Aley Chubeza #72 June 20th-22nd 2011

We’re now taking orders for Yiftah’s bi-weekly baking. Please send your orders by Friday. Yiftah finishes preparing and baking the loaves next Wednesday, and they will be delivered in the boxes of June 29th and July 4th. This will be the last baking for some time – Yiftah is taking a maternity leave, and will not bake during summer. You can order Yiftah’s hand-baked, sprouted breads via our order form or via email/telephone.

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More Tomatoes, I Say!

Our tomatoes are ripening like crazy. Those who would like a large quantity of tomatoes for cooking, sauces or juice can buy 10 kg of canning tomatoes for 25 NIS. This special order will be delivered along with your veggies.

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Roll Out Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer!

Summer has burst upon us, withering the potato plants that stood green and erect only a few weeks ago, signaling that we’d best pull up the last of them. The corn stalks are valiantly standing upright, flying, fighting to fertilize and produce oh-so-sweet cobs. The cucumbers and fakus are rapidly ripening; the tomatoes are blushing. On the other hand, the viruses are quickly spreading to our zucchini, warping the shape of the elder portion of the crop. (Not to worry: these are plant viruses, not human!)

The loquat tree near our packinghouse yielded fruit a while ago, leaving those fruits remaining on the tree to dry and get carved upon the branches. The grapes covering the shed by the office are already clustered, heavy and bountiful, winking at us from above as we wait for them to become plump and soft.

The Chubeza team gets very hot by the middle of the day. Our water containers empty quickly, and we remind each other to drink. We all work with covered arms to protect us from the relentless sun, and last week was the first time we turned on the blower in the packinghouse to suck out the hot air and slightly cool off the facility. It’s still not terribly hot, and we’re appreciative of the mild, temperate summer we’ve had till now. But yet, the body that still recalls the pleasure of the cool winter and spring must now get used to the burden of summer. This is why it’s harder for us now than during the peak of the season when the body is already used to the heat.

This season is full of beginnings, reflected in the changing composition of your boxes. After remaining fairly constant from week to week with only minor changes, it’s time to greet the happy newcomers who arrived last week. Let’s hear your applause for: the corn! the acorn squash! the eggplant! the melon! In close proximity, our tomatoes and cherry tomatoes are ripening nicely, along with the okra, watermelon. And coming very soon: more pumpkins, Yard long beans, lubia and other happy vegetables.

The melons are ripening rapidly, juicy and sweet with a heavenly scent, and they have already graced your boxes. On harvest days our packinghouse is filled with the fragrance of melons. We have two types this year, the round Galia, green on the inside, and the elliptical pineapple melon, with a light orange-tinted peel.

The first watermelons have ripened as well. How do we know? We watch the blackbirds. These intelligent birds are the first to identify good, sweet watermelons. They never touch one that’s not ripe, but they adore plunging their beaks into the sweet ones. For this reason we’ve rushed to cover the watermelon bed with netting to keep out the birds and cancel the big watermelon bash they were planning. Coming soon to your boxes! (the watermelons, not the birds…)

The eggplants, too, are ripening slowly, as is their wont. This year we planted our first eggplant bed earlier than usual. We wanted to see if they could cope (with a little help from a light cover) with the late winter cold, which hasn’t existed over the past few years of ever-warming winters and ever-scorching summers. However, this winter actually did eventually come, sending cool rain even at the end of May, so the eggplants had a tough challenge. And yet, just when the time was ripe, so to speak, they began blooming and yielding fruits. We thought we saw them bending under the weight of the fruit, which was slowly growing heavy, so we began the eggplant harvest with relatively small fruits. Since then, the weather has become warm and summery, and the eggplants have shown their appreciation by becoming plump and soft. What a pleasure to harvest summer eggplants, which absorbed the sunny warmth into their soft skin and show their thanks with their shiny black-purple mane. We welcome Mr. Eggplant, and his delicious summer savor.

As mentioned, our tomatoes have begun ripening quickly. Last week we had no need to supplement our crop by buying tomatoes or cucumbers from other organic farmers. What a great feeling! Just like our cucumbers from the open field, our tomatoes, too, look different than hothouse tomatoes: they’re less uniform and round, they come in varying shapes and sizes, but their taste is simply delectable. We pick them red and ripe so they reach maximum sweetness, which is why they are sometimes softer than hothouse tomatoes. Don’t let anything bother you–Just dig in!

We also have a pest in the field that is leaving its teeth marks on the tomatoes. This is the Tuta Absoluta moth, currently attacking the country. Conceivably, it is liable to cause great damage to the tomatoes, and it has been biting away at ours. But so far it hasn’t managed to destroy the fruit, only leave unsightly signs of evidence that it’s been around. An onsite visit with Moshe, our agricultural instructor, clarified matters: the Tuta infestation brought about an influx of (good) green bugs which eat the Tuta and join forces with us in battling against it. Don’t be alarmed if you meet a tomato with small bites on the outside. This means the pest failed to penetrate the fruit, and the tomatoes are still sweet, juicy and delicious.

Aside from the big tomatoes, the cherry tomatoes are also gradually ripening. We have two different varieties this year: round ones, as well as oval-shaped. We hope both will soon appear in your boxes.

This year we planted six varieties of winter squash and pumpkins, now ripening according to their sizes, with the small acorn squash coming in first. Following them are the bright orange Kara pumpkins, the butternut squash, the spaghetti squash and the Provence pumpkin. Our big Tripolitania pumpkins still need some time, so we’re giving them all the time they need (till midnight, of course, when they turn into royal coaches…) Some of you have already received acorn squash, and they will be gracing your boxes this week as well.

These beginnings also are bringing certain endings for us. This is Suwet’s last week at Chubeza. He came to us from Thailand over six years ago, hesitant and shy, but always smiling. He later became a most dedicated worker, then a foreman, and he’s still smiling. It is hard to find words to say goodbye to someone who is such an inseparable part of the field and staff: he steadfastly, responsibly and gently handles matters, always willing to teach and be taught, to ask questions and receive answers. One of his nicest traits is how he just loves the field and the crops, celebrating each new ripening vegetable, getting upset when one of them goes wrong, and being blessed with a true green thumb. Even after very long days in the field, he always has the energy to plant vegetables and Thai greens near his house, to plant papaya (!) trees that are actually standing and yielding amazing fruit.

When I’m working in the office, Suwet will always find a ripe cluster of grapes and pick them for me, or he’ll bring along some loquats, reminding me to take a break and not take the computer so seriously… And of course, any child or baby who ever visits Chubeza gets his undivided attention: he plays with them and makes funny noises, which my Talya will happily attest to.

Next week he returns to his own baby (16 years old) and his wife, who can’t wait to see him. The entire Chubeza team extends Suwet huge thanks for his time, his energy, his talents, his efforts and for being such a great worker and good friend. We will sorely miss him, and we wish him much luck!

A very good week from us all,

Alon, Bat Ami and the Chubeza team

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What’s in This Week’s Summer Boxes?

Monday: leeks, corn, parsley, eggplant, potatoes, scallions, tomatoes, cucumbers or fakus, green beans, zucchini, beets

In the large box, in addition: melon, Swiss chard, acorn squash

Wednesday: beet, zucchini, cucumbers or fakus, basil, tomatoes, acorn squash, parsley or dill, green beans or okra, leek. Corn. Potatoes, melon or watermelon

In the large box, in addition: Swiss chard, green onions, eggplants

And there’s more! You can add to your basket a wide, delectable range of additional products from fine small producers of these organic products: granola and cookies, flour, sprouted bread, sprouts, goat cheeses, fruits, honey, crackers. You can learn more about each producer on the Chubeza website. The attached order form includes a detailed listing of the products and their cost. Fill it out, and send it back to us to begin your delivery soon.

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Summer Recipes

Hot/Cold Zucchini Soup – from Melissa’s sister

8-10 zucchinis (or other summer squash)
olive oil
generous amount of fresh garlic cloves
bunch of basil (stems removed)
salt and pepper to taste

Slice zucchinis, peel garlic cloves, saute in olive oil on high flame. Lower flame, add basil leaves, simmer for at least 2 hours till soft. Cool and blend to desired uniform consistancy. Serve hot or cold with optional dollop of sour cream or yogurt or sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese. Garnish with green onions or chives.

Japanese Style Grilled Eggplant

Pickled Eggplant under Oil

Spicy Green Beans and Tofu “Stir Fry”

Green Beans with Almonds and Thyme

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