February 19th-21st 2018 – Agriculture and Community

V’Nahafochu…

Next week we will be creating minor havoc in your delivery schedule due to Ta’anit Esther which falls on Wednesday (the nerve!), and other scheduling issues. Hence, deliveries will take place as follows:

Monday Deliveries
Tel Aviv– deliveries as usual, except for the following neighborhoods:
Florentine/Shapiro/Kiryat Shalom/Jaffa will receive their boxes on Tuesday, February 27.
Deliveries to Rehovot, Nes Ziona, Rishon L’Zion, Mazkeret Batya, Mevasseret Zion and neighboring communities will be as usual.

Wednesday Deliveries
Tel-Aviv, Ramat Gan, Givatayim, Gush Ezyon – as usual.
Beit Horon, Ramot, French Hill, Sheich Jarach, downtown Jerusalem – as usual.
Ein Kerem, Kiryat Hayovel, Beit Hakerem, Rechavia, Nachlaot, Kiryat Moshe, Malcha, Katamonim, Katamon, Bak’a, Talpiyot and Armon Hanatziv – will receive their boxes on Tuesday, February 27.

We hope you will cheerfully accept these changes in the true holiday spirit.
If you are not certain about your delivery date, just ask.

Chag Sameach!
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As has been our tradition for the past few Purim’s, Melissa of Mipri Yadeha is offering a sweet mishloach manot of her own – fruit leather “Scrolls of Esther,” handmade and deliciously natural, with no additives. The “scrolls” are available in various flavors and majestically packaged just for you.

Only 10 NIS per scroll – order via our order system.

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In the Purim spirit, only smile-invoking news this week:

Oh how we waited, and he’s back at last! Ido, the bread-baker par excellence of Beit HaLechem, has concluded his renovation project and is back to work! Beginning next week, you will be able to resume your bread orders via our order system. For those of you with a standing order, your delivery will automatically pick up.

Ido prepares excellent organic sourdough bread made from wheat, spelt and rye. In addition, he offers amazing gluten-free bread and great granola.

Check out his bountiful array and add your choices via our order system.

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An Agricultural Vegetable Salad

Last week we hosted a group of farmers from small, medium-size and tiny organic farms across the country – from Kibbutz Lavi up north to Be’er Milka far down south. We came together to meet, share our experiences and discuss the various challenges we encounter. All of us are CSA farmers – i.e., deliver seasonal produce from the yields of our fields, making it our business to not only supply vegetables, but also to form an agriculture-based community and cultivate it.

And we had a marvelous time chatting, consulting, debating, arguing… Although we’re all in the same field (so to speak), we mostly come from different backgrounds and motivation, and we each have our own quirks, styles and paths. This too was fascinating. One may wonder why we bother to meet in such congenial circles. We are, in fact, competing against each other in the same market, aren’t we?

Actually, we’re not. The partnership and equanimity were very evident at this get-together. We shared our successes, failures, strategies and ideas, with the overriding impression that we are all working together to fulfill a shared vision in its host of variations: offering nutritious, healthy food brimming with vitality and authenticity; maintaining and cultivating the earth entrusted to our safekeeping; actively encouraging a different economy – direct, transparent and mutual, communicating truth and fairness between manufacturers and consumers.

Historically, the idea of Community Supported Agriculture stemmed from the community –consumers seeking their very own farmer – who wished to experience a different, small-scale agriculture, a vegetable garden comprised of a variety of vegetables, thus sustaining the balance of nature where rarely is seen a patch of earth with only one type of tree. There will always be bushes and shrubs and weeds and flowers, surrounded by a constant buzz of insects and animals, with millions of various microbes going about their lives underground.

This type of vegetable garden cannot survive in the “vast economy” where a wholesaler signs a contract with the farmer, who in turn must provide tens and hundreds of products from a specific yield. Vast commerce loves comfortable, uniform and organized service, the exact opposite of the joyful chaotic vegetable garden where so many things happen at once, and so many crops thrive in the same patch of earth at various stages of growth: a sprout, plant, flower and fruit. There is always something happening at any corner of the field, with something entirely different happening right beside it. Kind of like life itself…

       

And just like life itself, these vegetable gardens, specifically the CSA’s, require a little help from their friends, and thus we each create a community to surround us. A community that is a group of clients who purchase the outstanding products and consequently support the field. But more than that – the community built around the vegetable garden is a partner in so many other ways, asking questions, responding, complimenting, requesting, directing us, wondering, remarking, embracing. These are all crucial components of growth.

Our new website is the fruit of your response and requests, specifically one client who took the initiative and over a very long phone conversation helped me map out the needs of our clients as she perceived them, what is important to include in the website and where it should go. (Thank you so much!). The agricultural get-together mentioned above took place thanks to Liran, another Chubeza client, who instigated and organized and pushed for it to happen and then led it. Once again, he was motivated by a wish to connect (read about this in his blog to see the portrayal from the client’s point of view and not mine). Liran, many many thanks! Your input and feedback are very important to us, as are your comments and insights which we cannot know unless you share. We encourage you to remain our partner in our unique, helpful and beautiful way.

Over the past year, there has been a decline in the Chubeza clientele. To date, we have never advertised publicly because we feel our message is complex and unusual (contrary to the very short, simple mass-media message). Our growth has always taken place through our clients – a dinner guest at a meal comprised of Chubeza vegetables or someone who tripped on their neighbor’s box at the doorstep, etc. In short, by word of mouth. We believe this is the correct way to spread our story and grow. There have been years in which we had so many requests for new members that we had to require a waiting period or even turn some down. We now have room for more members, and we urge you to spread the word. If you have friends or acquaintances who would like to receive a fresh, natural, joyfully colorful box of vegetables, by all means, tell them about us. (Either give them our phone number or send them to our brand new website where they can read all about us and sign up.)

If you have family or friends who live in the north or south or cities we do not deliver to, do not despair! There are other small farms similar to Chubeza spread across the nation, and we will gladly direct folks to their friendly neighborhood farmer. Let us expand the circle of happy vegetables and fields blooming in verdant hues.

One last community invitation for now – in just over a month during Chol HaMoed Pesach, we will hold our traditional Open Day at Chubeza. Over the past years we have enjoyed workshops and activities led by our very own Chubeza members. These included cooking workshops, tours of the fields, drumming circles and more. We invite you to put your own talent or idea into action to liven the atmosphere this year. Let us know soon!

Wishing everyone pleasant days of costume-making and holiday fun. Enjoy this week’s after-rain (and pre-rain?) sunshine,

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

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Parsley/dill/coriander, broccoli/Jerusalem artichoke, leeks/onions/scallions, cucumbers, cabbage/cauliflower, tomatoes, potatoes, kohlrabi/baby radish, lettuce, beets, celeriac/fennel

Large box, in addition: Garden or snow peas, carrots,  Swiss chard/spinach/ kale.

Wednesday: Parsley/cilantro/dill, broccoli/cauliflower, cucumber, peas, cabbage, tomato, potato, daikon/white turnip/radish/kohlrabi, lettuce, beets/fennel. Small boxes only: kale/Swiss chard/spinach.

Large box, in addition:  Carrots, Jerusalem artichoke/fava beans, onions/leeks/scallions, celeriac.

February 12th-14th 2018 – A tale in a pod

We’re delighted to invite you to take part in a creative writing session with Liran, a Chubeza client who leads writing workshops and group dynamics. At this workshop, Liran will walk us through a very different kind of visit in our field, with observation, meditation, feeling and creativity.

The writing workshop will take place Friday, March 9, between 9am-3pm. For more information, check out this link.

Sign up with Liran: 054-2400408   Lirankeren1@gmail.com

We look forward to seeing you there!

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Fava Fad

The prevailing spring-like weather is just what the fava beans ordered to produce bountiful yields, fill our harvest buckets and your boxes. This member of the venerable legume family whose chubby green pods are covered with a soft, cottony lining, will be gracing you with his presence over the next few weeks. And because he is not a very frequent visitor, we proudly dedicate this Newsletter to the delectable, distinguished fava bean.

Dry and fresh fava beans have been consumed in the Middle East and in North and South Africa for thousands of years. Fava fossils have even been found in archeological sites in the Middle East from as early as 6500 BC (in our very own Nazareth)! It served as an important, essential food for all classes. Fava is rich in protein, complex carbohydrates, and dietary fibers. It contains a good amount of iron, folic acid, potassium, magnesium and zinc.

And yet, “Stay away from fava!” cautioned Pythagoras.

What did the renowned sixth century BC Greek philosopher have against one of the most popular vegetables of the time? Pythagoras aficionados and interpreters have offered many suggestions for this sharp warning. One is that fava is hard to digest, said to be “full of spirit, and takes a part of your soul, and if you stay away from it your belly will be less loud and your dreams calmer.” And yet, one should not forget that fava contains less sugar and other hard-to-digest fibers than its fellow legumes, such as the green bean.

Another possible reason for Pythagoras to disqualify the fava could have been the ancient belief that the spirits of the dead wander into the fava’s buds, making it a popular dish for funeral meals. Possibly the connection between the fava and the afterworld has to do with the fava allergy, also known as Favism (from the Latin Vicia faba). This allergy is extremely serious, deriving from a genetic deficiency in the G6PD enzyme, and commonly affects populations from the Middle East and Mediterranean (in Israel, it is most prevalent among Iraqi Jews). Fava consumption among some 20% of humans lacking this enzyme can result in acute anemia and even death.

On the other hand, the fava appears to possess chemical components similar to those in quinine medicines used to treat malaria, a once-common disease in Greece and southern Italy. It seems that fava fights malaria by reducing the amount of oxygen within red blood cells, thus halting its spread. Perfect timing too – the season for picking fresh fava, springtime, is also the breeding season of the malaria-transmitting Anopheles mosquito.

Another reason why fava should be part of our natural medicine chest is to treat Parkinson’s Disease. Fava naturally contains the L-Dopa amino acid, which becomes the Dopamine neurotransmitter upon reaching the brain. This acts to improve the condition of Parkinson sufferers, a disease resulting from Dopamine deficiency. Even 250 grams of cooked fava has proven to significantly boost the level of Dopamine in the blood, improving the patient’s condition. The largest concentration of L-Dopa is in fresh fava and its pods. Dry fava contains much less. Research is still in the early stages, and those considering fava for treating Parkinson’s should consult with their doctor.

In our part of the world, there are two varieties of fava – the larger Cypriot and the smaller Egyptian fava, which is almost the size of a pea pod. During Chubeza’s first years, we grew both varieties, but several years ago we met an “in-between” type with medium-sized pods, which we now happily grow. In Egypt, fava is called “Ful Hamam” for a fascinating reason: in medieval times, preparation of the fava was carried out exclusively by those who lived in the area surrounding “the Princess Baths,” the public baths at the site of the Fountain of Mohammed Ali Pasha in Cairo. By day, the water in the great basins was heated for bathing. By night, when the burning coals were still ablaze, the great basins were filled with fava beans which cooked overnight on the coals to provide breakfast for the residents of Cairo.

The fava’s tale began last autumn. There is something beautiful about it, something that returns us, with our world of endless possibilities, to the restraints of seasons and time and to slower and softer rhythms of life. We seed the fava at the end of autumn from September to December in four rounds, every month or so. We try to bury it deep in the earth before the first showers fall, when the skies above begin clouding over, informing us of a nearing drizzle. On one hand, we want to avoid watering, but if we seed too early, we’ll lose our crop to the field animals stocking up at that very moment on food for the winter. The raindrops cover the fava with earth, greeting with fanfare the big, familiar seeds that they knew and loved last year.

This encounter results in quick germination of the fava, which courageously bursts forth and continues growing even as the winter grows colder and rainier and the rest of the world withdraws into itself.  The growth is slow and calculated. Fava takes its time, growing over an entire winter, patiently and steadily, inching a little taller every week. Favas cover the earth and protect the soil from erosion and the ravages of strong rains. It grows densely, preventing weed growth.  Favas do not require fertilizer, for like the rest of the legume family, fava beans can fix nitrogen for a do-it-yourself fertilizer, enriching the earth within which they grow.

After months of rain, wind and cold, the fava feels something moving inside. Its faultless plant instinct senses the seasons changing, the days growing longer, the changing light, the sun’s locale, and then it knows – it’s show time! The fava debuts with beautiful fabacaea butterfly-like flowers. They are gentle and strong at once, like the fava itself. In strident pastel festivity, they overtake the garden beds as if to say, we’re all clean and dressed up and something wonderful is about to happen.  Even when the fava blooms, it takes its time. Why hurry when you can look around, smell the fava, and enjoy life?

The fava bed still looks like it stopped at the flowering stage, while on the surface nothing else has changed. But slowly, almost imperceptibly, a small green boat appears in the flower. This boat will thicken and fatten up until it becomes a seed-carrying pod. We pick them before they fully ripen and dry, when they’re still green, fresh, sweet and juicy. And that’s when we know spring is nearly here. Right here, in our field, in your plate.

   

There are many ways to prepare fresh favas, and despite the suggestion to peel the fava bean (double peel), you can certainly cook and eat fava beans within their pods! 

Some simple uses:

– Cook in unsalted water (similar to blanching peas–the salt hardens the skin).

– Steam in water and olive oil, or sauté onion and garlic, then add fava, boiling water, and lemon juice. Cook for 15 minutes till liquid is absorbed.

– Fava may also be baked slowly in the oven on low heat, together with garlic and such fresh herbs as rosemary, thyme or za’atar on a lightly olive-oiled baking sheet. When the fava is very soft, crush together with the garlic and herbs and spread on bread. 

But I must admit, though the recipes sound great, I usually don’t get around to preparing them. In our house, the fava is eaten fresh, like peas, popped out of the pods and joyfully gobbled up, fresh and raw.

Wishing us all a great week,

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

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Parsley/dill/coriander, broccoli, leeks/onions, cucumbers, cauliflower, tomatoes, carrots, cabbage, lettuce/mizuna. Small boxes only:  Jerusalem artichoke/peas/fava beans, beets.

Large box, in addition: Kohlrabi/daikon/baby radish, potatoes, fennel, celeriac, Swiss chard/spinach/ kale.

Wednesday: Parsley/dill/coriander, broccoli, onions, cucumbers, cauliflower, tomatoes, carrots, celeriac/leeks/scallions, fennel/beets, daikon/baby radish/radish. Small boxes only: potatoes.

Large box, in addition: Kohlrabi, Jerusalem artichoke/peas, spinach/kale/lettuce/mizuna, white turnip/cabbage.

February 5th-7th 2018 – Getting to the bottom of things

This week your boxes will contain samples of a very unique tahini which has been available through our Order System for some months now, the excellent Tahi-na (na is Hebrew for “raw”). Tahi-na is prepared in a small factory located in Kibbutz Netiv HaLamed Heh in the Judean plains. The enterprise was established by Michal Melamed, a kibbutz member and former clinical psychologist who decided to make a change in her life. She spent five years researching sesame and its unique characteristics, learning about traditional tahini production and creating machines tailored for production demands. Thus, a year and a half ago, Tahi-na made its debut.

Tahi-na champions simplicity, health and flavor.

They enjoy preparing their products at the right time and pace. And in general, they prefer minimal interference with what nature has bestowed for us. Back to the basics, like the old days.

What does this entail? They do not peel the seed or roast the sesame, and they do not add anything to it. What *do* they do? They clean the sesame and soak it in water to pre-sprout. Afterwards, it is dried at a low temperature (up to 40 degrees Celsius) for a good while. Finally, it arrives at the grindstones where it is ground intact (shell included).

The result of this unique, no-interference process is something altogether new. A new flavor, vital, intense, even wild. The nutritional value of Tahi-na is the highest possible — lots of calcium, iron, vitamin A and very little nitrogen. Thanks to the unique preparation process, its nutritional attributes remain almost intact and are easier to be absorbed in the body.

This week, join the growing audience of those captivated by the magic of this special product.

Tahi-Na comes in two sizes, and may be ordered via our order system.

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Beneath every successful vegetable is a successful legume

In honor of the green fava bean and the festive bevy of peas over the past few months, I’ve decided to re-explore their roots by conducting an in-depth exploration into the privileged, wonderful clan that these pods claim – the Legume family. The expression “in-depth” is not accidental. For indeed, there is so much that happens deep underground in this family, close to the roots (which may be the case in every family, true).

But let us first get acquainted with the clan: The prestigious legume pedigree belongs to the green bean, pea, fava bean, lubia, soy, lentils, hummus and the mung bean. Lesser-known members of the family are the lupine, vetch, fenugreek (chilbeh), clovers and alfalfa. And, peanuts and even carobs, which hardly resemble their relatives at all. This family includes almost 20,000 varied species! In our field, we raise members from the family branch that are eaten in green pods: peas (two species to be elaborated upon), the fava bean, the green bean, lubia, yard-long bean and green soy (edamame).

The nice thing about this family, when discussing a weekly seasonal box such as ours, is how they interchange throughout the seasons. Sometimes I have a feeling that like on the old kibbutz, some family member is delegated charge for the “work roster,” making detailed charts to vouch that (almost) no week passes without a family representative. To begin the description, we can use the seasonal display of legumes in our Chubeza boxes, commencing at winter’s start with the first pea pods that grow chubby on the bushes. First (at the end of December) comes the sugar pea (aka snow pea or Chinese pea, the big thin one). She is followed by the garden pea that loathes the late-summer heat, but is fine with being seeded in November. It ripens in January. (This is the English pea whose pods hold those nice, round, green “Sunfrost-like” peas. The pods are not edible, but should not be cast away. See tips…)

Chinese pea/snow pea:

Garden/English pea:

Next in line are the fava beans that grew alongside the peas over wintertime, and usually ripen at the peak of winter, i.e., just about now.

The peas and fava make return visits to our boxes for   additional rounds till March or April, after which they run for their lives to escape the heat that they cannot tolerate.

Then, several weeks later in the middle of April, it’s   the string bean’s big moment! Sowed three months earlier in February, this bean takes its time growing, due to the cool temperature. The next round of string beans, sowed a month later, will grow faster (a string bean can ripen some 50 days after being sowed). The string bean prefers moderate spring and autumn temperatures, which is why it arrives in our field over two periods. Simultaneous to the string bean’s entry on the scene, it’s time for the yard-long bean (a sub-specie of the lubia). This lanky legume appears in our boxes from the month of July, through the summer till the end of autumn.

During the lubia season, the edamame marches proudly into our boxes. This is the green soy pod, sowed together with the string bean but requiring 80-90 days to ripen. Thus, our edamame is expected to make its appearance around July-August, so we can enjoy our soy treats, a great green snack, during those warm summer nights.

And when the New Year is upon us in Tishrei, we are always happy to add lubia to the boxes, to take an important role in the holiday feast with its own special blessing. The lubia continues to bear fruit until the cold November temperatures spur their farewells – and on their way out, they briefly reunite with their spring rendezvous partner, the string beans, coming in for a return appearance. At this point, we have already sowed the peas and fava beans, and a new round of legumes begins.

This description is lacking something, because it only describes what you see in your boxes. In truth, way down under in the depths of earth, the legumes are working their real magic: they are busy “fixing nitrogen.”

!!!!#####^^^^^^****?????

Fine, I get it. You would like an explanation in plain English, not in “agriculturalish.”   So, here goes: among other things, plants need nitrogen in order to grow. Seventy-eight percent of the air is nitrogen, but animals and plants cannot make use of it because this nitrogen comes in a composition that is inaccessible to them (N2, while they need it in N3, i.e., the ammonia used to construct amino acids, protein and others).

This is where the legumes come in to save the day. The roots of these plants run very deep and utilize the nutrients in the lower strata, then proceed to grow small nodules of bacteria that work symbiotically with the legumes. These bacteria are able to receive and absorb nitrogen from the air. They take the nitrogen from the air caught between the clumps of earth and transform it into nitrogenic compounds accessible to the plant, which is transferred from the root to the rest of the legume plant.

In return, the bacteria take the nutrients that the plant produced via photosynthesis. Thus, we receive a plant chock-full of nitrogen. The legume plant will use some of this nitrogen in order to build the protein in the fruits and seeds it produces, but if we cut it down as it blooms, chop it up and mix it in the earth, it will leave most of the nitrogen in the earth – and a considerable amount of organic material that will greatly improve the earth’s composition and its fertility. Similarly, reburying the plants after they have grown edible pods improves available nitrogen levels within the earth. This is why legumes do not need any additional fertilization like the rest of our vegetables. They get by just fine on their own, thank you. (Well, almost on their own, with a little help from some bacterial friends.)

Nitrogen fixing nodules on roots:

We discussed the assistance provided by the legumes to their fellow plants, but we living creatures are also big winners. The nitrogen that became available is converted in the (dry) legume seeds to protein, minerals and other good things, and when we eat them, we too benefit from all this symbiosis. What do we get? Protein (in varied quantities, depending on the specific legume) – legumes are the best protein providers for vegetarians – and also: calcium, iron, and dietary fibers. They contain essential fatty acids (linoleic and linolenic) that are quite beneficial for diabetics (with their low glycolic index), assist in lowering cholesterol and preventing heart disease, and as a gluten-free complex carbohydrate, they are a good carb substitute for celiacs. Green legumes, like those we provide in Chubeza boxes, are similar in their nutritional values to green vegetables: they contain vitamins A, B, and C, iron, potassium, and additional minerals and less protein.

And most important – they can be used to prepare delicious food. Legumes have always been an important part of diets across the globe. The type of legume varies in different places: Middle-Easterners eat hummus and the fava bean (ful); Americans (starting with the natives) eat beans of all types (and there are many), the Japanese eat soy. But they all thoroughly enjoy it!

Some useful tips for cooking green legumes:

  • Green Cooking: Green cooking is blanching green vegetables in boiling salted water for a short period (half-a-minute to five minutes, depending on the vegetable) in order to prepare them for further cooking, while preserving their bright green color. Sometimes green cooking is sufficient in itself for the green vegetable — like in salads, such as the Nicoise, which calls for blanched green beans. The water must be at boiling! If not, the vegetable will leak its liquids into the water, and its color will quickly fade. The hotter the water, the shorter the cooking, and the less harm done to the vitamins.
  • When you add fresh green pea pods to vegetable soups, this acts as a sort of spice. You only need a few pods to make the soup taste totally different. Try it!
  • Despite the suggestion to peel the fava bean (double peel), you can certainly cook and eat fava beans within their pods! Check out our recipe section for some ideas.
  • Instead of discarding the empty pods of garden peas or fava bean, freeze them for the next time you make soup stock, then add to the pot and take advantage of their excellent nutritional components.

May we all have a wintery-sunny, green, yummy and filling week!
Alon, Bat Ami, Dror, Yochai and the Chubeza team, nibbling away in the fields

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES

Monday: Parsley, broccoli/cauliflower, leeks/onions, cucumbers, Swiss chard/spinach/ kale, tomatoes, carrots, lettuce/arugula/mizuna, daikon/baby radish/kohlrabi, celeriac. Small boxes only:  peas/fava beans.

Large box, in addition: Beets, cabbage, Jerusalem artichoke/eggplant, dill/coriander.

Wednesday: Parsley/dill/coriander, broccoli/cauliflower, leeks/onions, cucumbers, Swiss chard/spinach/ kale, tomatoes, carrots, lettuce/mizuna, daikon/baby radish/kohlrabi, red or green cabbage. Small boxes only:  peas/fava beans.

Large box, in addition: Beets, Jerusalem artichoke/eggplant, celeriac, potatoes.

January 29th-31st 2018 – Happy Tu B’Shvat!

The Onion/ Wisława Szymborska

The onion, now that’s something else.
Its innards don’t exist.
Nothing but pure onionhood
fills this devout onionist.
Oniony on the inside,
onionesque it appears.
It follows its own daimonion
without our human tears.

Our skin is just a coverup
for the land where none dare go,
an internal inferno,
the anathema of anatomy.
In an onion there’s only onion
from its top to its toe,
onionymous monomania,
unanimous omninudity…

Translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh (A Large Number, 1976)

The onion is a fundamental vegetable in our kitchen, our culture and probably in human existence. We attribute to it an inner essence cloaked in hiding, associate it with tears and sorrow, courage, audacity and eternal life. And on the onion’s other side – simplicity, the elementary basicness of the common people. Of course, the onion has no clue of this. He’s totally indifferent to the big fuss, tending to his own growth, making an effort to just be… well, an onion…

It is one of the most ancient of cultivated plants. It originated in Western Asia, and there’s even evidence that it was raised in ancient Egypt. The Israelites craved it: “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost–also the … onions and garlic.” In ancient Egypt, onions received special treatment, serving as models in Egyptian art and offerings for the gods, in addition to being a basic staple of the common folk. For the Egyptians, the revered onion with its many layers represented eternal life and was thus placed in the tombs of the Pharaohs. Traces of small onions were found in the eye sockets of Ramesses IV, and a basket of onions was considered to be a popular and respected funeral offering.

Conflict has always existed between the pungent odor of the onion and its taste. Aristocracy pinched their noses at the odor (but ate the onion nonetheless, while in India the Brahmins abstained while the common people consumed it greedily. Hammurabi’s Code notes a monthly allocation of onion and bread for the needy.  Alexander the Great viewed the strong scent of the onion as a sign of his strength. An enthusiastic proponent of the “you-are-what-you-eat” school of warfare, he fed his warriors a steady diet of pungent onions to fortify their strength and courage.

onions-growing

In the very early days at Chubeza, we used to grow lots of onions in one round, but were traumatized by the endless weeding. After other complications, namely battling the onion fly and plantings that simply did not yield, we entered several years of confusion regarding the onion: should we grow it or not, and how much of it and when… After gaining some maturity and shedding some anxiety, we reached a level of confidence to slowly, systematically expand the rounds of onion planting in a clear, consecutive schedule geared to enable us to grow onions almost all year round.

We start planting and seeding the onion at the end of summertime. The first onion variety, Beit Alfa, is planted from bulbils (small onion plants) at the beginning of September. As the temperatures start to drop, it is time for the autumn variety, Ori. At the beginning of October we sow a crowded “nursery” of Ori seeds and in the middle of November we pull out the thin sprouts and replant them in spacious beds. The next round, “Riverside” of the Orlando summer variety, is seeded in December, harvested during summertime and scheduled to remain with us till the beginning of autumn.

As you can see, some onions we plant and others we seed. The plants are actually more expensive to buy and require extra energy if prepared on our own, but they have many advantages: they can be spaced accurately while planting, allowing the onion a better growth process and sparing us the task of thinning the crop. Planting eliminates certain difficulties of seeding, especially during wintertime when sprouting is harder and seeds can be whisked away by heavy showers. The plants are also stronger to confront the onion fly, or rather Mrs. Onion Fly who loves laying her eggs on the roots of the tiny bulbs. When the hungry onion maggots emerge, they nibble the little onions to death. However, once the onions are approximately pencil length, they are stiff enough to no longer be attractive to the female flies. For this reason, the onion plants, which hit the pencil-length Finish Line much sooner, are preferable to their seeded comrades.

Still, in order to protect the plants and sprouts from these “femme fatale flies,” we cover all the new saplings planted from the end of October till the end of February with thin white Agril covering, preventing the flies from reaching the baby bulbils and allowing the onions time to grow and strengthen. Once the plants reach the age where they can fend for themselves (i.e., pencil diameter), we remove the cover to give them some fresh air and direct sunlight, and then face the big bad outside world on their own.

This season, prepare to receive Chubeza’s fresh onions, sometimes coined “moist.” The fresh, moist onion is the same onion whose beautiful (and yummy) green leaves we usually ignore, allowing them to droop somewhat, then fold them downwards so their liquids drain into the onion bulb to fortify it. After a few days or weeks, the dry onions are harvested and placed in the field, covered from the sunlight, to dry up a little more, allowing the liquids in the green leaves to descend into the onion bulb as the onion develops dry layers of peeling to be preserved for many months.

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We do this in summertime as well, but this winter onion yield is harvested for you fresh and green. The onion bulb has almost no dry skin, and it is juicy and truly fresh, distinctive and wonderful- especially chopped into a salad.

The onion has always been a primary component of natural medicine. It is a good source of Vitamins C and B1, chromium and dietary fibers. The organosulfur compounds grant the onion very strong healing powers, as does the quercetin antioxidant. Here is a brief look at some of this fella’s therapeutic talents:

Diabetes: the onion’s organosulfur compound reduces the blood sugar level. It raises the level of insulin available to deliver glucose to the cells, thus lowering its level in the blood. The onion’s significant chromium content influences the stability of blood sugar levels (the body’s chromium level depletes as a result of eating processed sugar and white flower).

Heart disease: the onion’s chromium content contributes to the reduction of “bad” cholesterol and raises the good cholesterol levels. The organosulfur compounds reduce the probability of heart disease, obstructions and cardiac failure by preventing arteriosclerosis and lowering blood pressure. The onion simulates the action performed by aspirin, thinning the blood and dissolving blood clots.

Viruses and infections: the onion serves as a natural antibiotic to fight bacteria   (such as bacilli, salmonella, E. coli and others), worms, viruses and the common cold. Onion is recommended to treat excess phlegm and coughing. It reduces the swelling of arthritis and decreases the potency of asthma-causing allergens.

Chronic ailments: the onion contains antioxidants which fight free radicals, thus lowering the risk of cancer by destroying cancerous cells. Among these components are various phytochemicals including quercitine, which reduces the risk of intestinal and ovarian cancer, as well as prostate cancer.

Osteoporosis and bone strengthening: the onion contains amino acid compounds (or GPCS) that prevent the development of cells which break down bone tissue.

More details of the onion’s components and their attributes can be found in this article by dietitian Merav Mor-Ophir, with some recipes (Hebrew)

Several old-fashioned onion remedies:

For phlegm and coughing: Chop an onion to small pieces and mix with two tablespoons honey. Let stand for two hours. The resulting liquid is an excellent antibiotic syrup to alleviate phlegm and hoarseness, and ease coughing and asthma. (Note: This syrup is potent for only one day!)

Pain killing and relief of chronic infections and swelling: Slice an onion, add some salt, and apply to the aching area in a compress or bandage.

To eliminate worms: Drink onion juice (the worms will flee for their lives…)

For earaches: Drip onion juice into the ear, mixed with olive oil or almond oil.

Some tips:

* Onions keep well outside the fridge in a cool, dry place. Ventilation is important, so ideally they should be placed in a wicker or plastic basket.

* Many people store onions with potatoes, but this is not a great combination (for either vegetable). The potatoes contain moisture and emit a gas which expedites onion rotting.

* The remainder of an onion you’ve sliced can be stored in the fridge in a sealed container with some water (to reduce the odor).

After our wonderful rainy spell, we welcome this week of shiny wintery sunshine. Wishing us all a wintery week of health, light and happiness,

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

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES (BESIDES ONIONS)?

Monday: Parsley/dill/coriander, broccoli, leeks/onions, cucumbers, Swiss chard/spinach/kale, tomatoes, carrots, beets/baby radish, lettuce/arugula/mizuna, fennel/kohlrabi, cabbage/cauliflower.

Large box, in addition: Celery/celeriac, red or green bell peppers/eggplant, fava beans/garden or snow peas.

Wednesday: Parsley/dill/coriander, broccoli, leeks/onions, cucumbers, Swiss chard/spinach/kale, tomatoes, carrots, beets/fennel/kohlrabi, lettuce/arugula/mizuna, , red cabbage/cauliflower, celeriac.

Large box, in addition: Green bell peppers/eggplant/Jerusalem artichoke, fava beans/garden or snow peas, baby radish.

January 22nd-24th 2018 – Renewal!

The month of Shvat has arrived, a special joy to nature and to Chubeza clients!

This week we are excited to offer fruit boxes in addition to your vegetables. The boxes, containing fresh organic homegrown winter fruit, may be added via our order system under “Chubeza Vegetables and Fruit.”

Bon Appetit!

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This week we begin delivering the weekly newsletter via a newsletter distribution system. Those of you who are already signed up for and receive the newsletter via email will hardly notice the subtle changes: some graphic variations in the titles and layout. But if you haven’t been receiving the newsletter by email, this is the time to welcome you, or rather, to hope you are welcoming us into your e-mailbox…

I have been writing a weekly newsletter for over 13 years, but till now we haven’t sent it to our clients in such a collective manner, only by request. Why is that? I’m not sure. Perhaps it is our natural recoiling from intruding on your privacy, an irritation we identify with… But over time, I began to feel that we were in fact making life harder for many of you by demanding yet another task in the sea of many small tasks which are components of your daily life. There were clients who weren’t even aware of a weekly newsletter, or others who knew but never got around to signing up. Others couldn’t figure out how to do it. Consequently, there were many times we felt we were shouting out a message which many of you never received.

Hence, as we have formally entered our “teens”, we are creating our own maturity process. Over the past months, our cyber-magician Talya has devised this enchanted postal pigeon that will fly to your mailboxes every Wednesday to deliver this newsletter communication between us. We will try to make you happy with stories from the farm and updates on its habitants, deliver important messages and joyful news. Hope you leave our pigeon some crumbs on the windowsill for sustenance as it flits on to the next member of our community.

Of course, if you do not wish to receive the newsletter, scroll down to the bottom of the message and simply click “unsubscribe.” But if you do make this decision, please check out our website from time to time to make sure you’re getting all the messages, especially before holidays when there are changes in delivery schedules.

If there are any hitches or problems with the new newsletter system, please inform us and we’ll rectify the situation. The Hebrew edition of our newsletter is published on Monday. The English translation is published on Wednesday.

Our website, too, has undergone a digital revival. Even if you were familiar with the old one, go ahead and check out the new version. It is now more user-friendly for Chubeza clients and friends. You can now easily find the weekly list of vegetables in your boxes, which we update immediately upon packing the boxes. The website also hosts our guide to vegetable storage vegetable storage tips, our harvest timetable chart (so you know when to expect specific vegetables) and an expanded section describing each of our various partners-in-crime, our affiliate producers  whose excellent products you can add to your vegetable boxes.

Thanks to everyone who helped out by giving suggestions and feedback regarding the best way to utilize our website. Sometimes it’s hard for us to see things from the client’s viewpoint, which is why communication between us is so important and essential for improvement. Thank you!

While we’re at it, a word about our order system. It is very easy to operate and allows you the flexibility of making changes at the press of a button. If you’re not yet using the system, take some time to get acquainted. In addition to orders for special products, you can also make permanent changes in your orders, or one-time changes for an upcoming order. Don’t forget—every change must be registered in the order system (or in our email/by phone) no later than 9:00 AM of the morning prior to your delivery. If you need help using the order system, we will gladly walk you through it.

These muddy days are joyous ones for us, with wonderful satiating rain for our thirsty field. We are enjoying the abundant gifts from the heavens, and hoping for more…

May we enjoy a week of clean, fresh air, rain and wintery sunshine,

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

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Parsley/dill/coriander, fava beans/garden or snow peas/broccoli, leeks/onions, cucumbers, Swiss chard/spinach/kale, tomatoes, carrots, celery/celeriac, lettuce/arugula/mizuna, fennel/turnips, cabbage/cauliflower.

Large box, in addition: Beets/kohlrabi, Jerusalem artichoke/eggplant, red bell peppers.

Wednesday: Parsley/dill/coriander, Jerusalem artichoke/broccoli, leeks/onions, cucumbers, Swiss chard/spinach/kale, tomatoes, carrots, lettuce/arugula/mizuna, small radishes/kohlrabi, cabbage/cauliflower. Small boxes only: eggplant/ red or green bell peppers.

Large box, in addition: Beets, fennel/turnips, celery/celeriac, fava beans/garden or snow peas.