July 27th-29th 2020 – Golden Slumbers – Kink Corn Part II

So you thought last week was the last you’d hear about corn? Ha! Fooled you! There’s more……………………

At Chubeza, we begin seeding corn (known by its more honorable, original name “Mahis”) at the end of March. The first two seeding rounds are one month apart. A short two-three weeks later it’s time for the next round of seeding and two weeks later another. Then begins a weekly seeding schedule. The reason for this fluctuation is the change in seasons and the rising summer temperatures. If the first round needed between 100-110 days to reach ripeness, the last rounds ripen within 80-90 days. Thus, these intervals between seeding rounds allow us to distribute sweet, juicy ears of corn in your boxes every week, or maximum every fortnight.

In each Chubeza corn seeding, we insert two beds (4 rows) of hard wrinkled yellow seeds into the earth. When I say we “insert” them, I mean it, because after many attempts to use a seeder, we realized that the best method is still to do it by hand. We notch furrows in the earth and scatter the seeds at a distance of 10-15 cm apart.  Afterwards, we cover the furrow, water it, and start praying for healthy growth.

After the initial sprouting, the corn grows rapidly, producing tall, strong, erect stalks that you can actually get lost in. At a farm where I worked in California, each year they would plant a huge corn maze where everyone, young and old, would love to get lost in during the October Halloween festival. At Chubeza, a group of kids decided to find out what it feels like to enter the corn bed jungle:

corn4    corn2

corn1    corn3

Because of the short spans of time between seedings, a tour of the field reveals corn beds of varying heights, from 20 cm munchkins, through 50, 80 and 150 cm tall guys, all the way to towering stalks of 2 meters and more! Even the plants that have already been harvested and are currently retired are in no hurry to migrate to Miami, but rather stand there yellowing away in the summer sunshine. (I harbor a special fondness for them…)

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The type of corn Chubeza grows belongs to the “super-sweet” variety (Sh2). True to its name, this corn is indeed super and sweet. Who would have believed that such incredibly tasty corn is actually the result of a mutation! And before you ask – I do not mean a genetic-engineered mutation (perish the thought), but rather one which occurred naturally, in the field, far away from sterile labs, and consequently developed by simple hybridization just like any other hybrid seeds. Here’s how this works:

Most of the corn seeded in the world is not even sweet (field/dent corn), but is produced primarily for animal fodder, for corn flour production, and for industrial uses such as ethanol for gas, the plastic industry, corn oil and various other additives. This field corn is actually the ancient corn variety that was grown in Southern and Central America thousands of years ago.

A primary advantage of corn is that it is unstable. It is a crop that is genetically sensitive to mutations and changes that occur in nature, in its genetic composition, which makes it an honored guest within the annals of scientific research. (Corn plants were instrumental in achieving some of the most important discoveries in genetics, like the Transposons) and a huge variety of corn types – in different colors, shapes and sweetness. Here are some examples:Cornvarieties

Sweet corn has been known in Western civilization since 1770. It is not clear when this natural mutation first occurred, but it caused the storing of a double amount of sugar in the storage tissue (endosperm) of the seed. There are hundreds of sweet corn varieties in this group, and it is the common form of fresh corn (on the cob) here in Israel. But this sweetness lives on borrowed time – corn is a cereal crop, and thus from the moment it ripens and is picked from the stalk, an internal process occurs whereby the sugars turn to starch. During this process, corn loses its sweetness and becomes powdery and starchy, thus corn that is eaten more than 3 or 4 days from harvest loses a great deal of its sweetness.

Over the past years, two other groups of corn were developed, both based on mutants that occurred naturally which were then carefully developed to create stable varieties for agricultural use. One is the “sugar enhanced” (SE) corn, boasting higher sugar content than traditional sweet corn, which is why when refrigerated it retains sweetness 2-4 days after harvest. The second group is the Super-Sweet corn (Sh2), three times sweeter than the other varieties. And most important here, the process of the sugar-transforming-to-starch is much slower, allowing it to remain sweet up to ten days after harvest (when refrigerated). This has, of course, many advantages, specifically when dealing with export to distant markets — but the Chubeza family has the chance to enjoy these nice mutants on the same day they are picked: triply sweet and fresh!

If you cook our corn, this sweet treat blends perfectly with so many flavors: salty, spicy, and sour ingredients all add a distinctive, complementary savor. But really, the best way to enjoy this corn is by simply cooking it in water for a few minutes and then biting right into the fresh cobs. But if you crave variety in a couple of months from now, take a look at our recipe section for some intriguing non-standard uses for the sweet king of summer.

At this time of the year, we encounter the annoying corn-borer worm (whom you’ve probably met as well). His full name is the European Corn Borer, a night moth originating in Europe but widely spread all across the globe. The borer primarily damages corn, but also a variety of other grains, by digging tunnels in any part of the plant. We usually meet him in the cobs. The female moth primarily lays her eggs at the bottom part of the leaves, which is where the harmful 2-3 cm insects hatch in springtime. The spring emergence lasts 6-8 weeks, after which the worms speed up their nibbling… Right now, we are at the peak. Generally, as the season moves on and the heat begins to subside, the worms slow down. Chubeza attempts to solve the pest problem with biological pesticides: we spray two germs on the worms. Have no fear, the germs are absolutely harmless to human beings. (To those who are interested – they are Bacillus thuringiensisSaccharopolyspora spinosa), targeted to injure the worms’ nervous and digestive systems.) As with most organic pesticides, their efficacy is limited, which is why we attempt to harvest the corn selectively, leaving the nibbled cobs in the field. Since they are wrapped in leaves, we do not always succeed in locating all the afflicted cobs. So, if you happen to encounter a hungry caterpillar who decided to situate himself at the tip of your corn, bid him farewell, send him away, cut off the nibbled end and enjoy the remains of the yummy cob.

Here’s to a sweet and summery week. Drink up and stay in the shade as much as possible!

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

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Zucchini, lettuce, cherry tomatoes, watermelon, cucumbers, tomatoes, New Zealand spinach/basil/Swiss chard, butternut squash/slice of pumpkin, parsley/coriander, eggplant/potatoes, scallions/onions.

Large box, in addition: Corn/bell peppers, melon, lubia yard-long beans/ okra.

FRUIT BOXES: Bananas, plums, pears. Small box, in addition: Apples. Large box, in addition: Mango

Wednesday: Zucchini/bell peppers, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, New Zealand spinach/basil/Swiss chard, butternut squash/slice of pumpkin, parsley/coriander, eggplant/potatoes, scallions/onions, corn. Small boxes: melon or watermelon.

Large box, in addition: Melon and watermelon, lubia yard-long beans/ okra, cherry tomatoes.

FRUIT BOXES: Bananas, plums. Small box, in addition: Apples, grapes. Large box, in addition: Mango/nectarines/pears.