August 13th-15th 2018 – KING CORN – part I

cornsky

For some time 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 in June, 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, and makes certain that moderate weather has returned before saying goodbye in November. Now that’s what I call a king!

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 and seeded the better seed varieties, the next crop would be even more improved!

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

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 threesome, which earned the title “the three sisters,” is an excellent example of the plant guild/community: a group of plants who become valuable when they grow together. The key to their success is the positive reciprocal relationship between them: each plant contributes to its neighbors, and receives from the neighbors in return. And just like human communities, a good plant guild is a more independent entity, stronger, healthier and easier to maintain then growing plants which are not connected to one another. This agricultural development proved to be so time-efficient that it gave the growers enough spare moments to build houses, weave rugs and baskets, develop astronomy and math, and of course – party…

Today, corn is one of the only crops 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, who 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 chosen 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.

In a letter from 1912, Naomi Shapiro of Kvutzat Kineret described an agricultural summer festival of the day: “We left from Sejera at five AM in six carts with Hebrew and Turkish flags. 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.

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 once 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 everyone a great week,

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

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WHAT’S JOINING THE CORN IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Bell peppers, slice of pumpkin, Thai yard-long beans, cucumbers, okra/onions, tomatoes, corn, cherry tomatoes, butternut squash, parsley/coriander, New Zealand spinach.

Large box, in addition: Eggplant, scallions, potatoes.

FRUIT BOXES: Pears, nectarines, mango. Small boxes only: Bananas Large box only: Grapes

Wednesday: Bell peppers, slice of pumpkin, Thai yard-long beans/garlic, cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, butternut squash, parsley/coriander, New Zealand spinach, eggplant/potatoes.

Large box, in addition: Okra, corn, scallions.

FRUIT BOXES: Pears, grapes, mango. Small boxes only: Bananas Large box only: plums

August 6th-8th – Midsummer day dream

The Ish shel Lechem bakery is taking a short summer break in a couple of weeks. There will be no bread baking on August 13 and Wednesday 15th. Those who wish to increase their order next week, please inform us or DIY via our order system. Wishing everyone a happy vacation!

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’TIS the last rose of summer
Left blooming alone;
All her lovely companions
Are faded and gone;
No flower of her kindred,
No rosebud is nigh,
To reflect back her blushes,
To give sigh for sigh.

–    Thomas Moore (1805)

Our calendars indicate that we’re now at the midpoint of summer which began six weeks ago on June 21 and ends in six weeks on September 22. A look at Chubeza’s field (through the sweat-screen) reveals a very summery crop landscape, i.e., relatively empty. The pumpkins, garlic, onion and popcorn (coming soon!) have ripened and been gathered to our shade net to be stored for the next few months. The tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers are mostly planted within tunnels and growth structures, covered with shade nets protecting them from the scorching sun. The zucchinis and green beans have sealed their season. Now only the bravest remain standing in the open fields, the leafy greens that somehow are able to survive in summer: lettuce, parsley, coriander, scallions and New Zealand spinach. In the open beds the lubia, okra, eggplant, and of course, the uncontested king of summer, corn – turn their faces towards the blue skies. The sweet potatoes, which have not yet arrived in your boxes this year, are lazily spreading out to soak up the sun, alongside Jerusalem artichokes standing erect as they wait for autumn, their cue to blossom and grow their bulbs.

    

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, in order to prevent attacks on the plant in preparation for planting season. The piles of organic waste at the edge of our field (emitting their… hmmmm…scented fragrances) have been mixed and turned over by Gabi’s tractor. When they’re resting again, a process of decomposition will take place within, assisted by billions of microbes, tiny organisms, worms, beetles, fungi and other earth dwellers till they become 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 burden of juicy fruit, alongside the sweet fruit of the sabres growing at the rims of our field and the field fruit that is also at its prime producing seeds. 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 (we attempt to uproot them 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. Here are some examples of the busy bubbling 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, resulting in the destruction of their ventilated 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 seasons, due to begin over the next few weeks.

So it is indeed the middle of summer, but we have only recently planted the last of the sunny season’s crops, and the fall guests are already standing at the door. So who’s marching towards the appointed plots? In the middle of August we will plant white cabbage, cauliflower, red beets, fennel, celery and celeriac, lettuce, leeks, broccoli 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 make sure to provide wide brim hats, parasols and sufficient 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. And just like that, every year, smack in the middle of summer, we catch a “soon in theatres near you” glimpse of the fresh harbingers of autumn – fresh fennel salad topped with lemon juice, or fresh crunchy cauliflower.

We are still in for some days of oppressive heat, but lifting the shade nets and admiring the strong cabbages and youthful celery provides some cool relief and a heartwarming glow.

Wishing you all a happy summery week, with lots of enjoyment ahead,

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

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S SUMMER BOXES?

Monday: Bell peppers, slice of pumpkin, Thai yard-long beans, cucumbers, eggplant, tomatoes, okra/scallions, cherry tomatoes, potatoes, parsley/coriander, lettuce.

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

FRUIT BOXES: Mango, pears, nectarines. Small boxes: Bananas, Large boxes: Apples

Wednesday: Bell peppers, slice of pumpkin, Thai yard-long beans, cucumbers, eggplant, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, potatoes, parsley, New Zealand spinach. Small boxes only: okra/scallions.

Large box, in addition: Butternut squash, corn, lettuce, onions.

FRUIT BOXES: Mango, plums, nectarines. Small boxes: Bananas, Large boxes: Apples.

July 30th-August 1st 2018 – Lubia’s in the air…..

The Ish shel Lechem bakery is taking a short summer break in a couple of weeks. There will be no bread baking on August 13 and Wednesday 15th. Those who wish to increase their order next week, please inform us or DIY via our order system. Wishing everyone a happy vacation!

New goodies from Udi’s sprouts! These amazing sprouts are now available in big (11/4 liter) packages. This is the perfect opportunity to enjoy this product all the more. Udi and his colleague from Moshav Achituv grow excellent-quality sprouts in this scrumptious array of varieties: alfalfa, peas, broccoli, kale, radishes, mustard, sunflower, Chinese sprouts, wheat grass and small leafless sprouts.

Check out the detailed list in our order system, and order today!

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Over the past weeks, Chubeza’s lubia has begun ripening in nice 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 strange 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, all tied up with a rubber band, for a rather strange and unique present. But don’t expect it to be a green bean, because it simply is 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 dress, eaten in long green pods, and the dry ensemble where only the dry seeds are consumed.

In English, Thai lubia is known as the yard-long beanbora beanslong-podded cowpeaasparagus beanpea beansnake bean, or Chinese long bean. All names relate to the bean’s various characteristics: it originates in Southeast Asia, hence the “Chinese” or “Thai” title, and can reach the hearty length of one meter (though it’s generally harvested young, at approximately 30 cm. long and 1 cm thick). Lubia is reminiscent of the asparagus in diameter and length, and because of its flexibility may resemble a green snake (to those of you with overactive imaginations). 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.

The Thai yard-long bean needs more heat than the green bean, and manages quite well throughout the sweltering months of summer (which certainly cannot be said of green beans). 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. (I just managed to think up a new name!)

   

These beans must be harvested with care, as the bloom pole continues to develop flowers throughout the season. Contrary to green beans or peas, the Thai 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.

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 the same way as one would prepare a 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 dry lubia pods or any dry bean.

The Thai yard-long bean can be used in recipes calling for green beans or fresh lubia, including soups and quiches. In China, it is easily 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 contains a good quantity of 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, Yochai and the entire Chubeza team

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Bell peppers/cherry tomatoes, slice of pumpkin/ Amoro pumpkin, Thai yard-long beans, cucumbers, eggplant, tomatoes, New Zealand spinach, corn, potatoes, parsley/coriander, lettuce.

Large box, in addition: Butternut squash/melon, okra, onions/scallions

FRUIT BOXES: Bananas, pears, nectarines, mango.

Monday: Bell peppers/butternut, slice of pumpkin/ Amoro pumpkin, Thai yard-long beans, cucumbers, eggplant, tomatoes, corn, potatoes, parsley/coriander, lettuce, cherry tomatoes.

Large box, in addition:  Okra, onions/scallions, New Zealand spinach,

FRUIT BOXES: Bananas, pears, nectarines, mango.

July 23rd-25th 2018 – The beauty of the rainbow

Hillel of Kibbutz Neot Smadar recently paid us a visit.   After several years of working together, it was great to finally meet face to face. The visit also resulted in some good news for you: a bigger and better assortment of Neot Smadar products for Chubeza clients!

Kibbutz Neot Smadar, located in the southern Negev mountains, maintains a large, varied organic farm with fruits, vegetables and herbs, a goat farm and a vineyard. In addition, the kibbutz members run a winery, an olive press, a fruit cultivation homestead and a dairy where they produce a variety of homegrown organic products.

Watch this short film about the agricultural kibbutz farm and their diverse products

Neot Smadar’s uniqueness is in their excellent quality and simplicity: fruit only, with no additives or preservatives whatsoever. Many of their products contain no added sugar. So what can you now add to your boxes? Excellent organic date honey, a great assortment of fruit health bars, grape juice, grapefruit juice, peach and plum nectar, and beginning this week: medjhoul dates and a variety of olive types.

Make your order via our order system today!

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“Not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”

On a hot summer day this week, I started thinking about summer. With so many folks out gallivanting the globe, the thought struck me that there are so many components of your summer boxes which started out around the globe as well, unbeknownst to the west before the discoveries of Africa and American in the 15th century. Tomatoes, squash, pumpkins, corn, potatoes, peppers and sweet potatoes, for example – not one of these tasty vegetables appeared in the European vegetable garden or the Israeli one before the discovery of America. Okra, garlic and watermelon were born in Africa and immigrated here many years ago. The thought of a life bereft of the redness of tomatoes, the green of corn sheaves, the orange of pumpkins and sweet potatoes or the juiciness of watermelon brings to mind black and white TV. These days, when I walk around feeling that attempts are being made to paint our world in a monotonous, uniform color, ignoring the variety and differences among people, focusing only on one color/nation/inclination/religion/weltanschauung, I am offered a lesson of modesty from the vegetable patch (usually a good idea): to enjoy the wealth of a colorful, bountiful summer season and to understand a few things about the wonder of difference and varieties, and the great profit and joy to be gained by allowing this variety to develop and reproduce.

Check out this very interesting article from Masa Acher (Hebrew) about the global culinary migration.

One of these migrants from the American continent is the pepper, which takes a starring role in your boxes these days. We’ve missed him and he must have felt it, for he has now come for a long visit, scheduled to stay all the way till autumn.

The pepper we know and eat in its sweet or spicy varieties, in red, yellow, green or orange (also available in purple, black and brown…) actually received its name by mistake. The word “pepper” originally referred to the pepper spice, and only later was it lent to the chili and green pepper vegetables.

The black pepper spice (a member of the Piperaceae family, whose black, green or pink seeds—at various stages in the maturation—produce the savory black and white ground pepper condiment) originated in India, and its name is derived from the Sanskrit “Pipali.” Europe was already well-acquainted with pepper, as well as with its relative the Piper longum, which was also used as a very piquant spice. The name was translated via commerce into the Latin “Piper,” from there to the old English “Pipor,” German “Pfeffer,” French “poivre,” Dutch “peper,” and other languages. At the same time, the word was translated from Sanskrit to Persian to Aramaic, becoming known by the ancient Jewish sages as “Pilpelin” or “pilpelet.” Its spicy flavor became synonymous with a quick tongue and a sharp brain (thus, in Hebrew, a Talmudic – or other – discourse is termed hitpalpalut).

When Christopher Columbus attempted to discover a shortcut to the Indian spice route, he was unwilling be confounded by the fact that he found something totally different.  He bestowed the spicy vegetable he met in the Caribbean (from the Solanaceae family) the same name as the fiery Indian spice he had met, thus confusing the world forever after. There is absolutely no botanical connection between the two plants. Yet the American pepper was as spicy as the Indian one, and Columbus was a merchant and sophisticated marketing man who was hoping to sell it for a pretty penny in his mother continent, so he gave them the same name. In his journal, Columbus noted that “the pepper which the local Indians used as spice is more abundant and more valuable than either black or melegueta pepper.” His enthusiasm helped the spicy vegetable travel via Spanish and Portuguese maritime routes to Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia and India, and of course, to Hungary, where the ground dried pepper became the national spice, aka paprika.

Soon enough, it was discovered that this spicy vegetable has a little sibling which tastes sweet (actually a bunch of sweet siblings), but the name was already given and would not be changed. So these were coined “sweet peppers.”

In Central America, the vegetable has a long and ancient history. Petrified peppers have been found in archeological digs in Central America dating back over 2000 years, and they appear in Peruvian embroidery relics from the first century. The Olmecs, Toltecins and Aztecs were only some of the cultures known to raise peppers and use them in culinary endeavors. Together with the spicy pepper types, the sweet varieties were brought to Europe. By the beginning of the 17th century, the Europeans discovered the rich variety of the peppers we know today, all raised and grown over the years by habitants of Central America.

Today there are hundreds of pepper varieties which span the taste bud gamut from sweet, bittersweet, spicy to sweet-and-spicy, etc. There are also a host of shapes: large and elongated, like our Ohad variety; square and bell-shaped, hence the name “bell pepper;” small, long and heart-shaped like the Spanish pimiento pepper; long and yellow like a banana, or tiny, like those used for pickling. And, of course, there are the spicy ones, long and narrow, small and triangular, thin as a shoelace, and more. The colors also vary: they come in green, the original pepper shade, and then range in hue from light to dark green, but not only. When I worked in California, we grew a pepper that started out purple on the outside and green on the inside! As it ripens, the pepper changes shades, similar to the process the tomato undergoes where the level of sugar (or spiciness) is raised and it turns a warmer hue. The most popular peppers are the yellow, orange, and of course, red, but they also come in black and maroon! The sweet pepper and the spicy peppers are harvested at different stages of their growth – from the green to red stage, thus we get to enjoy a wide range of flavors and color.

Planting peppers was actually the first time Alon and I worked together, when he joined me as a worker in spring 2004. We planted them in a totally open field, but today they are well-groomed in the pampering planting tunnel, with mesh net walls surrounding them for protection, a shade net above and trellising strings that help them stay erect to climb up and away. And like well-pampered, beloved children, they produce great yields totally worth all the trouble of raising them. This year we are growing three types: the Maccabi (which has been with us from Day One,) Tolmeo and Romanetta.

 

In the past, we began harvesting the peppers when they were still young and green. The pepper harvest is in fact a harvest and thinning out at the same time. As we harvest the green peppers, we pick from the denser parts of the bush to allow breathing space and growing room for the remaining vegetables. Upon ripening, the green peppers start turning red, first one cheek, then the other, and slowly become completely blanketed under a cover of red. This process takes about three weeks. Now when we harvest peppers, we choose only the ones that are almost entirely red. At the end of the harvest there are still green and half-red peppers awaiting full blush, preparing for harvest.

Over the past few years, as we learn to grow vegetables in hothouses, we try to reduce some of the plant’s burden in its first stages of growth. To allow for it to invest in its growth (to help it grow taller and yield vegetables over a longer period of time), we thin out the plant at the flowering stage, similar to the period of thinning when growing fruit on trees, allowing those that remain on the plant to develop in a thinner, more spacious environment. Thus, our first harvests are usually red peppers, which ripened on the plant for a longer period of uncrowded time.

  

All peppers are very rich in Vitamin C, making them natural anti-aging agents. Peppers are vital for immune system function, and they improve intestinal iron absorption. Peppers also contain Vitamin A, an anti-oxidant which protects the body and cell tissues from oxidation, helps prevent cancer and heart and blood vessel diseases, and also contains the anti-aging component. Vitamin A promotes night vision and is vital for the proper functioning of the immune system, cells, tissue, mucoid and skin.

To cook the pepper or not to cook? Like the tomato, the process of cooking reduces the level of vitamin C, but doubles the amount of lycopene in the red peppers, another very important anti-oxidant. Bottom line: both are fine.

Hoping for a quiet week, with only summer excitement and the joy of family fun,

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

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Bell peppers, slice of pumpkin/butternut squash, Thai yard-long beans/okra/zucchini, cucumbers, eggplant, tomatoes, corn, cherry tomatoes, Amoro pumpkin/acorn squash, lettuce. Small boxes only: melon.

Large box, in addition: Onions/garlic/scallions, parsley, New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard, potatoes.

FRUIT BOXES: Melon, pears, grapes, mango.

Wednesday: Bell peppers/zucchini, slice of pumpkin, Thai yard-long beans/okra, cucumbers, tomatoes, corn, cherry tomatoes, Amoro pumpkin/acorn squash/butternut squash, lettuce, melon/potatoes, parsley.

Large box, in addition: Onions/garlic, eggplant, New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard/scallions.

FRUIT BOXES: Pears, grapes, mango. Small boxes: bananas, Large boxes: figs.

July 16th-18th 2019 – Reddish charm part 2

It’s back!

🌶The Shana B’agina calendar is more than Just a Calendar-  it’s also a monthly guide for home gardening and foraging in nature in rhythm with the seasonal agriculture and local surroundings. A new month begins, and with it the changes in the field and forest, in the garden and nutrition.

Each page of the calendar offers an abundance of illustrated information:🍉

  • Professional tips for your home garden
  • Seeding and planting times
  • Growing plants from seeds to produce
  • Seasonal recipes and food conservation
  • Introducing the wonderful world of bees
  • A QR scan code on each page offers expanded information
  • Moon and sun times and specific “green” dates.

🍅

What else?

  • Environment-friendly printing: ecologic paper and print colors.
  • Calendar measurements (when open): 34X45cm
  • Vegan-friendly

One calendar: 75 NIS | Two calendars: 140 NIS | Three calendars: 210 NIS | Five calendars: 340 NIS | Eight calendars: 540 NIS | Ten calendars: 650 NIS

Order via our order system under “Chubeza vegetables and fruits”

🌿 

Wishing you a year of growth!

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Important Message:

Due to next Sunday being the fast of Tisha’ B’Av, we will prepare the paperwork for our Monday delivery on Thursday night. For this reason, our order system for Monday, July 23rd deliveries will close by this Thursday (July 19th) at 9:00 PM. Please make any orders or instructions by then. Thank you!

For those of you fasting, may it be easy and meaningful, and may we know only happiness and good tidings.

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Red All Over – Our Tomatoes, Part II

In last week’s newsletter, we regaled you with the historical and geographical journeys of the tomato. This week, we will focus on our very own tomatoes growing in Chubeza’s fields.

Naturally, tomatoes have been with our farm from the very first year. The tomato’s centrality in the Israeli kitchen, the Israeli salad and garden made it a “must” in our weekly boxes. However, we soon discovered that what is taken for granted in the kitchen does not always come about so easily in the field.

Our first year, we grew tomatoes of various shapes and colors. We had the familiar round tomato and attempted growing traditional types, like the Brandywine tomato – a huge flattened tomato, soft and very sweet, in red and yellow. This is a unique tomato I met in California, but after one season we realized that Brandywine is just not practical for a weekly appearance in boxes in Israel. True, they grew bountifully on the bushes, but chances were slim indeed that a soft tomato would survive in your vegetable box without reaching your kitchen bruised and injured.

So we disposed of our romantic notions and realized we needed to choose a more sensible tomato… Over the years we tried growing elongated tomatoes, big flattened tomatoes and round cluster tomatoes. We grew them on bushes and on vines, large tomatoes and diminutive cherry tomatoes, but we made sure to pick the types that’ll be firm and delicious all the way from the field to your salads.

Most of the years at Chubeza, we grew our crops, tomatoes included, solely in open fields. The first years were somewhat reasonable, but from year to year the ravages of the field increased. We sometimes painfully reminisce about the years we planted so many tomato bushes that yielded so few tomatoes. In the open field, the tomatoes suffered from leaf diseases and other calamities, specifically the tomato yellow leaf curl virus that brought along the tobacco whitefly – a serial tomato terminator. Moreover, since growing tomatoes in an open field is only possible during summertime, we had to purchase tomatoes over the rest of the year from organic hothouse growers to add to your boxes.

But six years ago, we set our eyes on an abandoned hothouse located near our fields, and decided to renovate it and attempt to grow our own vegetables there. The renovations and rehabilitation process was long, demanding much sweat of the brow to prepare the structure for organic growing. After many hard months, it stood ready for the challenge, and we set out with throbbing hearts to plant our first tomatoes. Because of the great difficulty in growing tomatoes (and cucumbers) in an open field, their “must include” status in your boxes made them the first pioneers to receive the comfort and protection of the hothouse net. And so it was.

Growing vegetables in a hothouse is very different from the open field. Though the open field leaves our crops much more exposed to injury, we know we can rely on the natural balances existing there in the great outdoors. Yet as soon as the vegetables are planted in a covered structure, disconnected from the environment, we are the ones responsible for maintaining the balance, restoring it when it goes awry, providing pollination, natural enemies, nutrition and fertilization precise for each specific need, etc. This was a new and significant challenge, and even now, several years later, we still encounter trials and tribulations and we are constantly learning. On the other hand, the dense mesh net that covers the crops does supply important, crucial protection for tomatoes and cucumbers (and the peppers that later joined them).

Still, almost every year we make a stab at growing some beds in the open fields during the early planting season. Sometimes it works, while other times – this year for example – not so well… This year we tried to grow Hanit and Tamar tomatoes in the open field, good sustainable types we know and count on, but the unstable spring weather was not in our favor… The heatwaves in the beginning were destructive, and our open field beds were afflicted by powdery mildew which struck the leaves and ultimately dried them till they withered. There was no yield of these tomatoes whatsoever this year, unfortunately.

Meanwhile, back in the growth tunnels and hothouses, we are currently growing the big tomatoes (Tory and Brono), cluster tomatoes named olympiacos and ikram, and the Ornela. In the little cherry tomato department, we grow the round tival and the elongated candy-sweet lobelo. Big and small tomatoes are grown the same way, with the main difference being narrower bushes for the cherry tomatoes, facilitating their being planted with smaller spaces in between.

The tomato is a tough plant which demands nourishment from fertile soil rich in earthly resources, particularly potassium, in order to joyfully spring forth and create a happy green bush. Lack of potassium creates a soft, powdery tomato. Since potassium is not our soil’s strongest trait, we provide a potassium additive prior to the tomato crop’s growth, followed by melting potassium into the irrigation system once they’re developing. The tomato bushes growing in our hothouses are the “climbing” type. That is, they don’t do the climbing themselves like grapevines, cucumbers or peas, but rather are very long and tall bushes which require trellising – a support for their length so they do not crawl on the earth. Our method of trellising is called “Dutch trellising” in which we tie a “climbing rope” from the roof of the structure for the plant to wind itself around, remaining erect and growing upward. We prune the bushes to keep them upright by removing the side stems, leaving only one central stem which thickens, strengthens and continues to grow upward. When the plant becomes too tall for us to reach, we release a bit of rope rappelling-style in order to bend the head of the bush and allow it some more growing space. (The lower part of the plant, which does not bear fruit at this stage, takes some time off to rest …)

The bushes are treated like pampered babies: in wintertime, we spread plastic on the roof and walls to protect them from the cold, and during summertime it’s a mesh net preventing overheating and warding off pests. We spread a shade net above their heads to lower the temperature and prevent heatstroke. And since we locked them up in the castle like princesses, we bring in the suitors – beehive after beehive is invited into the structures, buzzing with residents who joyfully pollinate the plants.

But even well-maintained castles are sometimes infiltrated by varmits. Though the dreaded tobacco whitefly stayed out, the cheeky Tuta Absoluta moth can manage to creep into the growth tunnels, nibble away at the leaves, leaving only the epidermis like a sheer curtain, and weaken the plant in the process by damaging the photosynthesis receptors. In addition, the Tuta moth stings the fruit, leaving a tiny black entry point – the mark of a dark tunnel dug into the tomato.

        

How do we prevent this catastrophic scenario? First and foremost, we make every effort to keep the growth house and its surrounding as clean as possible. Prior to a new challenging growth, we try to grow a round of Brassicaceaes, which provide natural disinfection together with stability and balance. As soon as we spot moth damage, we attempt to collect the infested leaves and distance them from the growth house, while laying traps for the males via a pheromone trap: plates containing pheromones and water. The males are attracted to the pheromone and are trapped in the water. The traps are beneficial in reducing the moth presence and controlling the number of moths in the tunnel. Biologic pest control is based on toxins produced from various bacterium (Bacillus thuringiensis Var. Kurstaki או Saccharopolyspora spinosa) which work on the larva’s nerve system. It’s a complex challenge but we’re not alone in facing it, which is why so many brains are trying to arrive at a creative solution. We look forward to one day announcing that a solution has been found for controlling this pest (till the next one comes along….).

So there you have it: the chubby rosy-faced tomato goes through a lot from the moment it is planted in the fertile specially-prepared soil till it arrives at its red fullness ready for harvest: it’s protected, cultivated, tied up to stand erect, fertilized, watered, and caressed by sunrays. It is sought after by charming bees, attacked by ruthless, cunning moths, while unruffled, it continues to patiently crawl its way to the sweet ripeness you meet in your boxes.

I would say the tomato deserves one great big round of applause, wouldn’t you?

May we enjoy a peaceful and pleasant week with lots and lots of sunshine, water and happy family time,

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

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Bell peppers, slice of pumpkin/butternut squash, parsley/coriander, cucumbers, eggplant/garlic, tomatoes, Thai yard-long beans/okra/zucchini, corn, cherry tomatoes, Amoro pumpkin/acorn squash, New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard.

Large box, in addition: Onions, melon/ potatoes, lettuce.

FRUIT BOXES: Grapes, mango, banana, pears.

Wednesday: Bell peppers, slice of pumpkin/butternut squash, parsley/coriander, cucumbers, eggplant/potatoes, garlic/onions, tomatoes, corn, cherry tomatoes, Amoro pumpkin/acorn squash, , lettuce.

Large box, in addition: Thai yard-long beans/okra, zucchini/melon, New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard.

FRUIT BOXES: Grapes, mango, pears. Small boxes: banana, Large boxes: apples.