September 12-14, 2022: COOK’S STRONGEST ALLY

NEW YEARS 5780 – CHANGES IN CHUBEZA DELIVERY SCHEDULES:

DURING THE WEEK OF ROSH HASHANAH:

  • There will be no Monday deliveries (except for those whom we will personally inform)
  • Wednesday deliveries will take place on Thursday, September 29

DURING THE WEEK OF YOM KIPPUR:

  • Monday deliveries as usual
  • Wednesday deliveries will take place on Thursday, October 6

DURING THE WEEK OF CHOL HAMOED SUKKOT, we will not be packing boxes or delivering. 

Over Chol Ha’Moed, we invite you to an Open Day in our Field – a celebration of joyful agriculture. Stay posted for further details. 

DURING THE WEEK OF SIMCHAT TORAH:

  • Monday deliveries move to Tuesday, October 18
  • Wednesday deliveries as usual

FROM THE WEEK FOLLOWING SUKKOT AND SIMCHAT TORAH, ROUTINE DELIVERY RETURNS! Those who wish to increase the size and/or contents of your pre-holiday box, please inform us as soon as possible.

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When I was alone, I lived on eggplant, the stove top cook’s strongest ally. I fried it and stewed it, and ate it crisp and sludgy, hot and cold. It was cheap and filling and was delicious in all manner of strange combinations. If any was left over, I ate it cold the next day on bread.

Laurie Colwin

Our eggplants are just now making their debut at Chubeza. They’ll be hanging around till autumn, as the sweltering outdoor temperatures remind them of their birthplace: Southern India and Sri Lanka. The eggplant first migrated from India to Burma and then China. In ancient Chinese writings, eggplants are mentioned as early as the fifth century. From there, they migrated to the Middle East, where they became prominent ingredients in the local cuisine. The Muslim Moors of North Africa who conquered Spain in the eighth century brought eggplants with them, and the Italians made their acquaintance with the exotic vegetable via commercial ties with Arab merchants in the 13th century.

The eggplant, so adored in Israeli cuisine, is one of the vegetables grown in hothouses during the cold season in order to maintain a constant supply to its Israeli aficionados. At Chubeza, we bid it farewell in winter and delightfully welcome it back with the great heat of summer. We plant eggplants in our field when winter is turning to spring, at the beginning of April, when the zucchinis and pumpkins have already been in the field for a couple of months. This is when the first eggplant seedlings acclimate in the ground, youthful and sleek with silky leaves.

The plants grow calmly, strong and healthy, and grace us with lovely purple flowers that start peeking out of the leaves around two months after being planted. (A personal thanks – again – to Chana from Jerusalem for the very beautiful photos in this newsletter.)

Within a few weeks, the flowers are fertilized and they grow round dark fruits. That is when we harvest. To determine if the eggplant is ready, we measure it, but also apply slight pressure to check its softness. An unripe fruit will be hard and unresponsive to fingertip pressure. A ripe fruit is more flexible, but not soft. We prefer to pick them at a medium size and not wait for huge fruits that have passed their climax.

The eggplant is an androgynous plant, meaning every flower is both female and male. The flowers usually ripen themselves, but sometimes they get by with a little help from friendly fly-by insect:

And that reminds me, I’m duty-bound to refute the Number One Urban Legend: there is no such thing as a male (fewer seeds, less bitter) and female (more seeds, more bitter) eggplant. The difference in seed quantity has to do with spraying using vegetal hormones (Auxin) in order to prevent the leaves and flowers from falling, particularly during the cold months. (Naturally, in organic agriculture and in Chubeza’s fields we do not use those methods…)

Eggplants arrived in Israel long before the Hebrew pioneers, for, as noted, this vegetable was – and still is – an important component in the Arabic cuisine. Archeological excavations in the Givati Parking Lot uncovered eggplant seeds over 1,000 years old!  A popular eggplant recipe from that era appears in the earliest Arabic cookbook Kitab al-Tabikh (The Book of Recipes) written in ninth-century Baghdad, is the buraniyyah, “the eggplant of Buran,” named after the wife of Calif Al-Ma’mun – apparently quite a talented chef in herself: “Choose small eggplants, pierce them with a knife, remove their tops and place in salted water. In a small pot, mix olive and sesame oils and fry the eggplants until cooked. Sprinkle some mori [a fermented wheat-based sauce, which probably tasted like soy sauce], black pepper and caraway seeds. Top with chopped figam leaves, and praise the Lord.”

But the love affair between eggplants and the Israeli cuisine was more complex. During the era of austerity after the State of Israel was established, eggplant recipes were invented and designed to take full advantage of this vegetable’s three most admirable characteristics: availability, low price and an amazing ability to absorb flavors. In Israel’s early days, the eggplant was used as a convenient replacement for the real thing. If liver is expensive, why don’t we just liver-flavor the eggplant (remember mocked chopped-liver?!). Are tomatoes scarce and expensive? One tomato, ten eggplants, and voila: a tomato-flavored eggplant! There is even a dessert dish: sugar-coated eggplant, baked like a strudel and occasionally served in Israeli restaurants. And alongside these wonder foods, the eggplant always starred in Mideast cuisine as a component in various salads, or sliced and fried to one day become, in Israeli culinary jargon… antipasti!

There will always be those who claim the eggplant as king of the local vegetables, but in any case, it is definitely a guest of honor in the emerging Israeli kitchen and one of the most deeply-rooted homegrown representatives of this area.

The first important test for basic essentials in the local kitchen is the Long-Term Adaptability Test, i.e., will this food appear over the years in simple and popular recipes alongside the “gourmet” recipes of prosperous times? The eggplant passes this test with flying colors: from various eggplant salads in nearly every meat meal, to eggplant-mocking chopped liver during austerity, from popular fast-food—the sabich–to high-falutin’ roasted eggplant with tahini goose liver, eggplant with tuna tartar, goat cheese-wrapped eggplant, eggplant cream, eggplant jam, and more.

There are many types of eggplants in the world, in various shapes and colors. In Israel we are acquainted with the big dark purple elliptic variety, and over the past years, the striped zebra type as well. But eggplants also come in green and yellow, in elongated or round forms and in various sizes. The name “eggplant” belies the fact that the fruits of some 18th-century European cultivars were yellow or white and resembled goose or hen’s eggs. (The hen is for illustrative purposes only. Trust us, those are eggplants):

To please the eye and paint the summer green (purple and black), take a look at this array of eggplant shapes and colors:

Medicinal and nutritional benefits: the eggplant contains elements which shrink blood vessels, and is therefore beneficial for treating hemorrhoids and bleeding wounds. Eggplants promote secretion of liver and gall bile and are advantageous for anemia, constipation, stomach ulcers and infections of the large intestine. The eggplant contains antioxidants that can help prevent strokes and bleeding, and the phytochemical monoterpene which promotes the prevention of heart disease and cancer. Researchers have been examining the eggplant’s possible influences on battling cancer by reducing the steroid hormones which encourage the development of tumors, and preventing the oxidization of cells that lead to cancer’s spread. A folk cure for scorpion bites is a slice of raw eggplant applied directly to the sting, and to relieve frostbite, eggplant tea is chilled to room temperature and its compresses are placed over the burn.

But the best use of the eggplant is for food: eat it steamed, toasted, baked (if fried, use only a little oil, because its sponge-like texture absorbs large quantities of oil), grilled, chopped and diced, stuffed, sliced or cut into cubes. Your dependable peacemaker, it goes nicely with cheeses or meat, tahini or tomatoes, but also does very well on its own with some coarse salt, lemon juice and parsley.  Bon Appétit!

Throwback Wednesday: if you were around in the eighties, you’ll enjoy this Zehu Ze about eggplants and other worldly issues. Enjoy!

Wishing you a great week,

Alon, Bat-Ami, Dror and the Chubeza team

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

This week we picked and pruned the chard and basil beds, whose green leaves are by now a bit weak and dishevelled. Since we prefer to let these crops regenerate and regain their vitality, we’re sending you a free gift (in addition to the veggies in the box) of a bunch of this less-than-perfect-condition chard or basil. Instead of disposing of them, we salute their dogged efforts to grow, despite it all. Give these brave guys a smile. And the upcoming round looks very promising indeed…

Monday: Red bell peppers/zucchini/cherry tomatoes, onions, parsley/coriander, popcorn, eggplant, garlic/chili peppers, slice of pumpkin, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce/”baby” greens assortment. FREE GIFT: Basil/chard.

Large box, in addition: Green soy (edamame)/okra, butternut squash/ corn, long Thai lubia beans.

FRUIT BOXES:  Apples, mangos, peaches/nectarines, pears.

Wednesday: Red bell peppers, onions, parsley/coriander, popcorn, eggplant, garlic/chili peppers, slice of pumpkin, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce/”baby” greens assortment. FREE GIFT: Basil/chard.

Large box, in addition: Green soy (edamame)/okra/zucchini, butternut squash, long Thai lubia beans.

FRUIT BOXES:  Apples, mangos, peaches/nectarines/plums, pomegranates.