the past. It does resemble the cucumbers enjoyed here in bygone years, prior to the arrival of the garden cucumber. Several years ago we were visited by Dr. Moshe Ra’anan, who has written many articles about plants and animals in the Bible. He photographed our nice fakus varieties and wrote a few words about them (in Hebrew). I learned from him that during the Mishnaic period there was actually a verb “to fakus” (“לפקס”), related to the ripening of the fakus. Our commentators offered two different interpretations for its definition: 1. the stage at which the fuzz is shed from the fruit, or 2. the stages at which the flower dries up and falls from the fruit.

Either way, when the fakus’s are fakused, you can wash, slice, add some salt if desired and joyfully bite into it, or you may preserve it, just like a cucumber, producing delicious pickles, and even fry or stuff it like a zucchini. And all this while being …a melon!

Check out our recipe section for some delectable fakus recipes.

Confused? That’s ok, just enjoy the fakus and Bon Appetite!

Wishing you a good week,

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

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Cherry tomatoes, yellow or green beans/eggplant, parsley/coriander/dill, potatoes, beets/carrots, onions, Swiss chard/kale/New Zealand spinach, zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers + fakus, lettuce.

Large box, in addition: Acorn squash/butternut squash, parsley root/scallions/garlic, melon/watermelon. FREE GIFT: Basil!

FRUIT BOXES:  Apples, avocados, peaches, bananas, cherries

Wednesday: Cherry tomatoes, yellow or green beans/garlic, parsley/coriander, potatoes, beets/carrots, onions/eggplant, Swiss chard/kale/New Zealand spinach, zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers+fakus, lettuce.

Large box, in addition: Acorn squash/butternut squash/slice of pumpkin, parsley root/scallions, melon/watermelon. FREE GIFT: Basil/dill!

FRUIT BOXES:  Apples, avocados, peaches, bananas, cherries.

May 31st-June 1st 2022 – Look what Happens with a Love like that

Important Message – Delivery Schedule Change Next Week

Next week, immediately after Shavuot, Monday deliveries will be moved to Tuesday, June 7th. 
Wednesday deliveries as usual.

Chag Sameach

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In honor of Shavuot

* Tal’s excellent cashew cheese is now on sale in five different flavors: natural, garlic and dill, figs, dried tomatoes and kalamata olives

30 NIS per 180 gr jar 

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* Helkat Hasade’s excellent blueberries are now joined by red raspberries – an extraordinary new fruit for the holiday.

All these and other outstanding local products may be added to your box via our order system.

Chag Sameach!

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The whole of sky
Shams al-Din Hafiz 

Even after all this time
the sun never says
To the earth
“you owe me. “
Look
What happens
With a love like that.
It lights the
Whole
Sky.

How were the bikkurim taken up [to Jerusalem]? All [the inhabitants of] the cities of the maamad would assemble in the city of the maamad, and they would spend the night in the open street and they would not enter any of the houses. Early in the morning, the officer would say: “Let us arise and go up to Zion, into the house of the Lord our God.” (Jeremiah 31:5) 

Those who lived near [Jerusalem] would bring fresh figs and grapes, while those who lived far away would bring dried figs and raisins. An ox would lead them, his horns bedecked with gold and with an olive-crown on its head. The flute would play before them until they would draw close to Jerusalem. When they drew close to Jerusalem they would send messengers in advance, and they would adorn their bikkurim. The governors and chiefs and treasurers [of the Temple] would go out to greet them, and according to the rank of the entrants, they would go forth. All the skilled artisans of Jerusalem would arise before them and greet them saying, “Our brothers, men of such-and-such a place, we welcome you in peace.”

The flute would play before them, until they reached the Temple Mount. When they reached the Temple Mount, even King Agrippas would take the basket and place it on his shoulder and walk as far as the Temple Court. When he got to the Temple Court, the Levites would sing the song: “I will extol You, O Lord, for You have raised me up, and You have not let my enemies rejoice over me.” (Psalms 30:2). 

Mishnah Bikkurim 3 (2-4)

The holiday of Passover marked the beginning of the barley harvest. Seven weeks later, another festival of ripening and commencements has arrived – a time of wheat harvest and a celebration of new fruits (bikurim).

The Festival of the First Fruits (Chag HaBikkurim) received its name from the wave offering of two loaves (Shtei Halechem) that was brought to the Temple on that occasion. This constitutes the First Fruit offering from the first ripened wheat, and this day inaugurated the season when farmers would bring the first fruits of their yield to the Temple. The period continued till Hanukkah, the holiday that marks the close of the fruit season. Of course, fruit ripened at different times, not all on Shavuoth. Those that ripened earlier were dried or sold, and the money received was taken to Jerusalem to buy an alternative for the offering. Some fruits ripen later and their time will come, but from the Festival of the First Fruits, the cue was given to begin celebrating the prosperity and joy of ripening and harvest.

The Ceremony of the First Fruits carries a message of modesty, surrender and acknowledgment that in agriculture (as in life), very little depends solely on us. Despite our delusions, we don’t really control or dictate reality. We can plan, decide and act, but throughout the long and winding road leading from seed to fruit, so much depends on stronger forces: weather, precipitation, insects, animals, other humans, God/nature/the unknown (choose your faith).

The other side of Bikkurim is quite the opposite: a sense of great pride filling the hearts of those who seeded, cultivated and prayed, waking up one day to see the fruit ripening and growing, changing colour, texture and fragrance until it reaches full ripening. And all this despite the unknown, unexpected and surprises that loomed since the first day a seed was inserted into the soil.

The joy of the first ripening fruit does not begin with the ripening. Every stage of its development is a source of satisfaction. When sprouts peek out of the earth, they are bursting with promise for the future. Discovering flowers in bloom on the plant makes the heart sing anew. Several weeks later, when the first fruits are starting to grow from the fertilized ovaries, we are once again filled with delight and wonder. And of course, there is nothing like taking a first bite of the ripe fruit!

Somewhat like a child, wouldn’t you say? (Forgive my clichéd similes, but this is how a mama-farmer thinks). The joy doesn’t begin when a child ‘ripens’ and leaves home. It starts from the first ultrasound glimpse, then grows as the young’un shoots out of the belly, then again when she first rolls over, starts crawling, sits, stands, walks… the first time she says “Ima” or “Abba.” When she first holds a crayon to make her first piece of art. When she builds her first tower from blocks, then knocks it down, cheering loudly. When she’s off to First Grade, reading and writing her first words, falling in childish love, tentatively pondering friendship and independence, responsibility and fun. Each step along the way has its very own hues of joy and excitement.

This is what is so extraordinary about growing and ripening. The outcome is outstanding and desirable, but so is the journey to get there. The interim is, in itself, wonderful and beautiful and worthy of its own celebration.

Agriculture is hard work: we awaken at the crack of dawn to physically challenging work outdoors, at the mercy of the weather. We harbor concerns, tentative hope and prayers. And the monetary value is not very rewarding….

And yet, working the land has its benefits (aside from the spiritual profits – a topic I shall regale you with another time) – an actual and relatively immediate reward: usually, within 1-3 months one can hold a real fruit in one’s hand, and not in an abstract, metaphorical way. It’s an actual fruit you can and should touch, view, smell, feel and of course – taste. The joy of touring the field and discovering first fruits is a pleasure worth kneeling, sweating, bending, getting wet and flexing our muscles for. You are touching nature’s creation in the most conventional way. Just standing in front of a ripe, beautiful first fruit, the sense of happiness and success is so overwhelming that one does not wish to claim exclusivity over the tasks. It is easy to be generous and share it with God, neighbors, raindrops, or your mentor. It’s just fun!

There is something so joyful about First Fruits. They always seem to me so beautiful and shiny, so accomplished, colorful, chubby, and juicy. Perhaps the anticipation is what colors the fruit in unique hues, and the surprise adds to its charm. Even for us veteran farmers, this experience is repeated every season anew, when the new seasonal veggies start yielding. I remember the joy that filled my heart one of the first spring evenings in the field, when at the end of four harvesting days I discovered the first zucchinis smiling up at me from between their leaves. I excitedly picked them and brought them proudly the next day to show off. My audience smiled politely and agreed that they were indeed nice-looking, fresh zucchinis. But the rift between their friendly approval and my maternal euphoria was unbridgeable. I’m pretty sure that if blood samples were drawn from farmers after a successful harvest of new fruit, the level of euphoric and positive instigators would be sky-high. It is not for nothing that spring is considered a time for love, so if you’re considering a relationship with a farmer or farmeress, time it during the New Fruits season for an excellent starting point.

Usually, when one thinks of the bikkurim festivals, we imagine the bearers of the first fruits walking calmly amidst the rows of trees or plants, harvesting a little bit of this, a little bit of that, tying their offerings nicely in a wicker basket and joining the festive bikkurim procession. Well, it was definitely a grand, very impressive ceremonial event, but that is probably the main reason why it was not at all close in time to the harvest. Not to diminish the joy of those who arrived from nearby, but for the distant pilgrims, those who came from the periphery, this was an especially thrilling occasion, as well as a great effort to walk the route to Jerusalem with the fruits of their gardens in hand. In order to respect those coming from afar, to make them feel no less – perhaps even more – important, the First Fruits Offering was received with gratitude if the fruits were fresh (that is, if one lived in the vicinity), but the dry fruits were joyously accepted as well.

So, since there was no rush to get to Jerusalem, the pilgrims could take time to adorn the procession making its way to the Holy City. With an ox, a flute and an olive-crown, they made their way under the scorching sun (remember, this was between Sukkot and Shavuot), carrying baskets in which dried figs, raisins, dates, high-quality olive oil and pomegranates peacefully rested.

There is something right about celebrating the Festival of the New Fruits together. While I’m sure the festivities held a measure of competition – who grew the sweetest peach, orangest carrot or heaviest pumpkin – but I’m sure there was also a great deal of equanimity, because that’s just who we are.  We are at once petty and flattering, envious and generous, exploding with self- pride and expressing gratitude, in one great big human salad.

In perfect timing with Shavuot, we at Chubeza are celebrating the first fruits of the fakkus, green and yellow beans and acorn squash which have ripened and been carefully placed in your boxes. This week, they will be joined by cherry tomatoes, butternut squash and eggplant. The first melons, too, have been picked and tasted (yummmmmy, sweet and delicious), and the rest are gradually ripening, due to arrive for a visit in time for next week’s deliveries.

In honor of the Harvest Festival, I wish us all – farmers, cooks, eaters – to always hold a place in our heads and hearts for the diversity expressed in nature and the people around us. Let us not forget that harvest occurs in order for us to eat and live. Together.

Wishing you a joyful Festival of New Fruits,

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

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Scallions/parsley root, carrots/cabbage, parsley, potatoes, beets, onions, Swiss chard/kale/New Zealand spinach, zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers + fakus, lettuce.

Large box, in addition: Yellow or green beans/garlic, acorn squash/ sweet potatoes/butternut squash, cherry tomatoes, eggplant.

FRUIT BOXES:  Red or yellow apples, cherries, avocados, peaches, bananas.

Wednesday: Scallions/parsley root, carrots/cabbage, parsley/dill, potatoes, beets, onions, Swiss chard/kale/New Zealand spinach, zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers + fakus, lettuce.

Large box, in addition: Yellow or green beans, acorn squash/butternut squash/melon, cherry tomatoes/eggplant/garlic.

FRUIT BOXES:  Red or yellow apples, cherries, avocados, peaches, bananas.

May 23-25, 2022 – An orchestra of melodies

Newbies and Sales

Great news!! Gadi and Tamir’s incredible blueberries have caught up with their seasonal growth pace, and….down come the prices!!

125 gram | 18 NIS

500 gram | 68 NIS

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To make your Shavuot more wonderful: Enjoy the Holiday Sale of Tal’s delectable cashew cheese in 5 different flavors: natural, dill and garlic, figs, dried tomatoes and kalamata olives.

30 NIS for a 180-gram jar.

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Lev Hateva has expanded their variety of flax crackers!  You may now choose between natural flavor, garlic or spicy. The yummy crackers are gluten-free, and their low-carbohydrate content makes them ideal for Paleo or Keto diets.

125 gram | 18 NIS

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Weeds, Glorious Weeds

Spring has come in the blink of an eye
We know that for certain, here is why-
Our backs are bent round
Plucking weeds from the ground
But, you see, there’s a reason,
Spring has come a-breezin’!

  1. Raz

In a well-remembered admonishment delivered by my high school principal to me and my girlfriends, she declared that we were growing like wild weeds.

And ever since then, I’ve held a strong affinity for weeds (as do my highschool girlfriends who are growing wild with me to this day).

Nearly twenty years later, when we searched for a name for our new organic farm, my husband suggested “chubeza,” after the lovely, albeit pesky and vigorous weed. I took to it immediately. Remember, I love weeds.

As organic farmers, our attitude towards weeds is complex, depending, of course, on the battle for resources and the question of where the spirited young weed has opted to grow. It’s kind of like the attitude you would have towards a very tall person who walks into your movie theatre. If s/he sits right in front of you, it will be disturbing and you will probably request s/he move over. But if the person sits beside you, or better- behind you, you wouldn’t have any problem.

Such is our life with the weeds. Those that situate themselves on the outskirts of the field or beds don’t usually bother us at all. They even provide temporary shelter for pollinators and beneficial insects, and add their share of beauty. But weeds that stake out their territory too close for comfort, right beside the scallions or the brand-new cucumber sprouts, must make room– and be plucked out. In springtime, thanks to the sun’s rays and long hours of light, there are lots and lots of these candidates, and we find ourselves weeding and weeding and weeding.

We make the effort to weed while our crop is still young and needs all the attention and support possible to utilise the surrounding resources (water, sun, nutrients). Usually, when a crop we planted or seeded arrives at maturity, it creates foliage that shades the earth around it, thus lessening the amount of weeds in the immediate vicinity. At this stage, its roots are already strong and long enough to reach the nutrients and water in the earth below. Sometimes mature growths suffer the grievance of aggressive weeds, and we need to clear them to allow the plant to continue yielding, particularly if it grows over a long period of time.

And just like those tall movie-goers, there are weeds that come out easily, and we are grateful to them, and those who fight us with thorns, or stubbornly dig their roots into the earth and pretend not to hear our plea or feel our tap on their shoulder. So, we approach them with gloves or sharp objects. Some of the roots, like those of the Aleppo millet grass or the coco grass (nutgrass) are root stems, meaning they have growth limbs in their roots as well. When we pull them out or cut them, their bulbs and roots remain in the earth, sprouting new, strong stems soon afterwards. In any case, at least till the crops grow stronger and can fight them on their own, we will have to weed the beds over and over again.

Weeding is one of the most tedious chores which organic farmers face. It requires many hours of work, and in all honesty, feels rather sisyphic:  in no time at all, the weeds spring back, and back we go to once again clear the earth. But weeding is a part of every organic farmer’s life. We accept our fate and go into “weeding mode,” which may also be viewed as “agricultural meditation” or simply “organic brain slumber.” Either way, it is our reality, and thus, down on our knees we go and pluck away.

We try to treat the weeds as allies, not only enemies, as some of them serve as great food and they shouldn’t be dismissed simply because they volunteered to grow. And yet, we must grow vegetables, and thus are endlessly challenged by wild weeds.

Over the past years, we have observed with pride that the quantity of weeds has been dwindling and we are thus (almost always) able to confront the tedious chore at a good time. It hasn’t always been that way. From year to year, we explored how to allow for a more efficient confrontation with weeds, primarily by way of prevention. In this newsletter,  I explained a little about weed prevention by the use of a “wheat crop” that covers the soil. In wintertime, we do not cover the soil in order to avoid preventing rain from perforating the soil in all its glory. But come summer, we cover many soil beds with a silvery cover made of biodegradable plastic. (At the end of the season, we mix it into the soil where it later dissolves.) Once the cover is stretched over the soil, we cut out circles in which we plant or seed the veggies. The cover also keeps the soil humid and prevents the strong summer sun from instantly drying up the soil. If you push your hand under the cover, you will feel soil that is damp and pleasant to the touch, for the temperature is a few degrees cooler than the exposed earth just beside it.

Some photos of vegetables plants growing through the holes pierced in the cover (right to left: Eggplants, Melons, Zucchini sprouting, Tomatoes)

:

However, the vegetables that are seeded in a continuous line (corn, beans, onion, herbs and others) are not covered, and require constant weeding. Over the past year, we have begun using an efficient tool – the ‘wheel cultivator’ (aka ‘wheel hoe’) – which is mounted on the back of a tractor and comprised of a row of sharp teeth attached to a metal frame that fits in the spaces between the crop rows. The tractor drives over the vegetable bed as the blades cut the weeds growing in between the rows.

Of course, each plant needs its own adjustments in order for the blades to fit in the bare rows lying in between. But making the adjustments while in a row of veggies is rather challenging. In a small organic field such as Chubeza, where the crops are planted manually rather than via computers, adjustment cameras and a GPS (yup, in agriculture as well), the rows are never perfectly straight and the tractor does not drive straight. Especially where the bare rows are narrow, we worry about the tractor deviating and hurting the crops. Thus, in the case of our ‘wheel hoe,’ a driver’s seat with a steering wheel is mounted on the back of this tool, with one of the workers perched on the seat holding on to the steering wheel attached to the hoe and gently guiding it to the correct location within the soil bed.

This is how it looks:

Though the hoe does not completely solve all weeding, and we have to keep weeding in between rows. Yet it still does most of the work, and we’re left with a final round of weeding and a relief from the excruciating weed burden.

Each weed has its very own melody, and our field is ringing with an orchestra of spring music.

May we enjoy a very good week,
Alon, Bat Ami, Dror, Orin and the Chubeza team

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?  

Monday: Garlic/scallions, carrots/sweet potatoes, dill/parsley, potatoes, beets, onions, Swiss chard/kale/New Zealand spinach, zucchini, tomatoes/peppers, cucumbers, lettuce.

Large box, in addition: Parsley root/slice of pumpkin, cabbage/acorn squash, kohlrabi/fakus/green beans.

FRUIT BOXES:  Red/yellow/green apples, avocados, loquat (shesek), bananas/pomelo/clementinas.

Wednesday: Carrots, dill/parsley/cilantro, potatoes, beets, onions, Swiss chard/kale/New Zealand spinach, zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers/fakus, lettuce, cabbage/kohlrabi/garlic.

Large box, in addition: Parsley root/sweet potatoes, butternut squash/green beans, scallions

FRUIT BOXES:  Red/yellow/green apples, avocados, loquat (shesek)/bananas/pomelo, clementinas, peach.