September 22nd-23rd 2020 – Shana Tova!

Changes in deliveries over the holiday season:

DURING THE WEEK BETWEEN YOM KIPPUR AND SUKKOT:

  • Monday deliveries move to Tuesday September 29 (Note: there will be no bread available, and probably no sprouts)
  • Wednesday deliveries as usual, September 30.

DURING THE WEEK OF CHOL HAMOED SUKKOT, THERE WILL BE NO DELIVERIES, i.e. no deliveries on Monday, October 5 or Wednesday October 7.

We’ll be back acharei hachagim!

Those who wish to increase the size and/or contents of your pre-holiday box, please send us an email or call as soon as possible.

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We extend our great thanks to all who are keeping their empty Chubeza cartons and returning them to us for reuse. We are now able to recycle nearly half of all our cartons! Some of these boxes are actually reused three or four times, awarding us a significant savings in producing new boxes. This brings us great joy, and we thank you for your crucial contribution!

To ease your storage of the empty cartons until the arrival of our delivery team a week or two later, we recommend cutting along the taped sides and then flattening the cardboard.  Here’s a demonstration in this instructional video brought to you by our delivery people.

Thanks!

And now, from all of us at Chubeza to all of you:

May your New Year be blessed with wonderful, healthy days for you and your families!

 שנה טובה וכתיבה וחתימה טובה!

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Teusday:  Basil/Swiss chard/New Zealand spinach, lettuce, corn, leeks/ onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, slice of pumpkin, coriander, eggplant, sweet potatoes.

Large box, in addition: Bell peppers, lubia Thai yard-long beans/okra, parsley.

FRUIT BOXES: Pears, oranges, peaches/nectarines. Small box, in addition: Apples. Large box, in addition: Plums

Wednesday:  Basil/Swiss chard/New Zealand spinach, corn, leeks/onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, slice of pumpkin, coriander/parsley, eggplant, sweet potatoes, bell peppers.

Large box, in addition: Lubia Thai yard-long beans/okra, lettuce, carrots.

FRUIT BOXES: Pears/banana, oranges. Small box, in addition: Apples, peaches/nectarines. Large box, in addition: Plums, avocado.

September 14th-15th-16th 2020 – Shana Tova!

Changes in deliveries over the holiday season:

DURING THE WEEK BETWEEN ROSH HASHANA AND YOM KIPPUR:

  • Monday deliveries move to Tuesday, September 22.
  • Wednesday deliveries as usual, September 23.

DURING THE WEEK BETWEEN YOM KIPPUR AND SUKKOT:

  • Monday deliveries move to Tuesday September 29 (Note: there will be no bread available, and probably no sprouts)
  • Wednesday deliveries as usual, September 30.

DURING THE WEEK OF CHOL HAMOED SUKKOT, THERE WILL BE NO DELIVERIES, i.e. no deliveries on Monday, October 5 or Wednesday October 7.

We’ll be back acharei hachagim!

Those who wish to increase the size and/or contents of your pre-holiday box, please inform us as soon as possible.

May the year be sweet, healthy and happy,

From all of us at Chubeza

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Reminder: We ask your help in returning your empty cartons to us for recycling. Kindly leave the boxes flat and open for our loyal delivery people.  Here’s their demonstration in this instructional video.

Thanks!

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May this year bring an end to grief
May it begin with joy and relief
After such a grim and trying year
Welcome oh new one, at last you are here!
A new year to bestow its grace upon
Both you and me and everyone.
A good year will bring about
Peace everywhere, without a doubt
May this year bring an end to grief
May it begin with joy and relief

Anonymous (translated by A. Raz)

Wow, it’s been one hell of a year.

Each new year, just before Rosh Hashana, we customarily send festive greetings, our hearts swelling with joy and anticipation at the upcoming holidays. This is so much harder when dealing with a year of which over half was/is challenged by the COVID pandemic, with no end in sight. Not to mention the extreme weather conditions and natural disasters out there as well.

And yet – despite this long, challenging time we’re enduring, the seasons continue to change, and the cycle of life is still doing its thing, reminding us that there is still cyclic motion, change and the comfort of transformation even within hardship, as the new year comes a’tapping at our doors.

In Jewish tradition, there are in fact four new years: (Nissan, Elul, Tishrei and Shvat) with each ‘new year’ serving a different aim: The month of Tishrei is our very own Rosh Hashana – for the farmers growing vegetables in the fields. The perfect logic of this timing is something we actually can feel. Our bodies, which sweltered over the long, exhausting summer days, are softening and cooling down a bit, basking in the lower temperatures (take our word for it, they are falling, despite the extremes) and earlier sunsets. Autumn is when the field completes its annual cycle: summer yields are ending, and autumn plants have already acclimated in the field to await the first showers and new beginnings. Chaperoning these winds of change are hopes and wishes for a blessed, fruitful and rain-blessed year of health and comfort, growth and livelihood.

These hopes are tangibly expressed in the blessings and symbols of the holiday. The Talmudic sage Abaye, who was probably in charge of the Holiday Food Column, is the one who invented the symbolic dishes for the Talmudic table. In Tractate Krittut 6, 1: “Said Abaye: Now that you have mentioned that the siman has significance, every Rosh Hashanah, one should eat a pumpkin, lubia, leeks, beet greens and dates.”

The Simanim express the seasonal variation that the holiday table offers, bringing together guests of all sorts: from the leafy greens (Swiss chard), the legumes (lubia beans), the princess of onions (leek) and the gourds. Plus, of course, the pomegranate and dates, apples, honey and fish – all showcasing the bounty that this blessed land naturally provides each season.

And as we sit round the festive table, this year especially, and think about the passing year (what we resolve to discontinue) and look forward to the new year (and what we hope it will bring), the seasonal meal suggests we linger in the present, eat something that is in fact here and now, being harvested in our fields as we speak. And together with what was and what will be, to experience that which is presently on the tip of our tongues and taste buds, crunching in our mouths, and smacking our lips in pleasure, remembering that amidst the challenge, hardship and concern, we are surrounded with so much growth, abundance and goodness.

May we enjoy a good and blessed year!

In keeping with the ancient Chubeza tradition – here’s our very own blessings for our Chubeza vegetable symbols:

New Zealand Spinach: May we acknowledge our strengths to survive and flourish in green freshness, even when the heat is on. (Spinach is the green that flourishes happily during intense heat.)

Silka (beet greens, Swiss chard): May we beet off self-doubt and undermining criticism, and may we cultivate a confident, strong, supportive spine as oh-so-stately as the chard’s.

Lettuce: Lettuce lovingly think of our grandparents celebrating alone, away from the familiar family festivities. And lettuce know to appreciate and not take for granted the loyalty of those who remain with us, now and forever.

Potato: May we learn from mistakes made in the past, of others and of our own. May we remember to vary our fields with many yields, and not only count on the simplest and most common. (And the explanation is right here).

Sweet Potato: May the color orange go back to being a joyful heartwarming color as opposed to a signal of upcoming danger as the light changes from green to red. May we view each other in a humane and united light (like the orange that brings together red and yellow) and not divided into one sector or another.

Leek: May we have the patience to grow unhurriedly and diligently, and the understanding that sometimes, in order to reach ripeness, one must grow very slowly. And spring no leeks.

Eggplant: May we try and succeed to see the light, whiteness and faint but beautiful purple hue within the murky dark that hides the soft insides.

Squash: May we squash pessimistic thoughts by remembering the circular essence of nature: a time to downscale or restrain ourselves is followed by a new era carrying growth and abundance in its wings. (The spring squash bade us farewell at the peak of summertime, but will return again in fall.)

Pumpkin: May we persevere till the end of the pandemic at all hours of the day – not just till midnight, when we turn back into pumpkins…

Onion: May we be granted the wisdom to acknowledge the many and varied layers that life is comprised of, that people are made of, and that reality is created from. May we strive to gently, with consent, peel them off, rejoice in the many echelons, and arrive at the sweet heart.

Pepper: May we be blessed with the skill to pepper our speech with just the right phrases, without overdoing it. And when life gets salty, may we stand beside it to add some spice.

Cucumber: May we develop the sensitivity and ability to listen and feel the sweetness within what starts out seeming boring and bland.

Tomato: May we enjoy a year full of juice, color and sweetness.

Basil: May we always notice the fragrance of blossoms, ripe fruit, fresh grass and rain-drenched soil. May we stop to take a deep breath of these fragrances, and remember to respect and cherish our oh-so-taken-for-granted breathing.

Coriander: May we rejoice in the difference in people’s tastes, in the differences between us, in the wonderful variety and vibrancy created by a symphony of opinions, varying faces and opposite choices. May we refuse to allow the voices dividing “us” and “them” to lead us. (Coriander may very well be the most controversial vegetable, and still it shares an honored space in your boxes.)

Parsley: May we allow the good things to enter, fill and cleanse us from the poisonous and harmful. And may we live sparsely, as the parsley.

Okra: May we gaze at the stars at least one night every so often to feel the lightness of our minuteness and the strength of being part of the vast cosmos. (Slice the okra horizontally to see stars.)

Lubia/Black-eyed Pea: May our shiners be only from this pea.

Corn: May we have a bright, sweet and delicious year! And may some dinners be as easy as just peel, bite, and bask in the glory.  (You heard it ear first….)

Pomegranate: May our hands be filled with bountiful earthly missions, as the seeds of the pomegranate:

Mallow (chubeza): This September, may we try to remember when life was sweet and oh, so mallow. Renew our days, as of old!

So, here’s to the New Year, to great expectations and wet wonderful showers: Please, oh please, may they come in due time, in the proper measure and quantity. May they satiate the human salad of this country, and the animals crying out for drink, the dusty plants growing grey at the edges, the flying insects, the crawlers and jumpers, the rocks and clods of earth that so deserve the blessing of rain.

And here’s to the greatest hope and blessing of all: May the COVID pandemic end swiftly and completely, may we resume “normal” life, and may we not soon forget the insights we’ve gained through these challenging times.

Wishing you the fulfillment of your hopes and prayers, for good and for blessing, for happiness and growth, for health, for a good life and for peace. Shana Tova!

From the entire Chubeza crew in the field, the packing house, the office and on the roads: Alon, Bat-Ami, Dror, Assaf, Orin, Yochai, Maya, Mohammed, Ali, Majdi, Hott, Thom, Vinay, Montry, Nopadol, Yonatan, Melissa, Ruthie, Alon, Chana, Eyal, David, Lev, Alon, Ziv, Tamir, Matan, Barak, Melanie and Aliza

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THE VEGETABLES BEHIND THE BRACHOT IN THIS WEEK’S HOLIDAY BOXES:

Monday: Lettuce, bell peppers/potatoes, corn, leeks, cucumbers, tomatoes, New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard, slice of pumpkin/butternut squash, coriander/ parsley, eggplant, lubia Thai yard-long beans/okra, pomegranate.

Large box, in addition: Basil, sweet potatoes/zucchini, onions.

FRUIT BOXES: Bananas, mango, yellow apples. Small box, in addition: Pears. Large box, in addition: Peaches

Wednesday: Lettuce, potatoes, leeks, cucumbers, tomatoes, New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard/basil, , slice of pumpkin/butternut squash, eggplant, sweet potatoes, onions, pomegranate. Small boxes: bell peppers/okra

Large box, in addition: lubia Thai yard-long beans/okra, corn, coriander/parsley, bell peppers.

FRUIT BOXES: Bananas, plums, yellow and green apples. Small box, in addition: Pears. Large box, in addition: Grapes

September 7th-9th 2020 – Making (Heat) Waves

Rosh Hashana is around the corner, and this is the perfect time to remind you of all the joyful products you can add to your boxes before the holidays: apple and pear juices and alcoholic apple and pear cider from the Matsesa, assorted honey from Hadvash shel Tamir in the Golan or the Ein Harod beehive, delectable organic dates from the Arava in Samar or Neot Smadar (as well as grape juice, date honey and other yummy surprises from the latter), raw Tahina or Tahini from Kibbutz Netiv Halamed Hey or from Melo Hatene farm in Karmei Yossef, crackers from Lev HaTeva or crackers, chocolate and other yumminess from Shoreshei Tzion, cookies from Dani and Galit, dry fruits and “leather” from Melissa’s Mipri Yadeha and more!

And of course, the beautiful Shana BaGina calendar (A Year in the Garden) in various formats: hanging, tabletop or weekly diary

All these treats can be added to your boxes via our order system.

Shana Tova!

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Making (Heat) Waves

We’re somehow surviving the killer heatwave that just doesn’t let up. The high temperatures and humidity are not easy to farm in, to say the least. Sometimes we feel as if we’re toiling inside a hot, wet cloud, as we sweat nonstop and drink like there’s no tomorrow.

As difficult as it is to work outdoors these days, we are grateful for the relative protection we provide our vegetables, especially the growth houses protected by shade nets and the green beds covered by a shading net. And when the scorching heat becomes unbearable, we ourselves take a break and crawl into a cooler, more protected place. Our packing house, where the vegetables arrive before being placed in your boxes, is cooled by huge fans and water sprinklers that diffuse droplets throughout the hot air to lower the temperature just a bit. (Be thankful for small things.)

What about the vegetables? Surprisingly (or maybe not), the vegetables are doing just fine in this heatwave. Usually we need to use irrigation over the dry heat spells and protect the plants from the winds, though this doesn’t always prevent crops from being damaged and drying up. But this present heatwave is very different in that there are no winds and the humidity is so high. What makes our lives so hard is actually great for the vegetables, because the cloudy skies and haze allow for slower evaporation as the veggies delight in calmly lapping up the irrigation water. The radiation is not too strong, and the heat speeds up growth. Our summer vegetables who just love heat are enjoying a growth spurt these days, imagining they’re on holiday on some tropical island and living it up in the fun-in-sun climate.

Those winter vegetables already planted are having a tough time with the heat, but since we pamper them with a shade net and lots of irrigation, they don’t suffer so much and are impressively braving the heat. (How I wish we were just like them….)

Humidity does bring along its own problems: the Silverleaf whiteflies invaded us for a visit to the tomato hothouse, and we were forced to confront them by spraying mineral and capillary oil to keep these pests from climbing on the plants. Hopefully we’ve met this challenge, and other hardships will not accompany the continuing/upcoming heatwaves.

This very hot week is coming to an end with very high temperatures and humidity. In a normal year, we would probably complain about 35 degrees in September, but after these past two weeks we suddenly feel as elated as the family that brought a goat into the house.

Wishing us all a good week, despite the heat, humidity and any and all upcoming waves. May they wash over us gently.

Don’t forget to drink plenty of liquids!

Alon, Bat Ami, Dror and the Chubeza team

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Bell peppers, lettuce/New Zealand spinach, corn, scallions/onions/leeks, cucumbers, tomatoes, popcorn, slice of pumpkin/butternut squash, basil/parsley, eggplant, lubia Thai yard-long beans/okra.

Large box, in addition: Potatoes, coriander, sweet potatoes/zucchini/cherry tomatoes.

FRUIT BOXES: Yellow apples, mango, purple plums, peaches.

Wednesday: Lettuce, basil/New Zealand spinach, corn, scallions/onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, slice of pumpkin/butternut squash, parsley/cilantro, eggplant, lubia Thai yard-long beans/okra.  Small boxes: Bell peppers/potatoes

Large box, in addition: Leeks, sweet potatoes/zucchini, bell peppers and potatoes.

FRUIT BOXES: Yellow apples, mango, pears, peaches.

August 31st-September 2nd 2020 – Pop goes our special treat!

…And despite it all, the kids are back in their classrooms this week, masked and capsulized for two days or a full week. Same routine, but in a different guise. Chairs and desks are back in style, sitting across from the teacher (be it physically or on screen) as kids attempt to concentrate, delve into their studies, learn, solve, write, draw, dream, doodle…

And within this group there are children for whom back to school means feeling those familiar ants-in-the-pants that need to be contained and the restless energy which now has to be toned down… So, in honor of the jittery-restless children (even if only internally), and for the moments that it is simply not easy to sit on a chair, over the next weeks we will be visited by a corn with the most charming of ADHD, a restless corn that beats to its own jittery pop – and how lucky for us – the one and only popcorn!

Traditionally, the end of each summer heralds the popcorn season. Over the next few weeks, you will be receiving smaller and stiffer corn cobs than usual. Don’t toss them out figuring Chubeza’s crop went bad this week. These are actually rare, delectable treats. It’s popcorn!

To celebrate this joyous corn creation, we are proud to present our traditional Popcorn Newsletter. Settle back in your chairs and enjoy the show!

Back around 3500 BC in a cave in North America (somewhere central-west of today’s New Mexico), the guys were hanging out together, glued to the TV of the era, the blazing campfire. As the flames danced and brought joy to their hearts, they had to nosh on something. But for reasons that remain shrouded in mystery, they somehow did not polish off everything from their plates. Remains of that late-night-nosh were discovered over 5000 years later by archaeologists in 1948, in what became known as world’s oldest popcorn. (It still looked quite crunchy and yummy, but a tad too stale to nibble on.)

The popcorn is indeed a special species of corn, small and hard. They were seeded in March along with the first round of corn, but after the plants grew dark red-bearded cobs, we cut off their water and allowed the cobs, smaller than the sweet corn variety, to fully mature and dry on the stalk. Last week we picked the dry, hard cobs and stored them in our warehouse for further drying and hardening. How wonderful to munch on food that bears a history of thousands of years of noshing!

Popcorn comes in many colors and forms. Here are a few of them:

A particularly cute type is strawberry popcorn, which looks like this:

Native Americans used popcorn even before they discovered the corn we know and love so well. They probably fell onto popcorn by chance, as some random kernel rolled into the fire and suddenly popped. This surely led to attempts to reenact the wonder, and later to make it an institution. In ancient times, they would roast the popcorn by heating the cobs over a direct flame or in a pit in the ground filled with sand and heated to a high temperature. The cobs were placed into the pit whole, and the kernels would pop on the cob, wrapped in its sheaf and protected from the sand. Prehistoric cooks also made special utensils to roast this snack, clay pots with feet to place atop the fire.

Primeval Americans used the popcorn not only as nosh. They made soup and beer out of it, and used popcorn as a decoration in ritual ceremonies as well as for jewelry and head ornaments. Tlaloc, the Aztec God of Rain and Fertility, was adorned with popcorn-string necklaces, and the God of Water and Protector of Fishermen would receive an offering of “hailstones” made from popcorn. Europeans who arrived ashore were also welcomed with gifts of popcorn necklaces, and to this day there are those who decorate their Christmas trees with fresh, aromatic popcorn.

One modern, non-conventional popcorn-based attempt—which ultimately failed—was to use popcorn as an ecological, biodegradable substitute for Styrofoam packing material. You must admit that this is a very captivating idea, yet sadly the popcorn’s natural appeal attracted insects and other pests and organisms to the party. The popcorn completely lost its beneficial packing qualities when wet, and was prone to flammability. Alas.

Popcorn, or in its scientific name, Zea mays averta, is a subspecies of flint corn. Flint corn got its name from its hard-as-rock shell, one of the required components for popping. Also required are a proper level of humidity and a high level of starch within the kernel. Due to the kernel’s hard shell, when it’s heated, the moisture locked inside turns to steam and the pressure builds up. The starch inside the kernel gelatinizes and becomes soft and pliable. The pressure continues to mount until reaching the breaking point of the hull:  the steam forcefully explodes, exposing the soft starch. The starch expands and dries rapidly to become the dry, crispy, puffy foam we call popcorn.

Watch this movie demonstrating the process in very dramatic slo-mo

Some Tips:

– For the foam to dry quickly, place the kernels in a pot in a thin layer to create crispy popcorn that will not reabsorb the moisture from the pot.

– FYI, popped popcorn kernels expand exponentially beyond their original size. Two tablespoons of raw popcorn kernels produce 2 ½ cups of the popped product!

– In its natural form, popcorn is an excellent choice for a healthy snack. Air-popped popcorn is naturally high in dietary fiber, low in calories and fat, and is both sodium and sugar free. This, of course, relates to clean, fresh popcorn, minus the addition of butter and oil, salt or caramel that transform it from a handsome prince to a scary toad.

Storage: Popcorn kernels might look tough, but they won’t stay that way unless you treat them properly. Storing popcorn in the fridge may dry it out or make it too moist to allow popping. Best to keep popcorn kernels in a dry, dark cupboard away from heat, moisture and light. It is advisable to separate the kernels from the cob and store in sealed jar, ceramic container or sealed tin.

Here is how you do it, starring: Chubeza Popcorn as himself, AND Talia’s hands, the hands which rock the Chubeza website. (Talia doubles as our website-wizard…)

Making quality popcorn is an art in itself. The quality and quantity of the popping depends on the rate at which the kernels are heated. If heated too quickly, they’ll explode before the starch in the center of the kernel can fully gelatinize, leading to half-popped kernels with hard centers (formerly the hull). The tip of the kernel, where it attached to the cob, is more sensitive than the rest of the hull. Heating too slowly will crack the tip and allow steam to escape, preventing the build-up of pressure and the ultimate popping. In the past, making popcorn in a pot was a task that required training, specialization, and great skill. In today’s era of the microwave and automatic popcorn-popper, everything is so much simpler, but still it’s a good idea to put aside a few kernels and try the old-fashioned popping method of yesteryear.

Popping Instructions:

In microwave: Place small quantity of kernels (approximately 2 T) into a paper bag you received in your box (make sure it’s dry and not torn), and fold the edge of bag to seal. (At last: a way to re-use those paper bags!) Set timer for 2-3 minutes, and listen carefully. After a few seconds the kernels will start popping loudly, setting the bag into a lively, throbbing rumba. When 3 seconds without any popping have elapsed, remove paper bag from the microwave. Caution! It’s hot. Make a small opening for ventilation; allow steam to escape, and then cool. Add the seasoning of your choice and nosh away.

In a pot: (from the website of Kibbutz Sha’ar Hagolan)

You will need: Popcorn. A pot. Oil.

We all know the black and sooty telltale spots shamefully lining the pots, reminding us of unsuccessful popcorn, or the sad “old maids,” the un-popped kernels that will never receive another chance.

Here’s how to avoid these embarrassing failures, step by step:

The Pot: Use a wide, tall pot so the kernels have room to expand.

The rule is 3 T oil for each ½ – ¾ cup of popcorn. The oil should cover the bottom of the pot and coat each kernel. (You can combine oil and butter, if desired.)
Step 1: Pour the oil and wait a bit till it warms up. (Can use one or two kernels to test.) When oil-bubbles form around kernel, it’s time to start.
Question: Should we toss the kernels?
A: In the beginning of the process, you can give the pan a little shake to arrange the kernels in one layer and for the oil to cover.
Step 2: Leave the kernels on medium heat. When you start hearing the first to pop, lower the flame.
(Babysitter: Keep an eye on them. This is no time to check your email.)
Listen to the sound of the popping kernels. When the popping diminishes, it’s time to turn off the flame. Do not open the pot till you hear the silence of the all-popped popcorn.

As we conclude this week’s newsletter, we proudly send huge congratulations to Alon (a very, very long-time volunteer at Chubeza) and his wife, Rita, on the birth of their first granddaughter. The parents among us are envious of your grandparently traits… May you enjoy wonderful years of grandparentness!

And to our sweet young Chubeza representatives Moshe and Tama who just started first grade – we wish you and all the new students many years of delight and interest, friendship and games, pleasure and joy!

Have a good week, despite the super heatwave, our unwanted end-of-summer dessert. Have no fear – fall is around the corner (hopefully)!

Alon, Bat Ami, Dror and all of us at Chubeza

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A WORD ABOUT FRESH CORN WORMS……

During this period of time, corn is often infested by the larvae of the corn borer, a pest that attacks a range of different grains, and corn in particular, by boring tunnels in all parts of the plant. Currently, we are very much at the peak of the crisis (as the temperature drops, the pests decrease their activity). At Chubeza, we deal with pest control via the use of biological pesticides, but alas, their effectiveness is limited…..Thus we harvest the corn in a highly selective manner. Since the cobs are wrapped in leaves, we’re not always successful in locating all those that are infested. So, if per chance you do meet a hungry worm amidst your corn delivery, greet him and show him the door. Then, simply cut off the gnawed section of the corncob and enjoy the rest of the delicious kernels. If the thought of personally meeting a hungry worm is unpleasant, just let us know and we’ll replace the corn in your order with a different vegetable.

WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Potatoes, lettuce/basil, corn, scallions/leeks, cucumbers, tomatoes, slice of pumpkin/butternut squash, parsley/coriander, eggplant/zucchini, lubia Thai yard-long beans/okra, and……popcorn!

Large box, in addition: Bell peppers/cherry tomatoes, New Zealand spinach, onions.

FRUIT BOXES: Bananas, plums, mango. Small boxes: Pears. Large box, in addition: Peaches.

Wednesday: Lettuce/basil/New Zealand spinach, bell peppers, corn, scallions/leeks, cucumbers, tomatoes, slice of pumpkin/butternut squash, parsley/coriander, eggplant, lubia Thai yard-long beans/okra, and……popcorn!

Large box, in addition: Potatoes, sweet potatoes/zucchini/cherry tomatoes, onions.

FRUIT BOXES: Bananas, plums, mango. Small boxes: Pears. Large box, in addition: Peaches.

August 24th-26th 2020 – Blushing Beauties

This week, Ido and Carole of the Ish shel Lechem bakery are taking a well- deserved break. Therefore, there there are no loaves of bread, but the crackers, granola and other dry products can be ordered via our order system.

Rest up, guys! We miss you.
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 The Life of a Tomato

 Silly tomato, why do you worry?
No need to live life in a hurry.
Take time to ripen in the sun,
swinging on vines and having fun.

Slowly turn from green to red,
thoughts of freedom in your head.
You’re always in a happy mood,
unaware you’ll soon be food.

                                                –Leah Barton

The tomato is one of the most basic and ubiquitous vegetables in the Israeli household, taking a starring role in salads, Matbucha, pasta sauce, Shakshuka and more. At Chubeza, we have been growing tomatoes since our first year – at the start in the open field under the vast skies.

Looking back, 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 supplement your boxes.

But eight years ago, we renovated an abandoned hothouse near our field, and after many hard months the structure stood ready for the challenge: we set out with throbbing hearts to plant our first tomatoes.

Growing vegetables in a hothouse is very different from the open field. Though the open field leaves our crops far more exposed to injury, we know we can rely on the natural balances existing 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 other veggies who later joined). When our attempts proved successful, we added eight more growth tunnels – lower and more narrow structures – and last year we added four more to the collection.

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 attribute, we provide a potassium additive prior to the tomato crop’s growth, followed by melting potassium into the irrigation system once the tomatoes develop. The tomato bushes growing in our hothouses are the “climbing” type.

That is, they don’t independently climb like grapevines, cucumbers or peas, but rather are very long, 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 open field tomato which we grow in the hothouse is the exception. This one is not the climbing type, and plants of its species are usually relatively short. So, we trellised the first round with “Spanish trellising” where you tie strings on either side of the plant rows to keep them upright.

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 welcomed into the structures, buzzing with residents who joyfully pollinate the plants.

But even well-maintained castles are sometimes infiltrated by varmints. Though the dreaded tobacco whitefly has stayed away, the flagrantly 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 which are in the leaves – essentially harming the mouth from which the plant drinks up the sun. What’s more, 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. Our next step involves the use of biologic pest control, based on toxins produced from various bacterium (Bacillus thuringiensis Var. Kurstaki or Saccharopolyspora spinosa) that affect the larva’s nerve system.

But this pest control is of limited efficiency, and many times when we see that the Tuta has arrived, we attempt to regain the balance by reconnecting to the open field. We open up both sides of the hothouse and allow the Tuta’s natural enemies to take their course. Then, of course, we have new problems (like the tobacco whitefly and others), challenging us to juggle the many considerations and the conditions of the tomatoes in order to produce healthy, high-quality tomatoes.

This year, the Rimi Company suggested we experiment with pheromones: instead of catching the males, confuse them! Something to the effect of “Make Love not War” or more specifically, “Try to Make Love….” The idea was to scatter so many pheromones into the air that the males would simply flutter back and forth, intoxicated by the scent, looking frantically for the females but not locating them due to the confusion in scents. Eventually, most males will get too exhausted to mate. The trick here is a small plastic device resembling a vial which holds the pheromone, releasing it slowly over a number of months (!). This method is still experimental, but at the time it was the only one available for us and we were happy to be the guinea pigs.

Sure enough, on a beautiful morning in June, the Rimi team came along to check out the hothouse, explained how to hang the traps in a consistent scattering that will cover the whole hothouse, and the experiment was ready for action!

Fast forward three months, and now we can truthfully attest to excellent results (knock wood). Here’s hoping our good news persists. In these crazy days we are all experiencing, it is joyfully encouraging to realize that even difficulties that seem overwhelming and/or have reached a dead end can eventually be resolved. Soon by us, Amen!

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, and attacked by ruthless, cunning moths who are then confounded by a profusion of fragrances. And through it all, the tomato is unruffled, continuing to patiently crawl its way to the sun and 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, pleasant week with lots and lots of sunshine, water, and happy family time,

Alon, Bat Ami, Dror and the Chubeza team

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Potatoes, lettuce, corn, New Zealand spinach/basil, cucumbers, tomatoes, slice of pumpkin/butternut squash, parsley/coriander, eggplant, onions. Small boxes: Bell peppers/lubia Thai yard-long beans.

Large box, in addition: Bell peppers, lubia Thai yard-long beans, scallions, okra/cherry tomatoes.

FRUIT BOXES: Plums, bananas, mango. Large box, in addition: Yellow apples

Wednesday: Potatoes, lettuce, corn, New Zealand spinach/basil, cucumbers, tomatoes, slice of pumpkin/butternut squash, parsley/coriander, eggplants/zuchinni, onions. popcorn.

Large box, in addition: Bell peppers/okra, lubia Thai yard-long beans, scallions/leeks.

FRUIT BOXES: Plums, bananas, golden delicious apples. Large box, in addition: Red grapes. Small box, in addition: pears.