Aley Chubeza #262, October 6th-7th 2015

The first rain reminds me
of the rising summer dust.
The rain doesn’t remember the rain of yesteryear.
A year is a trained beast with no memories.
Soon you will again wear your harnesses,
Beautiful and embroidered, to hold
Sheer stockings: you
Mare and harnesser in one body.

The white panic of soft flesh
In the panic of a sudden vision
Of ancient saints.

Yehuda Amichai
(Translated from the Hebrew by Barbara and Benjamin Harshav)

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A new leaf…

Over the past two weeks, we began harvesting new greens that we’ve been pampering in our net house. These greens are not so well known, even to veteran clients, because it’s been awhile since we’ve grown them. So this week we’ll give you some information about the arugula, mizuna (or “Japanese mustard green”) and the bok choy. In Israel they are marketed as “baby greens” (a mesclun mix) because they are young and tender. Besides being low-calorie and high in nutrition, they are truly delicious, great in salads, as a nosh, in your sandwich and even stir-fried (very lightly, though.)

Here they are:

Green Mizuna
מיזונה אדומה
Red Mizuna
Pak choi / Bok choy
arugula-rokat
Arugula

So if they’re so great, why haven’t we grown them in ages? Well… growing these specialty greens requires much precision: they grow very fast, and we have to grow them clean, as greens are not supposed to be washed till just before you use them. On the other hand, we cannot wrap up and send you muddy baby greens, especially since they’re so small, and it doesn’t make sense to carry out a general cleaning. In the past we have attempted to grow such greens as mizuna, cress and others, but only the arugula, tot soy and mustard greens survived, and we started growing even them as full-sized greens, not the “mini” varieties. Apparently, the open field is not the place for young greens…

But two winters ago, things changed. We built a net house, whose raison d’etre is to open up growing possibilities which did not exist in the past: growing summer tomatoes over a longer season and with greater success (open field tomatoes are quickly damaged by diseases and viruses, and their season is very short), and growing cucumbers and zucchini in the summertime, protected from the nasty fly and other insect-transmitted viruses. Over time, we have discovered that other crops enjoy the comfort provided by the net house, which boasts warm weather in wintertime (just a little warmer, as it is a net house, not a hothouse. Still- it’s significant) and some shade in the summer. The net house protects against insects that nibble on the young plants (the kohlrabi, for example) before they even grow, and protects against flying insects that penetrate the leaves (like in beets and arugula). It now appears that the net house can be more efficient that we ever imagined.

But, of course, the space is very limited, as opposed to the open fields where the rounds easily rotate and there is absolutely no problem (quite to the contrary) to leave a certain field fallow for several months. In the net house we grow fewer varieties of crops, and thus look for the type that can grow in-between seasons, for short periods of time, and have the ability to improve the soil.

And this is where the Brassicaceae’s come into the picture. Members of this family are able to cleanse the earth and purify it from diseases and fungi. It’s still unclear exactly how this process, termed “biological disinfection” or “biofumigation” occurs, but apparently when the green content of the Brassicaceae decomposes inside the earth with the help of enzymes, some volatile matter is set loose that is poisonous to pathogens and reduces them. In order to enjoy these advantages, you can combine the Brassicaceae in your seeding rounds and upon harvest, to plow them under the earth, growing them as green-manure cover crops (i.e., without harvesting, but rather stuffing the whole plant into the soil) or even use the remains of plants that grew in a different bed and were plowed into the earth, in order to cleanse the earth before growing an exceptionally vulnerable crop.

This is a process that occurs naturally, as part of the amazing ability of nature to unbalance the balanced and stabilize conditions. It’s no wonder that we see mustard bushes taking over every available piece of earth. They must be in charge of cleaning, purifying and restoring the earth with its powers and living forces. As farmers, we know we do not work the way nature does. Farming is forever an artificial act forced upon the earth, and yet, as organic farmers we try to learn as much as we can from nature in how to tone down the extreme and bring back some balance.

And thus, two years ago, as we prepared to grow tomatoes in the net house, a newly available in-between-period of empty soil inspired us to plant young greens from the Brassicaceae family to speedily grow, enjoy a protected and clean environment in the net house, and prepare the earth for our next crops. The endeavor went well, proving itself to be yummy, efficient and successful. Since then, we have continued to repeat this process several more times.

The mizuna, the bok choi and the arugula are the representatives. All three are of Asian origin. The mizuna is Japanese (Brassica rapa var japonica), and  the bok choi is Chinese (rassica rapa var chinensis). The green mizuna and bok choi are definitely mustardy, but not spicy. Their flavor is exotic and fresh, with a hint of sweetness. The arugula and red mizuna add piquancy to the mix which turns out absolutely delicious!

Bon Appetit!

Wishing you a wonderful week, with the nice healing showers providing a great start to the “after the holidays” season.

Have an easy Return to Routine!

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

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WHAT’S IN OUR AFTER-THE-HOLIDAYS BOXES?

The tomato shortage continues. Once again, this week’s boxes are tomato-less. But with just a drop more patience, we are in hopes that they will return in full red glory in the very near future

Tuesday: Red bell peppers, parsley/coriander/dill, slice of pumpkin, lettuce,    potatoes, Swiss chard/New Zealand spinach, scallions/garlic chives, sweet potatoes, baby greens (mesclun mix), cucumbers. Small boxes only: Thai beans/ okra

Large box, in addition: Leeks, eggplant, kale, basil

Wednesday: sweet potatoes, cucumbers, dill/mint/cilantro, leek/scalions, lettuce, Swiss Chard/New Zealand spinach, baby greens (mesclun mix), red or green peppers, pumpkin, potatoes, eggplants/corn.

Large box, in addition: kale, basil, Thai long beans/okra

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 and goat dairy products too! You can learn more about each producer on the Chubeza website. Our order system also features a detailed listing of the products and their cost.  Make an order online now!