Aley Chubeza #324, January 30th – February 1st 2017

First, we’re delighted to inform you of a special initiative currently being launched: a periodical dedicated to community health. This project was created by The Center for Health Leadership, a place to study and develop community leadership in the realms of health and nutrition, directed by Uri Mayer-Chissick. Basically, health leadership is akin to preventative medicine, taking into consideration the various ways of cultivating one’s health and preserving it, within the reality of surrounding conditions. The objective is to take action from within a condition of good health, not only from one of illness.

There’s a great deal to say about this special place and its outlook, but today I would like to focus on one particular activity, the publication of a new periodical which offers an in-depth look at various aspects of community health. And apropos to a community initiative, they are funding this periodical with the help of the community.

I recommend that you explore and support the initiative. The gifts you order will be sent to us for delivery in your boxes, or alternatively you may pick them up at the Center’s upcoming conference in March.

What great news to start the week!

_________________________________

Cold, Wet, and Wild

…Yesterday, and days before,
Sun is cold and rain is hard,
I know; been that way for all my time.

‘Til forever, on it goes
Through the circle, fast and slow,
I know; it can’t stop, I wonder.

I want to know, have you ever seen the rain?…

(Norman Whitfield, J. C. FOGERTY)

Our week started out knee-deep in mud, and oh, was it glorious! Marvelous rains poured over the weekend, over 35 mm of great wet drops dissolving in our wintery cold earth after almost three weeks of drought. Such a Mechaye! And yet after such a storm, we are always a little apprehensive when we pay our first visit to the field….Winter is indeed great, but sometimes it can get a bit rambunctious when playing with its friends Hail and Frost. This time we received lots of rain, but no hail in the Ayalon Valley, so the leaves remained smoothly intact. And bitterly frigid…. Early in the mornings, the temperatures drop as low as 5 degrees, climbing slowly through the day till they hang around at the 10’s. Rain is helpful to us as well, because despite the low temperatures, frost does not usually accompany rain and thus the plants can carry on with their growth (albeit slowly) and all is well.

Though growth is indeed slow paced, at this stage most of the vegetables planted in early fall are already nice and big and yielding (or actually ripening as we speak). Our fava beans and peas are expanding their pods, attempting to multiply despite the cold. The winter roots – beets, carrots, turnips and radishes – are growing plump and slowly elongating inside the frozen earth, their already well-developed leaves diligently converting the wintery sunbeams to energy for the thickening roots. Broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage are enjoying their time in winter. They do not suffer in the face of cold – quite the contrary! They disguise themselves as sliding boards for the raindrops, who make a beeline for the thick waxy leaves to glide straight into the saturated earth below.

broccoli raindrops1  broccoli raindrops2  cauliflower raindrops1

Thank you, Chana, for capturing these beautiful wintery moments.

The delay in growth and ripening occurs mostly with the vegetables who are not native to this season – the cucumbers and hothouse tomatoes. They are the tardiest to grow and ripen, despite the protection and some heat provided by their plastic covering in the hothouse or tunnel. Yet these tomatoes and winter cucumbers make us happy because they’re living proof of our triumph in growing most of our cucumbers and tomatoes in winter as well. But there is a major difference between, say, the fennel, jumping for joy with every degree that drops in temperature, and the tomato-and-cucumber contingent expending such great efforts to grow and ripen.

As discussed, we harvest cucumbers before they are fully ripe, thus their seeds are still soft and thin and their peeling is not hard (unlike their cousins, the watermelon or pumpkin,) but we wait for full ripening of the tomatoes. However, during wintertime this doesn’t always take place on their mother-bush… Winter tomatoes are hard and nice and last long after harvest, but they are not as sweet and red as their summer sisters. We harvest them when they are pinkish-orange to prevent any harm which may ensue by leaving them on the vine. Then we place them in our packing house and let them blush a shade or two redder before sending them out. We recommend you do not refrigerate them – they will be glad to avoid meeting cold temperatures again. Give them a word of thanks for growing nonetheless, place them in a comfy basket on your countertop or table and enjoy the nice decorative touch they add.

Our potatoes have truly enjoyed the beginning-of-winter weather, after two years of frost that totally destroyed their crops. This year they took full advantage of the warm, dry weather at the beginning of the season, then of the long rains broken up by some dry weather in the interim, and we’ve already begun pulling out nice little chubby potatoes. The quantities are slowly growing and we hope to be able to start distributing them in your boxes soon. Join us as we pray for their health.

Before the rain, Gabi, our everything-and-tractor man, began breaking up the earth and preparing it for planting. On Thursday, the entire Chubeza crew took part in pre-rain planting. In went celery, kohlrabi and beets, soon to be joined by Swiss chard, lettuce and cabbage. And though it still looks like winter and feels like winter, we are preparing for spring by soon beginning to plant our first zucchini and melon, under plastic protective covers, of course.

So we have recently bid the month Tevet farewell and embarked upon Shvat (from the word “Shabatu” in Accadian, for rod or staff, as the winter rains hit the earth like a staff.) We are expecting more short showers but also low rain-less temperatures, which increase the danger of frost. To prepare for this possibility, we are covering sensitive yields in Agril and using irrigation (replacing rain) with others. Also, we exercise our “look at the bright side” skills and remember the great yields we have already harvested from the very sensitive crops (Mr. and Mrs. Cucumber and Hothouse Tomato), and rejoice in the wonderful growth of the potatoes and peas. Once again, we realize what a privilege it is to have an integrated vegetable farm with a variety of seasonal vegetables that can deal with the cold: even when one doesn’t do so well, a different crop will compensate by performing amazing feats of growth!

winter panorama

Notwithstanding, do us a favor and send a message to the God of Frost and Hail who “…spreads the snow like wool and scatters the frost like ashes […] Hurls down his hail like pebbles. Who can withstand his icy blast?” (Psalms 147, 16-17) and request some mercy this year. We will be eternally thankful if this winter passes with no major damage.

And before we end, we would like to send our heartfelt wishes for a speedy recovery to our Gabi (on second thought, let’s stick with gradual, relaxing recovery, if only he would allow himself to…) and to Mohammed’s father. Refuah shleima!

Wishing you all a healthy and wintery week, with lots of hot soups and puddle dances and rain kisses,

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

WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Parsley/coriander, lettuce, red bok choy/arugula/mizuna, cucumbers, cabbage/red cabbage/cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes, carrots, scallions/leeks/fresh onions, kohlrabi/white turnips. Small boxes only: Jerusalem artichokes/cherry tomatoes.

Large box, in addition: Celery/celeriac, beets/daikon/radishes, snow peas/fava beans/garden peas, broccoli greens/kale/spinach.

Wednesday: cabbage/red cabbage, lettuce,  cucumbers, broccoli, tomatoes, carrots, parsley/coriander, snow peas/fava beans/garden peas, kohlrabi/daikon/radishes,  broccoli greens/spinach. Small boxes only: Jerusalem artichokes/fresh onions.

Large box, in addition: Celery/celeriac, scallions/leeks, beets/potatoes/cauliflower,  red bok choy/arugula/mizuna.

And there’s more! You can add to your basket a wide, delectable range of additional products from fine small producers: flour, fruits, sprouts, honey, dates, almonds, garbanzo beans, crackers, probiotic foods, dried fruits and leathers, olive oil, bakery products, apple juice, cider and jams, dates silan and healthy snacks 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!