Aley Chubeza #220, October 27th-29th 2014

The Month of October has ended and we’ve updated the payment this for the month’s purchases. You may view your billing history in our Internet-based order system. It’s easy. Simply click the tab “דוח הזמנות ותשלומים” where the history of your payments and purchases is clearly displayed. Please make sure the bill is correct, or let us know of any necessary revisions. At the bottom of the bill, the words סה”כ לתשלום: 0 (total due: 0) should appear. If there is any number other than zero, this means we were unable to bill your card and would appreciate your contacting us. We always have our hands full, and we depend on you to inform us. Our thanks!

Reminder: The billing is two-part: one bill for vegetables and fruits you purchased over the past month (the produce that does not include VAT. The title of that bill is “תוצרת אורגנית”, organic produce). The second part is the bill for delivery and other purchases. (This bill does include VAT. The title of the bill is “delivery and other products.”)

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A message from Pu’ah and Oded of Meshek 42: Since our flock is nearing whelping season, some of the nanny goats are already on maternity leave. Consequently, milk production is dwindling, and over the next few weeks we will not be able to take orders for drinking milk. However, the rest of our delicious dairy line is available. Soon we hope to offer even more products.

With fervent wishes to all of our gals for successful births, and a rainy, bountiful winter for all!

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Along with Assaf and Arik, the expert flour grinders of Minhat Ha’aretz, we’ve been waiting from the middle of last winter for the harvest of organic spelt seeds from Europe. (Israel’s winter temperatures are not low enough to raise spelt.) Well, the harvest ended several months ago, but to everyone’s great disappointment there is a huge shortage of organic spelt seeds and consequently the prices are outrageous. After great deliberation, we have decided to try offering non-organic spelt flour from Minhat Ha’aretz. The price is 17 NIS per kg, and by the beginning of next week it will be available for purchase and delivery via our order system.

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Orange is the New Green

Over the past few weeks we have been digging up delectable long, orange sweet potatoes. They are joyfully welcomed by the pumpkins who were harvested over the summer, and the long carrots we plucked out last week (some slightly spindly and crooked. But in a cute kind of way…) And, lest we forget, the lovely oranges and tangerines ripening away on the trees add their tangy tints to this lovely orange array. Indeed, autumn is here. Nights are cool, and by all means, it is high time to start cooking up that orange soup. In Hebrew, orange is katom from the word ketem meaning “gold,” after the deep golden hue created when red meets yellow. I think orange is definitely worthy of this royal connotation, especially when linked to the weather cooling off.  The warmth this color radiates is perfect to represent this enchanting season.

This week we dedicate our newsletter to the lovable, demure sweet potato. Contrary to most roots, this autumn beauty grows in summertime, not winter, loves heat and hates cold weather (see below). Though the Chubeza sweet potato crop is being harvested just about now, it commenced its journey four to five months ago on the day that Oded of Moshav Yesha came to deliver bundles of green twigs–sticks really, most of them bereft of leaves–bundled together with a rope. We took these twigs (cuttings) and inserted them in the damp mounds of earth we’d prepared. Then we took one step back. Once again, as every year, we are astonished anew by the strange view of dozens of sticks standing in the brown mounds of earth. Sometimes agriculture can seem so weird…

After a few days, the sticks started blooming. Green leaves sprouted from them, and they looked like they were rising from the dead. After a few weeks, a green stripe of plants spread across the bed, and after two months, the whole area was one crowded, tangled carpet of branches, leaves, and lilac-type flowers. Over 4-5 months, underneath this green entanglement, grew chubby orange roots, so sweet and satisfying. Sweet potatoes! Five years ago I prepared a newsletter featuring photos of the sweet potato’s journey from a naked stick to that very delicious root hidden under the crowded carpet. This is it.

The origin of the sweet potato is in tropical Central America. The most ancient evidence of sweet potatoes was found in Peru, from where they mysteriously traveled to the rest of Central and South America, all the way to Polynesia. Some say sweet potato seeds were carried from America to Polynesia by birds or by sunken boats that drifted away. Another assumption is that the sweet potato seeds floated along ocean currents from South America to Polynesia, as they can sprout after having been immersed in sea water. Columbus found sweet potatoes in Cuba, brought them with him to Europe, and from there they travelled along with the European conquerors to Africa, India and Asia.

The sweet potato is a member of the renowned Convolvulaceae family, related to the wild field bindweed, the Cuscuta (dodder) and sister to the lovely morning glory found in nature and in your garden. Formally known as Ipomoea batatas, it is one of the only members of this large family that is edible, and definitely the only one to be industrially grown for food, a truly unique phenomenon. Like other members of her family, she tends to send out tendrils and twigs far and wide. If allowed, she will climb all over the nearest fence, covering it with a layer of heart-shaped green leaves and beautiful light-purple flowers that open in the morning and close in the afternoon sun.

Years of careful selection of sweet potatoes by farmers and nature have made today’s sweet potato very strong and resistant (or at least tolerant) to diseases and pests. Sometimes the plants can be carriers of various pathogens that are not actively expressed and do not prevent the plant from growing or developing. Basically, the sweet potato hardly suffers from any problems, and usually grows nicely over a few months time. After four months we begin digging them out. First we fumble around, digging in one of the far corners to see what’s hiding down there. Are there any orange tubers? How many? How large are they? Do they seem healthy? Then, if they’re nice and ready, we gradually start digging them out.

When the time has come to harvest, there is no urgency to remove the sweet potatoes from the earth right away and store them. They are well-protected in the earth, even during cold winters, due to the warmer temperature underground. If you remove the sweet potatoes from the earth, they should be brought indoors so they’re not too cold. When the outside temperature falls below 13 degrees, the storage refrigerator should be at a temperature of 13-15 degrees so the sweet potatoes do not catch cold.

This is also the reason that they should not be stored in your home refrigerator. The sweet potato that grows primarily in summertime dislikes cold weather, and refrigeration impairs its taste. Store them in a cool, ventilated place, not in a bag or a sealed container, in order to prevent the accumulation of excess moisture. They need not be hidden from light like potatoes, because (like radishes and beets) they are roots that contain no chlorophyll, therefore will not turn green. This is in contrast to the potato, which is a dense stem, and consequently turns green when exposed to light. High temperatures will make the sweet potato sprout or ferment, thus warmth should be avoided (unless you wish to make liquor).

We keep our sweet potatoes in the packing house for only a short time before sending them to you. Sweet potatoes that are mass-produced for industry and kept till the end of wintertime undergo a process called “curing.” They are pulled from the earth and warmed up in a room that is temperature and moisture-controlled. This process thickens their peelings and they grow scab-like skin to cover areas bruised during the digging-out process. These potatoes can be stored for longer periods of time.

So what can you do with your fresh, delicious sweet potatoes? No need to work hard at peeling them. Many of the vitamins and dietary fibers are in the peeling, so don’t pare them—just scrub well. The sweet potato should be cooked immediately after being cut in your kitchen, as its skin will bleach and then oxidize once it comes into contact with the air. If you must wait, keep them in a bowl of water to prevent browning.

The luscious, soothing taste of sweet potatoes is an especially great blessing in the cold evenings of autumn, when your sweet tooth craves attention. You can eat sweet potatoes without feeling an iota of guilt, as they are bursting with benefits for your health. The orange color assures high levels of beta carotene, which becomes vitamin A when consumed. Beta carotene is a multi-armed warrior for battling cancer, maintaining good eyesight, strengthening your immune system, keeping your skin healthy and contributing to proper growth.

Despite its sweet taste, the sweet potato is considered an “anti-diabetic” vegetable, recommended for diabetics because of its contribution to the balancing of sugar levels in the blood, and to reducing the resistance of the cell to insulin– perhaps because of its rich carotenoid content. The sweet potato also contains good levels of vitamins C and B, potassium, magnesium, iron and dietary fiber. This team works to control blood pressure, strengthen bones and prevent osteoporosis, and allow for proper brain function and the development of learning skills in children and babies.

In Chinese medicine, the sweet potato is recommended for weight loss. It strengthens the spleen, which, according to Chinese medicine, regulates metabolism and our need for sweet foods and food in general. A weak spleen will create a strong need for sweets, and an inevitable weight gain. According to this approach, the body must receive naturally sweet food, i.e., there is no harm in a sweet diet, on condition that the quantity of sweets is limited, it is natural, and does not derive from processed foods like white sugar or sweets. A middle-sized sweet potato contains 150 calories (equivalent to two slices of bread), but it is very filling. Chinese medicine perceives the sweet potato to be one of the most balanced foods and therefore can be eaten by almost anyone. According to the Chinese, the orange color ties it to earth, making it a warming, strengthening food, suitable for winter.

Check out our recipe section for some great ideas for autumn dishes.

Here at Chubeza, we anxiously await the winter. Last week we were lucky to receive a short, refreshing rain, and from this Friday (the 7th of Cheshvan) Jews begin fervently praying for rain. May it come in peace, joy and gladness, salvation and blessing! Join us in our hopes, prayers and wishes for great big plentiful drops of earth-saturating showers to fall.

May we enjoy a season of deep breathing, growth, life and goodness!

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

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WHAT OTHER COLORS ARE JOINING THE ORANGE CONTINGENT IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Sweet potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes, green and yellow beans/Thai beans/lubia, coriander/dill, cucumbers, red and green bell peppers/eggplant/corn, kale/Swiss chard/spinach, radishes/daikon/turnip. Small boxes only: slice of pumpkin, leeks

Large box, in addition: Kohlrabi, carrots, beets, mizuna/tatsoi/arugula, scallions/garlic chives.

Wednesday: cilantro/dill, Swiss chard/kale/New Zealand spinach, cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, grean and yellow beans/yard long beans/fresh black eye peas (lubia)/Jerusalem artichhoke, radish/daikon, eggplants/corn, kohlrabi/turnip/beet, sweet potatoes, small boxes only: slice of pumpkin.

Large box, in addition: leek/scalions, red-yellow-green bell peppers, carrots, arugula/tatsoi.

And there’s more! You can add to your basket a wide, delectable range of additional products from fine small producers: flour, fruits, honey, dates, almonds, garbanzo beans, crackers, probiotic foods, dried fruits and leathers, olive oil, bakery products, pomegranate juice and goat dairy too! You can learn more about each producer on the Chubeza website. On our order system there’s a detailed listing of the products and their cost, you can make an order online now!