June 11th-12th 2019 – 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. May we enjoy a quiet, summery, joyful week!

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

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Parsley, butternut squash/acorn squash, lettuce, fakus, zucchini, tomatoes, melon, potatoes, New Zealand spinach, cucumbers. Small boxes only: Yellow string beans.

Large box, in addition: Onions/scallions, beets/garlic, Swiss chard, eggplant.

FRUIT BOXES: Bananas, peaches, nectarines. Small boxes: pomelit. Large boxes: cherries.

Wednesday: Parsley/cilantro, butternut squash/acorn squash, lettuce, fakus, zucchini, tomatoes, melon, potatoes, New Zealand spinach, cucumbers. Small boxes only: Yellow string beans.

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

FRUIT BOXES: Bananas, peaches, nectarines. Small boxes: pomelit. Large boxes: cherries.

 

June 3rd-5th 2019 – Focus on Fakus

Shavuot Changes

Over the week of Shavuot, Monday deliveries switch to Tuesday 11/6.

Chag Sameach!

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NEW PRODUCTS!

  • Udi’s Sprouts has now added wonderful portobello mushrooms to their distinctive assortment of mushrooms and sprouts. Perfect for your Shavuot table!  Like all the mushroom varieties, the portobellos come in 200 gm. packages. Cost: 19 NIS
  • Tomer of Hamatsesa (“Tomer the Fermenter” —Mazal tov on the new name!) is now offering his well-known, well-loved apple cider in large-size bottles. 750 m”l @ 29 NIS.

Order these and other delectable items from our ordering system today!

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Fakusiyada!

It’s less than a week till Shavuoth, the festival of the first fruits, but Chubeza’s field is already well decked out with new springtime arrivals. Over the last two weeks, we harvested our first beds of fakus, aka “Arabic cucumber.” We now await the annual barrage of phone calls that begin something like, “This week I received two portions of zucchini and no cucumbers!” For those whose boxes may contain fakus and not cucumbers, let me offer this handy key to distinguishing between a fakus and a zucchini, which I learned from our longtime client Tzipi from Jerusalem: The fakus stem resembles that of a cucumber, not zucchini! If you received a light-colored elongated vegetable you cannot define, 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 fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons…” (Numbers 11, 5). The “cucumbers” they missed were most probably fakus. And to be honest, I totally understand them. Fakus is definitely worth craving. Thus every summer, we descendants of those Jews in exile are proud to bring to you the vegetable hankered by our great-great-great-great-great-great-great-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 The Natural History of Pliny, by Pliny the Elder (Book XIX, Chapter 23), “Indeed, he [Tiberius] was never without it; 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, which is actually…a melon. Also coined the “snake melon,” 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 wouldn’t 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. At Chubeza we grow two types: the small fakus (about the length of a cucumber), and one which is long and curved, resembling its English name “snake melon.”

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 taste and appearance are closer to the cucumber, which is why it is easy to confuse the two, 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, straight into the salad bowl. 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. It does resemble the cucumbers eaten here in the past, before 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.

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

Monday: Zucchini, fakus, lettuce, beets, cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, pumpkin/butternut squash, onions, New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard, coriander/ parsley.

Large box, in addition: Yellow string beans, acorn squash/melon, garlic.

FRUIT BOXES: Nectarines, bananas, peaches, apples. Large boxes, in addition: cherries

Wednesday: Zucchini, fakus, lettuce, beets, cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, pumpkin/butternut squash, onions, New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard, coriander/ parsley.

Large box, in addition: Yellow string beans, acorn squash/melon, garlic/scallions.

FRUIT BOXES: Nectarines, bananas, apricuts. small boxes: apples. Large boxes: cherries

May 27th-29th 2019 – High temperatures, Heat waves and flames

As the season changes, our fruit boxes are keeping pace. Due to the high price of fruit, we offer two sizes of fruit boxes during summertime:

Small fruit box – 70 NIS

Large fruit box – 100 NIS

Choose your preferred size and advise us via our order system.

Here’s to a sweet, juicy summer!

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Shavuot Changes

Over the week of Shavuot, Monday deliveries switch to Tuesday 11/6.

Chag Sameach!

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Fire

Last week we were struck with red hot, sweltering  days. At Chubeza, as soon as we started feeling the temperatures rise, we set out to help our vegetables cope with the approaching heat stress. The mercury indeed skyrocketed to 42-44 degrees!

When attempting to cope with such a heat wave, human beings take measures to protect themselves from direct sunrays by wearing hats, seeking shade, drinking a lot,  hunkering down at home with the AC or fan blasting, or heading for the water, be it a shower, beach, swimming pool or natural spring. The vegetables, on the other hand, are stuck in the soil, right where we planted or seeded them, with no option to escape…

To make their lives easier in the open field, we stretched shade nets over the more sensitive veggies (specifically the greens) and the growth houses, to shield them from the glaring sun and lower the temperatures a bit. And, of critical importance,  we filled up their canteens “because it is important to drink a lot!”, i.e., we upped the duration of irrigation to provide the plants with a generous portion of water  to fight the loss of liquids (which of course escalates in the heat) in the leaves and the  hastened evaporation of the water from the soil.

And indeed, our plants made it through the heat wave with flying colors – all but the cherry tomatoes which grow in the open field (and were not coddled with a shade net) whose plant tops and inflorescence were lightly scorched. But they are tough plants, and our guess is that they will overcome this challenge and eventually make it. But this may delay their yield. We are also waiting with trepidation to see if this stress will take its toll over time – the plants are sometimes able to pull through at the cost of weakening and becoming vulnerable to disease and other ills. We hope our fears will prove groundless, so to speak.

There is one advantage to this very hot weather and the accompanying dryness, especially following such a rainy season. Leaf diseases and various funguses tend to thrive in moist weather. The very welcome rain also improved the conditions for several leaf pests to develop and  damage the potatoes, for one. Potatoes are seeded in the middle of January, at the peak of wintertime. For some years now, we have pushed up the seeding schedule as the warm temperatures arrived early for the mature potatoes to enjoy. But this year they were cold and grew very slowly, challenged by numerous leaf inflictions. They had it hard. Then came the heat waves which dried up the  fungi and other pests, becoming  quite a boon.  However,  as of yet, this year’s potato crop has been unimpressive with smaller yields and smaller  sizes than usual. But to our delight, they are still aesthetic and yummy.

The sweltering heat waves also spawned forest fires in our area – north and south. Although the flames avoided  Kfar Bin Nun,  they did ravage our neighboring communities of Mevo Modi’m and Kibbutz Harel, where entire homes were gutted. In these times of cautious, gentle healing and return to routine,  we send our hopes for strength, growth and restoration to the families who suffered losses.

Wishing you all a good, soothing springtime week,

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

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Zucchini, beets, lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, onions/ leeks, cherry tomatoes, New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard/kale, coriander/dill/parsley.

Large box, in addition: Cabbage/yellow string beans, butternut squash/acorn squash, fakus.

FRUIT BOXES: 

Small: Nectarines, bananas, peaches, apples/melon

Large: Nectarines, bananas, peaches, cherries

Wednesday: Zucchini, beets, lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, onions/ leeks, cherry tomatoes, New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard, coriander/parsley.

Large box, in addition: garlic, butternut squash/acorn squash, fakus.

FRUIT BOXES: 

Small: Bananas, peaches, avocado, pomelit.

Large: Bananas, peaches, avocado, cherries.

May 20th-22nd 2019 – Let it bee zzzzz

New from the Ein Harod fields – Organic Teff Flour (in 1kg or 500gr)

 For some years now, we’ve joined forces with the Ein Harod (meuchad) fields – one of the pioneer and very successful organic fields in the country. Kibbutz Ein Harod is located in the Jezreel Valley, where for over 98 years (!) they have been cultivating the very fertile soil of the region. For almost two decades, a large part of the field has been organic, growing wheat, hummus, teff and more, in addition to almond and olive orchards. Alongside the flourishing, blooming fields, the classic Ein Harod apiary has been cultivating bees for the past 95 years, producing pure honey, unheated, with no added sugar.

Order today from the wonderful array of Ein Harod field and apiary products, including organic olive oil, organic hummus, natural honey, organic teff seeds, and finally the new kid in town – organic teff flour! (The almond crop is finished for this season, before making its return debut in the fall.)

I highly recommend this gentle, tasty and healthy greeting from the beautiful Yizrael Valley.

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And it’s back!  The Seventh Chalk Art Festival, today, Wednesday, May 22, from 10:00am-6:00pm

A full day of art, games, stories and everything that involves chalk. A day of wondrous meets with street artists in music and art; a day of mutual adult/children drawing – regardless of your level of artistic talents.

A day of discovery, learning, cooperation, initiation, creativity, encouragement, self-acceptance and more. Come soon!

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The Hum of the Bees

Today Michael came by, the Bumblebee man from Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, and together we distributed beehives throughout the tunnels and our tomato hothouses.  So I’m taking the opportunity now to fill you in on the behind-the-scenes pollination we do in our growth houses with the assistance of bumblebees – in perfect timing for our new growth houses and the arrival of spring (hoping the heatwaves pass…).

When we grow a plant in the open field, we allow nature to take things into its own hands. Mainly this involves maintaining a balance between the destructive and the beneficial insects (who devour the bad guys). In addition, pollinating and fertilizing the plants – completing the process from flower to fruit, is carried out naturally and simply by wind or the many insects flying around humming in the open spaces of our vegetable beds. Simple, right? Even perfect!

However…. sometimes the insect damages are so severe that nature can no longer cope. The balance is drastically disrupted almost to the point of no return in the open field. Take the tomato, for instance. In the open field it is attacked by various viruses (Tomato yellow leaf curl virus, for one) spread by the silverleaf whitefly and the California thrip. Also, the Tuta Absoluta moth (such a cute name for such an annoying pest) can really injure the tomato, not to mention the threats of various Acaris. In short, we have lots of tomato-loving partners, which is why after many years of growing them in the open field, we decided to move them to a closed space, covered by a dense mesh net to protect the vulnerable tomatoes from their enemies.

But in order for the nice tomato flower to turn into the reddish fruit we so love, pollinating is required – i.e., transferring pollen from the stamen to its female reproduction parts (its “ovaries”). The tomato flower loves the number six: it has six yellow petals and six stamens producing the “stamen poll” surrounding the style which usually hides within it (though sometimes the style is taller than the cone and peers out from inside) at the edge of the stamens there are small openings to set free the tiny pollen seeds.

The tomato flower belongs to a small group (approximately 8% of flowering plants) that are pollinated by “buzz pollination” in which the tiny dry pollen grains roll out of the cone stamen openings as a result of the flower being shaken (by wind or insects). Every shake distributes a small part of the pollen – similar to shaking salt over a salad. The pollen pours into the stamen cone and lands on the stigma situated at the top of style. The flower is usually open for three days and the pollen begins venturing out approximately 24 hours after opening up, thus the flower has a two-day window of opportunity to “find its one and only buzz,” be fertilized and turn into fruit.

And this is where the bumblebee enters the picture. Israel is home to three bee family (Apidae) members. They reside in the cool mountains up north, in the Hermon, Galilee and Carmel. The most common species in Israel, the buff-tailed bumblebee, is widely prevalent throughout Europe and Asia and probably arrived here from Lebanon. The head of the buff-tailed bumblebee is relatively small and its body is covered in black hair and two brown-yellow strips. The back of its belly is covered with white hair. This is the main specie, domesticated worldwide which since the 90’s has been used as an “agricultural assistant” pollinating plants that grow in closed spaces. Take a peek at the charming lady:

Like their cousin the honeybee, buff-tailed bumblebees are social creatures. As such, they live in a colony governed by a very strict work distribution among the bees who are in charge of reproduction – the males and queens – and the plebes – the worker bees. However, in contrast to the honeybees, they are rather primitive: their colonies – the social aspect of their lives – only exist throughout springtime and summer when flowers bloom. In wintertime only the queens exist, and they are basically inactive, spending their winter slumbering in hidden places. The queen – who was coupled and fertilized before falling asleep – awakens in springtime and begins collecting nectar and pollens, searching for a suitable place to set up her nest. She then lays eggs, collects food, heats and feeds the bee larvae that hatched until they pupate, and then resumes her egg-laying. Life in the colony begins when the first worker bees hatch from the pupae. The workers go out to collect food and take care of the newborns, allowing the queen to get some rest and continue to lay eggs. The colony now grows rapidly – capable of hosting hundreds of bees, most of which will be workers who set out to graze the flowers, collect food and consequently pollinate them. At the end of summer or towards autumn, the final bee baby boom arrives, this time born of the reproducing species (queens and males). The remaining workers die together with the old queen, while the young queens mate and begin hoarding a mass of fat in preparation for winter slumber. Colony life thus reaches its termination.

At the end of the 1980’s, Europe achieved full domestication of the bumblebees, allowing them to grow under artificial conditions throughout the year, not only in spring and summer. This development was the key to using bumblebees for agricultural pollination in growth centers, and within four years they replaced manual pollination in tomato houses throughout the entire Western world.

When a worker bumblebee sets out to graze the fields and meets a tomato flower, it is able to shake it using its natural expertise – buzz pollination (unlike its cousin the honeybee which cannot shake). She is quite an efficient worker: a large amount of pollen is caught by her hair, and her rapid movement amongst the plants allows for a great deal of pollination. She is also active in cold temperatures and cloudy, rainy climates (remember – she originated in Europe), and does not suffer from claustrophobia: closed places in hothouses and tunnels do not bother her, nor do filtering sheets spread above mar her sense of direction. Take a look at this beautiful demonstration of the bumblebee doing her thing.

When we introduce a new beehive to our growth house, we do so by hanging a plastic box on the trellising (to prevent ants), and place the new hive within it. In the female-dominated hive, there is one queen, pupae, newborn larvae and eggs. In addition, dozens of worker bumblebees fly around buzzing loudly, waiting for us to open the small opening in the hive and allow them to exit and begin skipping and hopping amongst the flowers. In warm springtime or summer, we make sure to hang the hive as low as possible and among the rows of plants (which shade it) and place insulating styrofoam on its roof to ease the burden of heat for our European friends. The tomato flowers do not produce nectar which the bees exist on, thus the hives come fully-accessorized with a nectar substitute (usually sugar water) in a quantity set to last for the entire season of pollinating activity. This is how it looks from within.

Amazing and beautiful, don’t you think?

We will part with a fervent thank you to the very diligent bumblebees, in appreciation of their ceaseless movement, unrelenting work, persistence and the calming hum always in the background.

Wishing you a buzzing week, swarming with activity, growth, budding, pollination and community,

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

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Zucchini, beets, lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, onions/garlic, cabbage, kale/New Zealand spinach/ Swiss chard, coriander/dill/ parsley

Large box, in addition:  Fakus /cherry tomatoes, leeks, parsley root

FRUIT BOXES: Apples, bananas, nectarines, melon

Wednesday: Zucchini, beets, lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, onions/garlic, kale/New Zealand spinach/ Swiss chard, coriander/dill/ parsley, cherry tomatoes.

Large box, in addition:  Fakus/butternut squash, cabbage, leeks/parsley root

FRUIT BOXES: Apples, bananas, peaches, melon.

May 13th-15th 2019 – Spring here is fleetingly brief

Machol HaKramim’s (The Dance of the Vineyards) famed grape juice is back! After a long break, we have replenished this  natural grape juice delight, squeezed from red and green grapes from the vineyards of the Zichron Yaakov region. Order today via our order system!

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An instant occurs midst Adar and Nissan
When joy in abundance will cling
Exploding with life, drunk with fragrance
Oh, the healing that nature can bring.
It’s thrilled and alight, flinging sparks all about
But soon wilts yellow with grief
As summer sets flame in its sidelines, impatient –
Spring here is fleetingly brief

-David Grossman

Thanks to the rainy winter, this year’s spring stayed just a tad longer. Only last week we were enjoying cooler days, and outdoors we still catch glimpses of beautiful blossoms in their purple, blue, orange, pink, red, yellow, and white array. The plants are still slurping rainwater stored deep in the earth, but are hastening to do some last-minute blossoming so as to not miss out on the slightest window of opportunity to create seeds for next year. However… this week the weather has already begun its ascent to higher temperatures, plunging us into very, very hot days.

The late cool weather prompted us to plant one last round of cabbage and cauliflower which you have been receiving over the past few weeks (usually cauliflower and broccoli harvests end by April, maximum). However, this season the brassicaes resemble Europeans tourists in the Middle-East over the summer: somewhat stunned and out of their natural season. The vegetables are braving the heat, especially because they know this is the end, and next time we meet will be in the coolness of autumn. But they are smaller and sometimes even take on a purpulish hue. Do give them some respect for surviving, and use this opportunity to bid your farewells till the end of fall…

Our field is quickly becoming summery – the carrots, fennel, kohlrabi, celeriac, the radish family and turnips, peas and fava beans have completed their winter stay in the field, taking a break till next fall or winter. The last beds of leaf celery, parsley roots and beets are hanging in there, but by the end of the month we will say goodbye to them too. In the open field, their places are being taken by New Zealand spinach – the summer-durable green – squash and zucchini in a range of forms and colors, pumpkins of various varieties, melons, watermelons, fakkus, green beans, okra and black-eyed peas, eggplant, peppers, cherry tomatoes, corn, and spring potatoes. And this very week we planted sweet potatoes!

In our growth houses (where now that summer’s arrived we removed the plastic sheet coverings, replacing them with thin-mesh netting topped by shade nets), we planted tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. These crops   need special protection from threatening outdoor pests.  In the end, these varmints manage to permeate the growth houses as well, which is why over the past few years we have been growing these crops primarily in net houses where they are protected from the outdoor world. We grow peppers there in addition to growing them in the field, and among the tomatoes – the more  durable cherry tomatoes receive their own space in the open field, while their older and more sensitive sisters – the bigger tomatoes – are planted in the safety of the growth houses.

 

Last week we finished constructing two new growth houses at the edge of the field, serving two roles: accommodations for veggies and a ‘fence’ dividing our field and the neighboring one. Last year, the Ministry of Agriculture changed its regulations with new rules renouncing mutual agreements amongst farmers, and thus – after 15 years of cooperating with our neighbor farmer, both respecting our written agreement regarding rules of fertilization in the vicinity of our farm (us by ‘giving up’ some beds at the edges in order to create a distance from the spraying, and he by making sure to spray low on windless days and far from us). The new rules demand erecting fences between fields, separating them completely from each other. So welcome, mabruk, and may you grow well.

Our springtime field and in the distance – to the right – our new growth houses.

After many months of an unused irrigation system that stared raptly at the bountiful rain washing the plants and penetrating the earth to quench its thirst, we have resumed the irrigation system’s operation. Thus, the plants now receive their necessary doses of water   (increasing as the temperatures rise) from the tiny drips spread along the pipes. In order to decrease the evaporation of this crucial water, some of the beds are covered in dark plastic sheets (produced from corn starch, biodegrading at the end of the season) which keeps them moist and prevents an ‘escape’ of the water into air. We will cover some of the more sensitive crops such as herbs and greens with shade nets to ease the oppressive heat lurking on the sidelines and planning its arrival.

Eggplants planted over a cornstarch-based earth cover

The month of Ramadan began last week, corresponding with the beginning of Iyar, and Mohammad, Majdi and Ali now fast throughout the day during all the daylight hours. Though their days in the field are shorter and they attempt to take care of themselves by working in the packing house and avoiding the scorching sun, the burden of the fast on farmers is still not a light one. We hope – together with them – that the transition to summer will be mild – at least till the fast reaches its end. And we take this opportunity to thank the rest of our workers – most of them from Thailand – who are taking extra tasks upon themselves over this month.

Wishing you all a quiet week and a gradual acclimation to the heat. Ramadan Kareem to all who are fasting.

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

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Zucchini, carrots, lettuce, beets, cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, leeks/onions, celery, kale/New Zealand spinach, coriander/dill/ parsley

Large box, in addition:  Cabbage/cauliflower, Swiss chard, garlic/ parsley root.

FRUIT BOXES: Bananas, apples, shesek (loquats), nectarines.

Wednesday: Zucchini, carrots/beets, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, leeks/onions, celery/parsley root, Swiss chard/New Zealand spinach, coriander/dill/parsley, melon/cherry tomatoes.

Large box, in addition:  Cabbage/cauliflower, kale, garlic.

FRUIT BOXES: Bananas, apples, shesek (loquats), nectarines/peaches.