Aley Chubeza #241, April 21st-22nd-23rd 2015

Squash, anyone?

It hasn’t even been a month since our journey out of Egypt. When I try to picture myself wandering through the wilderness saddled with luggage, relying on supernatural-fast food doesn’t sound like great fun to me, and surely it is no substitute for fresh-grown produce… Oh, I can certainly identify with the Israelites plea: “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost–also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” (Numbers 11, 5-6) Usually they are viewed as ungrateful, ridiculed (“hey, it’s free and you’re complaining?”), and preached at: “The manna was like coriander seed and looked like resin, the people went around gathering it, and then ground it in a hand mill or crushed it in a mortar. They cooked it in a pot or made it into cakes. And it tasted like something made with olive oil…” and yet, I can identify with them. With all the hope and ideals and future in the offing, beginning summer without some juicy zucchini, without their beautiful yellow flowers, sounds too difficult to me. I’m glad we’re done with this wilderness episode.

This week’s newsletter is dedicated to our new squash harvest, happily heralding the changing of seasons from winter to spring, then summer, and great summer vegetables that follow. You’ve already welcomed our spring potatoes, mint has renewed itself and come for a visit, and soon relatives of squash, the cucumber and fakus, will hop on the wagon. The rest of the gang is on their way: the flat bean, green and yellow beans and lubia, the various tomatoes, eggplant, corn, melon, watermelon and other old favorites already planted and growing in the field.

Squash season starts here at the end of winter. We sow our squash seeds in the beginning of February when it’s still mighty cold.  In order to protect them, we cover the earth with a plastic surface, and cover the seeds with another plastic cover to insulate them from the cold. The result is a sort of tunnel that heats up from the sunrays and acts as a shield from the biting frost and any storms at winter’s end.

Usually in the first rounds, we use transplants as well as seeds. In our experience, there were years when our first squash crops suffered a mysterious disappearance due to the young sprouts being eaten, probably by crickets or other earthy inhabitants. This was another reason to test out transplants, as opposed to seeds, during this season.

But how does a squash move from being a green, impressive plant to actually ripening and bearing fruit? On the way, there are the big and beautiful yellow flowers, lovely to look at and particularly attractive to pests. The squash plant bears flowers of two types: the male and female flowers (everything written about squash holds true for pumpkins, cucumbers, melons, watermelons, fakus and the rest of the Cucurbita family). The flowers resemble each other from afar, but when you look closely, the differences are evident.

This is what the male flower looks like: squash-male-far

And here it is close up: male-squash-blossom

And this is what his female counterpart looks like: squash-female-far

Close up: female-squash-blossom

The insects are thrilled by the bright yellow, and they enter the male flower, have their fun and play, and gather some nectar and pollen that look like this:

 pollen-on-male-squash

Then they continue on to frolic in the next nearby playground, the female flower, spreading the male pollen all over. The now-fertilized female flower closes and shrinks, and at the end of the process looks like this:

pollinated-zucchini

If you look closely, you will see that at the edge of this flower, a fresh, new little squash is growing. It’ll only take him a few days before he is ready for careful and delicate picking, so as not to scratch or damage the shiny, delicate peel.

So, wishing you a season of “real” food— the kind that grows and breathes, the seasonal type that you miss when it’s not around, even though its taste doesn’t change upon demand and it is not ready-made upon gathering…

May we have a good week, tiptoeing between the surprising raindrops that fell on us, the ones that may still surprise us, and the upcoming events of the following weeks.

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

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What’s in This Week’s Boxes?

Monday: Zucchini, kohlrabi/fennel, kale/Swiss chard, tomatoes, leeks/onions/garlic, carrots, celeriac/celery, cucumbers, parsley/coriander/dill, lettuce, beets, mint

Large box, in addition: Turnips/daikon/ fava beans, parsley root, cabbage/broccoli/cauliflower

Wednesday: beets, garlic, kale/Swiss chard, tomatoes, lettuce, fennel/daikon, cucumbers, carrots, celery/celeriac, dill/cilantro/parsley, leek/onions, mint

Large box, in addition: zucchinni, cabbage/kohlrabi/artichoke, root parsley

And there’s more! You can add to your basket a wide, delectable range of additional products from fine small producers: flour, fruits, honey, dates, almonds, garbanzo beans, crackers, probiotic foods, dried fruits and leathers, olive oil, bakery products, pomegranate juice and goat dairy too! You can learn more about each producer on the Chubeza website. On our order system there’s a detailed listing of the products and their cost, you can make an order online now!