Aley Chubeza #27, July 12-14 2010

A small request:

 

Summer is a time of frequent comings and goings, and the many messages we receive from you requesting delivery changes require us to reorganize and rearrange our harvest days accordingly. We would be very grateful if you could prepare us ahead of time (the morning before delivery at the latest). Messages that arrive late make it quite difficult for us to work.

Also- I confirm every message I get, so if you did not receive confirmation from me, try again! It is most probable that I did not receive your message.

Thank you for your cooperation!

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And now to our bi-weekly reminder: those who wish to order sprouted spelt bread from Yiftah (next week), please let me know by this Friday. You can find English-language details about Yiftah’s bread here.

New from Yiftah’s oven: organic sprouted spelt bread with whole organic rye grains, sprouted as well.

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The Three Weeks

The three weeks between the 17th of Tammuz (the day the Jerusalem walls were breached) to the ninth of Av (the day the Temple was destroyed) are known as days of calamity, days ruled by the forces of destruction. We certainly feel this in our field. This is a very challenging and difficult time for our Cucurbits family, specifically the younger, softer members, the cucumbers, fakus and squash. You may have noticed this already–after bountiful weeks of receiving these vegetables, they are becoming more and more scarce of late….

Every year during this time we see more and more of what appear to be “sting bites” on the fruit, rendering it inedible. It took us a couple of years to figure out the identity of the culprits. We suspected the Middle Eastern fruit fly or maybe the tiny drosophila. This year the mystery was solved, but then the challenge grew: the pest is apparently the Dacus ciliatus ( “lesser pumpkin fly”) which attacks the cucurbit family. However interesting and important it was to detect the pest, it was more unfortunate to discover that there is no real method of control.

Like its friends from the fruit fly group, this fly starts out as a tiny egg. The fly lays her tiny white eggs with precision in groups of 3-9 eggs under the protective shield of the fruit peel, using her amazing ability to puncture the fruit and then telescopically extend deep inside to insure accurate delivery of the eggs. (Thus what look like “bites” on the fruit are actually puncture wounds.) After two days, the larvae emerge and start eating the fruit, burrowing inside it. They eat away for 5-6 days, then leave the fruit and pupate in the soil below. The pupae remain in the soil for 18 days, after which the mature flies hatch and start the reproduction cycle once again.

A mature fly is a pretty thing. It’s about .5 cm big, its wings are transparent and graceful. It looks a lot like its relatives, the Middle Eastern fruit fly and the olive fly. Here’s a glimpse of the mature Dacus ciliatus:


This fly is very common in Asia and Africa, and arrived in Israel apparently from Egypt some 15 years ago. In 1986, it was first sited in Kibbutz Neot Smadar in the Arava. The fly spreads by the flight of mature flies (who can fly a distance of approximately 50-100 km) and by contaminated fruits that move from place to place. As you see, it decided to visit, and later to also move into the Ayalon Valley.

Summer is its favorite season. The temperatures are right, and its fruits-of-choice to lay eggs are plentiful. In the beginning of the season we see less hatching, but as the heat intensifies and the cucurbit family starts settling into the field, we find maggots on almost every fruit. They usually love the melons, and in our field they have a special weakness for the sweet fakus (which are actually melons, botanically speaking). These last weeks we’ve found puncture wounds in 90% of the fakus beds, with almost no fruit left untouched. This pest is particularly fond of zucchini, and cucumbers to a lesser extent. Fortunately, our melons, pumpkins and watermelons fared much better.

After we identified our predator (only this year, with the help of volunteer Melissa from Gezer, who also helped a lot with this newsletter – thanks!), we had to determine how to fight it. The solutions were rather disappointing. Organic agriculture (much like conventional agriculture) has no real antidote. Some of the flies can be caught in traps, but during peak season they’re hardly controllable. The most efficient way to deal with the infestation is to remove damaged fruit from the field, and avoid growing this family during peak season, i.e., now. This is why we collect all of our vegetables, the contaminated ones as well, and close the bad ones in plastic bags. During this season we cease growing zucchini, cucumbers and fakus.

In the Arava, these are the main methods as well. During this season farmers are forbidden to grow cucurbits even in their home gardens. Much research has been carried out over the past years in search of a solution, and we join in the hope to find an efficient, safe resolution. Until then, we must deal with this pretty little fly by refraining from growing cucumbers, fakus and zucchini.

Over the next few weeks, you’ll still have some of our cucumbers in your boxes, but afterwards we will supplement them with produce from other organic growers. The month of July is always a month of the cucumber scarcity, in our field and the whole organic market, so there may be some weeks that are low on cucumbers.

Over the past few days, I have developed a theory (that may very well be affected by the fact that I am eight months pregnant in the hot Israeli summer) that the days of distress, the three weeks of y’mai bein ha-meitzarim, purposely occurred during this season, with their fights, anger and consequent destruction: imagine the months of July and August during Second Temple era without a fan or AC…

Hoping these days pass us quietly, unassumingly. Wishing for ahavat chinam– unconditional love, and peace, despite the climbing mercury…

Don’t forget to drink!

Alon, Bat Ami and the Chubeza team

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This week’s summer basket includes:

Monday: cucumbers & fakus, Yard-long beans or cowpea, cherry tomatoes, melon, Provence pumpkin, tomatoes, cilantro or dill, leek, lettuce, eggplants, mint.

In the large box, in addition: zucchinis, green onions, watermelon

Wednesday: corn, dill or parsley, tomatoes, eggplants, leek, Provence pumpkin, lettuce, Yard-long beans or cowpea or okra, melon, mint/basil, cherry tomatoes

In the large box, in addition: a second cherry tomatoes package, Swiss chard, cucumbers
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Summer Recipes

We cannot forget the goodness of the zucchini. For those who may still have a few pieces still around the house, here’s a delicious soup recipe which can be served cold, compliments of Tal from Beit Hashmonai:

Pumpkin Zucchini Soup

Ingredients:
1 onion
5-6 sliced zucchini
kabocha pumpkin, peeled and sliced
Head of garlic cloves, crushed
Salt, pepper
1 container cream (shamenet) for cooking
1 T. olive oil
Preparation:
-Brown onion, zucchini, pumpkin and garlic in olive oil.
-Cover with water and cook till vegetables are soft.
-Add cream (shamenet) and bring to a boil.
-Season with salt and pepper.
-Puree soup in blender.

Rosie from Jerusalem sent me two suggestions for preparing the veggies of this season’s boxes:
Spaghetti squash and chard gratin

Sesame zucchini soup

And here’s several ideas for cooking up the eggplants that have begun to visit:

Broiled Summer Eggplant

Baby Eggplant, Summer Tomato and Basil Casserole

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