Aley Chubeza #76 – July 18th-20th 2011

Although last week we told you about the excellent techina (sesame butter) made by “Kasumsum,”   their flyers weren’t ready till this week. So once again, let us welcome this latest enterprise to the roster of products available from Chubeza associates to be added to your boxes. This techina is ground by hand, just like in the old days. Like our other products, it is 100% natural. No oil, no heating, no additives, no bells or whistles.  The techina is made only from the beneficial organic sesame seeds themselves.

In Amit Cohen’s words, “From age 15, I have been grinding tehina at home with a hand blender. I was always curious as to how tehina was once ground, and started researching the topic in 2005. In 2008, I began making tehina using a millstone in cold press. The process of preparing tehina dates back to our forefathers. I do it today as they once did, simply.”

For more information see the Kasumsum flyer in your boxes this week and next. Prices: 25 shekels for half a kilo, 40 shekels per kilo. You can order via the order form, email or phone.
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Big Doings in the Pumpkin Patch

Chubeza’s pumpkin patch is bursting with a full array of orange, sweet, delectable produce. Our warehouse abounds with colors, shapes and joy. When we talk about pumpkins, we mean that slice of pumpkin you receive in your boxes, but also the smaller gourds: the yellow spaghetti squash which resembles a zeppelin, the small green acorn squash, the  Japanese kuri squash (replacing the kabocha from previous years) and of course, the familiar butternut squash. Following are photos of each variety and some excellent recipes, but first I would like to explain several things:

Pumpkins, hard squash (also known as winter squash) and summer squash, among them the zucchini, belong to the same botanical category, even the same species. There’s actually an artificial differentiation between squash and pumpkins, having to do with the stage they are picked and how they are used. All varieties are seeded (in an open field, in their natural season) from the end of winter / the beginning of springtime, and they all grow from spring to summer. However, we pick the “summer squash” early, before they ripen, when their shell is thin and their seeds are not developed, sometimes as early as 40 days from seeding. Since we pick the fruits off the plant before it had time to produce fertilized seeds, the plant makes additional attempts, yielding more and more seed-bearing fruit in order to fulfill its aim in plant-life (and animal-life): to spread it’s genes. And when the gourd fly takes his time, like this year, we are granted a long harvest season from a plant that just keeps on yielding. These squash do not keep for long, which is why in the past they were only eaten during their natural season, summertime, hence their name. These days, squash are also grown in wintertime in hothouses, so they aren’t really seasonal. Pumpkins and winter squashes, however, are picked as they ripen and mature, when their shell is thick and hard and their seeds are quite large. Since we wait till they complete ripening, they are harvested 3-5 months from seeding day. Our Tripolitanian pumpkin is large, and often requires a wait of six months. The pumpkins and hard squashes that were seeded in the middle of springtime are only harvested at the end of summer. Their hard shell allows them to keep nicely, sometimes up to six months, depending on the specie. This is why they are also eaten in wintertime, an advantage particularly significant for their ancestral home of North America in areas where it is too cold to grow food during wintertime. Within this group, the pumpkin received its own special category, maybe on account of Cinderella.

In the early days of Chubeza, we used to seed our pumpkins at the end of wintertime towards springtime, and the squash in June (which I’d learned from my pumpkin-raising experience in California). This timing is right for the Americans who need their ripe pumpkins in time for October autumn pumpkin fairs. But year after year, Israeli reality would produce a variety of viruses that attacked the gourds and celebrated wildly through the summer. As our crops dwindled and our dismay deepened, we grew fewer and fewer types of squash every year. From seven in the first year, we grew four in the second year, and fewer as time went on. Only after several of these failed attempts, we figured it out: our timing was altogether wrong. Instead of waiting and seeding these squash late, subjecting them to a life of suffering and battling viruses, we decided to seed them earlier, like their sibling the great pumpkin. The decision turned out to be the right one, and finally we are blessed with a fine yield.

This week I’ll tell you a little about the nice variety of squash in our field, to be continued next week:

You’ve already met the small acorn squash, originating in Mexico and the U.S. where the Native Americans cultivated earlier species. The dark green type which we grow, that the Americans insist is heart shaped (I think it’s more pinecone- shaped) was introduced in 1913 by the Iowa Seed Company, where it arrived from Denmark or North Dakota (there is a controversy about this). It was received enthusiastically, thanks to its excellent taste and also because of its small size and thin shell, a source of relief for those battling the huge, hard pumpkins. In the U.S., especially for those dining alone, it was a good serving-for-one as well as a great stuffed vegetable.

The Israeli acorn squash varieties are smaller and rounder than their American cousins. The type we grew this year is nice, but innocuous. We’ve grown other acorn squash whose flesh was sweeter and a brighter orange. Next year we’ll attempt to find a better variety. The acorn contains more vitamin C and calcium than other squash, and less vitamin A. If you treat it kindly, it will keep for a few months, but its flavor will ebb.

The other squash you’ve already met in your boxes is the orange squash, resembling a plump raindrop. This is the Japanese squash called “kuri,” Japanese for chestnuts. In France it’s called Potimarron, and the Brits call it onion squash. It is the sister of the kabocha that we grew over the past years, belonging to the buttercup group developed in North Dakota at the end of the 1920′s  for the northern housewife to substitute for sweet potatoes (in pre-global village life). After a few years of cultivation of this specie, Home Ec departments ran a battery of cooking tests, and a prominent panel of judges graded the texture, taste, color, sweetness, etc. Chemistry departments calculated its content of dry material, compared to popular species. Our friend the kuri won with flying colors. Kuri squash and the entire buttercup family are well loved in Japan. Two decades ago, a California seed company seeded the kabocha in order to supply Japan with constant supply. With their limited amount of agricultural land and a refined palate, the Japanese purchased the entire harvest. In the past years we grew round, flattened types of the kabocha in green and orange. This year we took our time ordering the seeds, and in the process we discovered the kuri squash which we decided to try. We’re delighted with our discovery of this great squash. Its flesh is drier, sweeter and very rich, reminiscent of a cross between a pumpkin and sweet potato. It contains more protein than other winter squash and is rich in vitamins A and C. It can patiently wait in the pantry for two to three months.

Another participant in this colorful parade is the more familiar butternut. Possibly it originates from Columbia (where there is a huge assortment of butternuts) and is fond of hot, humid tropical weather. More than her sisters, the butternut really can’t take cold weather, which is why it is the most popular of Israeli squash varieties. The first species of this type were chubby-looking (with seed-filled bellies) with a long, sometimes curved neck. Over the years other types were developed, some with chubby and shorter necks to provide a uniform vegetable that the market demanded. They can also be picked at an earlier stage and they’re very tasty when young (some say even more than regular squash). They’re fun to grow in a home garden, where you can pick some to be used as summer squash and allowing others to ripen till they become the genuine butternut. This year our butternuts are especially abundant, and we hope to enjoy them with you for a good while.

The smooth peeling of the butternut makes it easy to peel even with a regular vegetable peeler. It is sweet and its flesh becomes soft after cooking, although there are those who claim that baking makes it better. It is very rich in vitamin A and under good conditions can be kept for six months (but how could you resist?).

Within the group of squash to which the butternut belongs (cucurbit moschata) there is an interesting group of “cheese squashes,” coined for their cream color and their round, flattened wheel-of-cheese-like shape. We’ve been growing a special pumpkin for some years from this group, called Musquee de Provence, “the scent of Provence.” Although it originated in France, it thrives in Israel as well. It is medium-sized, meaning that your boxes will usually contain a piece of this pumpkin, like the “regular” Tripolitanian pumpkin. It tastes more like a butternut than a pumpkin.

Next week’s continuing segment will be devoted to two additional stars, the spaghetti squash and the Tripolitanian pumpkin. In the meantime, I am sharing recipes for our nice squash parade. As a special seasoning treat, we’ve included some fresh, aromatic and delicious sprigs of thyme, which, like za’atar or oregano, go sublimely well with squash and pumpkin dishes.

Have a great orange, summery and happy week,

Alon, Bat Ami and the Chubeza team

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What’s in our Festive Summer Boxes?

Monday: okra or Thai beans, corn, pumpkin, thyme or lemon verbena, potatoes, kuri squash, tomatoes, cucumbers or fakus, melon, scallions, lettuce

In the large box, in addition: zucchini, parsley, beets

Note: young beet leaves are green and delicious, and in summer’s scant supply of greens, they’re a particular asset. Use them like Swiss chard

Wednesday: lettuce, okra or Yard long beans,  parsley, corn, potatoes, kuri squash, tomatoes, cucumbers or fakus, scallions, eggplant or zucchini, dry onions – our first harvest!

In the large box, in addition: Provence pumpkin, lemon verbena, melon

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, sprouts, goat dairies, fruits, honey, crackers, probiotic foods and sesame butter too! 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 soon.

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SUMMER SQUASH RECIPE DELIGHTS

Red Kuri Squash Gratin

Baked Kuri Squash and Apple Maple Pudding (vegan!)

Red Kuri Squash

Three delicious  chestnut squash recipes by Limor Laniado Tiroche:

Roasted chestnut squash with Parmesan and purslane leaves

Spelt grain and chestnut squash salad

Chestnut squash spread with techina

Acorn squash flowers and Acorn Squash Stuffed with Chestnuts and Mushrooms (scroll down)

Eight things to do with a butternut squash

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