June 29th-July 1st 2020 – A melons story

Alas…the season for Gadi & Tamir’s spectacular blueberries is coming to an end. In just a few weeks we will be forced to part from these deliciously sweet little delights. But, there’s good news, too—Blueberries freeze beautifully! Now is the time to stock up on and freeze the blueberries that will continue to delight your palate for another few months.     Order now!!!

_______________________________________ 

Spider-God
where are you coming from…?
(And who knew you were such a melon lover?)

This week, in honor of our melons, watermelons and the beginning of school vacation, we conclude our trilogy of Chubeza’s summer fruit patch with a sweet, funny tale about Anansi the Spider and the talking melon.

But before we begin, some information about Anansi the Spider:

Anansi is a West-African spider-god, the son of Asaase Yaa, goddess of Earth and fertility, and Nyame, god of the sky. Anansi is one of the most popular characters of West African folklore. As a cultural hero, Anansi was regarded as the creator of the sun, moon, and stars, and thus responsible for day and night. In some stories, Anansi created the first human being, and his father, Nyame, breathed life into him. Assuming the role of the customary trickster, Anansi can be a sly, cunning quarrel-monger, but he also teaches humans how to sow grains and to work the fields with a shovel.  In modern culture, Anansi  appeared in the Marvel Comics series (The Amazing Spider-Man, vol. II (2003).  In The Amazing Spider-Man volume 2 (2003), it is revealed that Anansi was in fact the very first Spider-Man, antecedent to all human spiders. Our story this week is an adaptation of a popular Anansi tale (written by the talented Eric Kimmel and Janet Stevens.)

Anansi and the Talking Melon

Early one morning, Anansi the spider sat on his thorny Acacia tree observing Elephant hoeing his melon patch. Anansi adored melons, and as he peered down at Elephant’s garden, he could actually hear the melons beckoning to him: “See how sweet and juicy we are! Come eat us!” Since Anansi loved melons but was too lazy to grow them, he sat atop his acacia tree and waited patiently as the sun moved along high in the sky and the day warmed up till by the afternoon it was too hot to work, and Elephant set down his pitchfork and went home for a refreshing nap.

This was just the moment Anansi was waiting for: he broke off one of the spiky branches and used it to jump down into the melon patch. Then, he used the thorn to pierce a hole in the biggest, ripest melon, climbed into it and began to gobble away. He ate so much that he became round as a cherry. “Man, I’m stuffed,” said Anansi finally, “Elephant will be back soon, I’d better leave now.”

Except than when he tried to climb out, an unfortunate surprise became evident: he was much too fat to fit through the hole which was just right for a skinny spider, but too small for a chubby round creature like himself. “I’m stuck!” said Anansi finally, “I simply cannot climb out. I’ll just have to sit here till I lose weight and go back to my svelte figure.”

Anansi perched himself on a pile of seeds within the melon and waited as time slowly crawled by.

“Boy, am I bored!” thought Anansi, “I wish I had something to do to pass the time.”

Just then he could hear Elephant return to the garden, and an idea sprung into his head. “When Elephant draws near, I will talk and Elephant will think this is a talking melon. What a laugh I will have then!”

When Elephant arrived at his melon patch, he was smitten by the beautiful big, ripe melon and he lifted it off the ground.

“Ouch!” cried Anansi.

“Who said that?” exclaimed the startled Elephant.
“It was I, your Melon,” answered Anansi.

“I didn’t know melons could talk!” cried Elephant in wonder.

“Sure, we can talk. We talk all the time, but the problem is you human beings never listen.”

“I can’t believe my own ears!” exclaimed Elephant, “A talking melon! Who knew? I must show him to the king!”

Elephant ran down the street clutching the watermelon hosting Anansi. On the way he bumped into Hippo.

“Where are taking that melon?” asked Hippo.

“To the king,” said Elephant

“Why? The king’s got a thousand melons!”

“Not like this one,” said Elephant, “This is a talking melon.”

Hippo did not believe Elephant. “What are you talking about? What a ridiculous idea. As ridiculous as…”

“…a skinny hippo,” retorted the melon.

Hippo was so angry his face was crimson. “Who just said that? Did you say that, Elephant?”

“It wasn’t me. It was the melon!” replied Elephant, “I told you it talks. Now do you believe me?”

“I believe you!” cried Hippo, “I wanna come along to see what the king has to say after he hears the talking melon.”

“Come along then,” said Elephant, and they set off on their way with the melon.

On their way they met a warthog.

“Hey, guys,” said the warthog, “Where are you taking that melon?”

“We’re taking it to the king,” said Elephant and Hippo in unison.

“What for? The king has a thousand of melons,” replied Warthog.

“Not like this one,” said Hippo, “This melon talks! I heard it with my very own ears.”

“A talking melon?” Warthog laughed, “That’s as ridiculous as…”

“… a good lookin warthog,” voiced the melon.

Warthog was so infuriated his whole body shook. “Who said that? Did you, Elephant? Did you Hippo?”

“Of course not!” they responded, “It was the melon. Now do you believe us?”

“I do!” said Warthog, “Please let me come along. I want to see how the king reacts to this talking melon.”

So, Warthog, Elephant and Hippo resumed their journey with the melon.

On their way they met an ostrich, a rhinoceros and a turtle who did not believe the melon could talk until they heard him and joined the group headed to the king’s castle.

When the animals arrived at their destination, Elephant bowed and placed the melon at the king’s feet.

“Why are you bringing me a melon?” asked the king, “I have one thousand melons growing in my garden.”

“But not like this one,” replied Elephant, “This melon can talk!”

“Oh, come on. There is no such thing as a talking melon,” said the king shoving the melon with his foot.

But the melon did not say a word.

“Melon,” said the king a little louder, “There’s no reason to be shy. Say whatever you want, I just want to hear you talk.”

But the melon remained silent.

The king was losing his patience. “Melon, if you can talk, I want you to say something. I command you to talk!”

Silence.

“That’s one stupid melon,” the king gave up.

And that was when the melon spoke.

“I’m the stupid one? Why would you say such a thing? Am I the one talking to a melon?”

The animals had never seen the king so angry. “How dare this melon insult me like that?” he yelled, lifting up the melon and tossing it far.

The melon jumped and rolled all the way to Elephant’s home when, Bam! It crashed into the acacia tree and split open.

Anansi collected himself from within the pieces of rind and climbed out. All that excitement had made him skinny again, and now that he was skinny, well – he was hungry! He climbed on the banana tree, sat in the middle of a ripe bunch and started wolfing away.

When Elephant returned, he made a beeline for the melon patch.

“You melons got me in trouble with the king,” said Elephant, “From now on, you can talk as much as you want, but I won’t listen to a word you say!”

“Good for you, Elephant,” cried out Anansi from his perch on the banana tree, “We bananas should have warned you of talking melons. They are nothing but trouble!”

—————-

Wishing you a sweet, juicy and pleasant summer, full of laughter, friends and stories. And last but not least – good health!

Enjoy your weekend
From all of us at Chubeza

___________________________________

BASIL!

This week, some of the boxes contain fresh basil! In future we will write about it in depth, but for now, here’s how to store the basil: Snip off the ends of the stems and place the basil leaves in a glass of water filled to height of the lowest leaf. Place in a well-lit spot. On the first day, cover with a perforated plastic bag.

WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Zucchini, lettuce, cherry tomatoes, melon/watermelon, cucumbers, tomatoes, yellow or green string beans/slice of pumpkin, corn, parsley, eggplant/ fakus/potatoes, New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard.

Large box, in addition: Scallions/leeks/garlic, basil/coriander, butternut squash/acorn squash/Amoro pumpkin

FRUIT BOXES: Bananas, plums, mango. Small box, in addition: Apples. Large box, in addition: Nectarines.

Wednesday: Zucchini, lettuce, cherry tomatoes/slice of pumpkin, melon/watermelon, cucumbers, tomatoes, corn, parsley/coriander, eggplant/fakus/potatoes, New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard, butternut squash/acorn squash/Amoro pumpkin.

Large box, in addition: Scallions/fresh onions/leeks/garlic, basil, yellow or green string beans/Thai long beans.

FRUIT BOXES: Apples, plums/nectarines, grapes. Small box, in addition: Bananas. Large box, in addition: peaches.

June 22nd-24th 2020 – And then came summer…

And in the spirit of seasonal renewal, the Iza Pziza dairy has added a new cheese to its outstanding assortment: Sigal Wine-Soaked Cheese, a half-hard young Pecorino-style cheese soaked in red wine and vacuum packed (26% fat).

Price: 33.50 NIS per 150 grams

_____________________________

To sweeten these hot days, it’s time for a super Barhi date sale:

For the next few weeks, enjoy absolutely delectable Barhi dates at 5 kg for just 130 NIS (reduced from 150 NIS)!

The amazing Barhi is small, sweet and ever so soft. Its caramel-like flavor inspired the growers at Kibbutz Samar to term it “Nature’s toffee.” Perfect for a healthy pick-me-up, fruit shakes, baking and of course – as is.

Bon appetite! Stay healthy!

____________________________________

A woman once lived in a huge watermelon
With a lamp, chair and stools that set her a’kvellin’
She carved out a window, a living room too
Built a wardrobe and hung up a painting in blue
Bought a cat to catch mice – but at break of dawn
Woke up to discover the season was gone

(Nurit Zarchi, Translated [loosely] by Aliza Raz)
Illustration: Yossi Abulafia

I have a sneaking suspicion that this woman actually resided in Chubeza’s watermelon field, though it’s hard to imagine her fitting all of her belongings into our small-sized models. Yet, the feeling of the watermelon season ending so abruptly is as too familiar to us. Watermelon season at Chubeza is really short – approximately a month – so before it ends, we want to share some fascinating facts about the wonderful watermelon. This week’s Newsletter is green and red all over…

Summer officially arrived this week, and though this spring has been very gentle and (mostly) not-too-hot, we know without a doubt that the hot, heavy days are just around the corner. Yet while we moan and groan about the oppressive heat, the watermelon remains unfazed. It just loves the heat, a throwback to its origins in the southern part of the African continent, the Kalahari Desert. In the scorching desert, the watermelon, boasting a more-than-90% water content, was an important and vital source of liquid to humankind and wild animals. The difficulty in choosing a good watermelon is an old story. Even in its wild form, the sweet watermelon is identical on the outside to a bitter watermelon, necessitating the thirsty passerby to punch a hole in the watermelon rind to test its taste.

From South Africa, the watermelon spread across the African continent, and was cultivated in Egypt over 4,000 years ago. Ancient Egyptians drew depictions of watermelons to decorate sarcophagi and cave walls, and they would leave a watermelon near the dead to nourish them on their journey to the New World. The Hebrews knew it from Egypt, reminiscing, “We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons…”

From North Africa, the watermelon entered the Middle East where it grew well and was even mentioned several times in the Mishna. It arrived in China in the 10th century, and today China is the champion watermelon grower, followed closely by Turkey and Iran. In the 13th century, the Moors brought it with them to Europe, along with other plants they met in Africa and Asia. The watermelon arrived in America with the African slaves and the European settlers.

Chubeza’s love affair with watermelons began with naiveté, pretentiousness, and… failure. During my last year in California, just before I established Chubeza, I raised red, orange and yellow watermelons (the inside colors) in a farm owned by Joe Perry, my mentor. We had nice success with the yields, leading me to believe that growing watermelon would be simple, so I added watermelon to Chubeza’s nascent crop list. The first year, the watermelons simply did not grow, and we only harvested a few dozen from our fancy beds. Fortunately, back in 2004, our entire clientele also numbered a few dozen, so they received the watermelons as planned (which, admittedly, weren’t too sweet). One of the main reasons for this failure was the timing. I seeded watermelons like we did in California, at the end of spring. Yet springtime in Israel is fraught with viruses and disease, particularly among the cucurbit family to which our watermelon friend belongs.

After taking a hiatus of several years, chalking up experience with cucurbits and their viruses, we decided to try again, this time calibrated to precede the viruses. Thus, nine years ago we made a second watermelon attempt. This time we seeded earlier, resulting in a larger yield. A year later we did even better, and seven years ago we dared to plant seedless watermelon varieties. This sort of watermelon-growing is more complex than raising a standard seed-filled watermelon, for we are essentially trying to buck nature. The mission of every fruit and vegetable is to reproduce and generate offspring (seeds). Wo/man, meanwhile, is bent on getting rid of the watermelon seeds, and not by spitting them out. Modern-day human beings had grown weary of seeded fruits and set out to develop seedless varieties. Actually, a seedless watermelon does contain some tiny seeds, however most are transparent as well as infertile. You must admit this is strange, to try to develop a fruit which cannot produce seeds or offspring. On one hand, a vast scientific effort is being placed upon refining and improving human fertilization via IVF, freezing embryos and sperm, surrogates, etc., while simultaneously we are encouraging sterility in fruits.

So how do these “seedless” watermelons grow year after year? Regular watermelon seeds are diploid seeds, i.e., containing two sets of X chromosomes. Those used in order to produce seedless watermelons are tetraploid, possessing four sets of X chromosomes. Seedless watermelon seeds have a harder than average shell, which is why it is more difficult to grow the melons from seeds. In most cases, they are planted as transplants that were started in the nursery under controlled conditions. The tetraploid seeds sprout and become plants that will generate leaves and flowers but no fruit, unless they’re fertilized from flowers of a regular seeded watermelon. Therefore, you must plant one row of regular watermelons for every three to four rows of seedless ones. During pollination, each seed contributes half of its chromosomes: 1+2, resulting in a fruit whose seeds are tetraploid, possessing three sets of chromosomes. This uneven number disrupts the seed’s ability to reproduce, and ultimately sterilizes it. Thus, we receive a fruit which is juicy and sturdier than its seeded friends, but it evolved from the “virgin birth” of an unfertilized cell. It’s called a “Parthenocarpic fruit,” in essence, the mule of the botanical world…

Human beings are not alone in adoring the watermelon, which is also loved by animals and, of course, birds. More specifically, intrepid sweet-toothed hard-beaked blackbirds. We protect our fruits with a passion, otherwise, we find them looking like this:

Which is when we cover the bed with a bird’s net preventing the blackbirds from feasting on this red, juicy delight. And this year we are going for double protection – with nets on the bottom and a tireless bird scarecrow hovering above.

For those who might have might have missed it:

Basically, it is a kite shaped like a big vulture, fastened on a flexible 6-meter telescopic pole. This kite soars with even the gentlest breeze, flying in a manner that imitates the flight of birds of prey. Its random, varying aviation patterns prevent the harmful birds from getting accustomed to it. Which is why they continue to keep their distance: It looks too close to the real vulture (even fools us sometimes…) Don’t take our word for it, go ahead and judge for yourselves. Here it is:

Watermelon is a healing fruit. Its ample water content cleanses the body, making watermelon juice frequently recommended for those suffering from bladder and liver deficiencies. It is also beneficial for cleansing the kidneys. Watermelon even helps to clean the body of cigarette smoke – highly recommended for active and passive smokers alike.

Traditional Yemenite folk cures use watermelon seeds to rid bad breath and stains from the teeth and mouth. Crush the seeds well, immerse them in water, and then strain for a super mouthwash. In Iraq, watermelon rind is used to treat fungal infections. Libyan Jews are known to rub their skin with watermelon rind to lighten age spots. Watermelon contains vitamin A in the form of carotenoid, vitamin C, and vitamins from the B group as well (B1 and B2). It is low in nitrogen and high in potassium. Further information about the nutritional and therapeutic virtues of our round, red, delicious friend can be found here (Hebrew).

So… how does one select a ripe, sweet watermelon?

–       We pick the watermelon at its ripest, when the tendril near the stem dries up. Therefore, when choosing a watermelon at the stand, look for the drier and slightly withered stem, indicating that the watermelon wasn’t picked while green.

–       The part that comes in contact with the ground changes its color to yellow, so you should look for a yellow (not white) spot on one of the watermelon sides.

–       And the most mysterious signal of all: if you tap on the fruit, you will hear a dim echo reverberating back to you.

Check out this live demonstration

How to store a watermelon:

The best temperature to store a watermelon is 12°C, but even at room temperature (23°) the watermelon will keep for a week to 10 days. Don’t overdo it, though. A watermelon stored for too long will lose its taste and change its texture.

It is not recommended to freeze a watermelon or store it in the cooler compartments of your fridge. Overexposure to cold can cause frostbite, taking a toll on the watermelon’s flavor and making the inside soft and powdery. To store it after slicing open, wrap in plastic wrap and store at a temperature of 3-4°.

And once you have that excellent watermelon, slice it, add mint and feta cheese, and sit back and enjoy this spectacular summer treat, while reading a collection of surprising, interesting and humorous facts about watermelons (Hebrew)

Check out our recipe section for interesting things to do with watermelon, if any is left after slicing into cubes and devoured on the spot.

Enjoy!

Alon, Bat Ami, Dror, Orin, and the Summertime Chubeza Team

________________________________________

WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Zucchini, butternut squash/acorn squash, melon/watermelon, cucumbers, tomatoes, Amoro pumpkin/slice of pumpkin, corn, parsley/coriander, string beans, New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard. Small boxes only: cherry tomatoes.

Large box, in addition: Scallions/leeks/garlic, eggplant/potatoes, beets/ fakus, lettuce.

FRUIT BOXES: Apples, bananas, nectarines. Small box, Also: CherriesLarge box, Also: Flat peaches

Wednesday: Zucchini, melon/watermelon, cucumbers, tomatoes, Amoro pumpkin/slice of pumpkin, corn, parsley/coriander, string beans, New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard, eggplant/fakus, lettuce.

Large box, in addition: Scallions/leeks/onions, beets/butternut squash/acorn squash, cherry tomatoes..

FRUIT BOXES: Apples/cherries, bananas, nectarines, grapes

June 15th-17th 2020 – One in a Melon…

To sweeten these hot days, it’s time for a super Barhi date sale:

For the next few weeks, enjoy absolutely delectable Barhi dates at 5 kg for just 130 NIS (reduced from 150 NIS)!

The amazing Barhi is small, sweet and ever so soft. Its caramel-like flavor inspired the growers at Kibbutz Samar to term it “Nature’s toffee.” Perfect for a healthy pick-me-up, fruit shakes, baking and of course – as is.

Bon appetite! Be healthy!

____________________________________

And in the spirit of seasonal renewal – the Iza Pziza dairy has added a new cheese to its outstanding assortment: Sigal Wine-Soaked Cheese, a half-hard young Pecorino-style cheese soaked in red wine and vacuum packed (26% fat).

Price: 33.50 NIS per 150 grams

Bon Appetite!

___________________________________

 When summer gives you melons…

This week’s sweet summery newsletter is dedicated to the sweet, round fruit now arriving in your boxes that almost makes the summer heat worth suffering (or at least provides welcome comfort): the melon!

While we at Chubeza maintain the identity of veggie farmers working the land and growing vegetables, there was a moment or two when we considered planting a small fruit orchard. In the end, we decided to stick with those crops that grow close to the earth. But sweetness isn’t exclusive to just the fruit of trees. Which is why we are very pleased to claim the glory of several fruits, now regulars in our summer boxes, that grow calmly across the open field, not on a tree or bush. Kudos to the melon and watermelon!

The melon is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family, a prominent summer clan whose relatives include the squash and pumpkin, cucumbers and fakus (and to all of you who still think we’re sending you two bags of squash, kindly take a second look at the recent Fakus Newsletter). Though it pretends to act as a cucumber substitute, the fakus is really a melon harvested before it had time to ripen. Which is fortuitous indeed, for unlike his melon brothers, the fakus will not get sweeter as he ages. But the melons will! As they advance towards ripening, the sugar level in the fruit increases. At that point, they unfortunately become desirable not only to us, but also to the birds and mice, who are very good at detecting a ripe, juicy melon and fight for their share (more about this to come).

We attempt to place the melons into the earth as early as possible. Some are seeded; others are planted to gain more time and fewer weeds. We seeded and planted the first round of melons in the beginning to mid-February and a second round at the start of March, April and May. Since it was still winter at the very beginning, we protected the melons with plastic sheets from above so they would be warm and cozy and able to grow and thrive in their little hothouse under the plastic. The next rounds, in warmer weather, were planted out in the open. We seed and plant them in several rounds so as to extend the harvest of these sweeties for as long as possible.

At the beginning of the melon’s life, we cover its bed with a thin, white cloth called “agril,” allowing the plant to serenely grow, protecting it from viruses and other insect-borne diseases. Once the plant begins blossoming, we remove the white veil and allow the bashful bride to confront the outside world. Despite the many dangers, there is also the anticipated rendezvous with pollinating insects, without which we would have no pollination, fertilization or sweet fruit.

It takes the first melons slightly less than two months to begin giving us a roly-poly wink from their beds. Some 2-3 months after being inserted into the soil, they begin changing their colors, softening a bit inside, filling up with sweet juice and becoming easily detached from their plant. Melons begin ripening around 30 days after they blossom, when the sugar levels and pH are on the rise. The sugars that comprise the mass of the fruit are fructose, glucose and sucrose, accompanied by 90% water. We strive to harvest them at the prime of their ripeness, after their sugar level has reached its peak and they are sweet and juicy. Prematurely-picked melons will become juicier and softer in time, but they will not be as yummy and sweet. Melons have no reserve of carbohydrates. Actually, most of the carbs within them are sugars, not starch, which is why they have nothing to convert into sugar if they are harvested. What you pick is what there is.

And thus, over the years, various methods to determine the ripeness of the fruit have been developed. Some are more scientific, such as the refractometer, a tool that measures the levels of sugar and NMRI (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Imaging). But we plain farmers simply bend down and inhale (mmm… it smells like a ripe fruit), take a close look (and the color has changed from green to yellow), feel it (press on the base of the fruit, where the flower once grew) and give it a little tug (if it comes off easily, great; if not, it needs some more time on the vine). We then carefully roll the melon to the long piles at the side of the bed. Later we stroll through with our wheelbarrow to collect the melons to the end of the bed, where we will place them into low boxes (they do not like being stacked in piles) and bring them to the packing house to savor their intoxicating scents.

Unfortunately, as mentioned, we aren’t the only ones who crave the sweetness of this juicy friend. Every year we conduct a stubborn battle with the crows who thrive on pecking and nibbling off our sweet melons. Which is why we cover the fruit as soon as they ripen with a black bird-net meant to prevent the gluttonous birds from reaching the prize before we do. This year, we are attempting double protection: from the bottom with nets, and from the top with…. a bird scarecrow. Basically, it is a kite shaped like a big vulture, fastened on a flexible 6-meter telescopic pole. This kite soars with even the gentlest breeze, flying in a manner that imitates the flight of birds of prey. Its random, varying aviation patterns prevent the harmful birds from getting accustomed to it. Which is why they continue to keep their distance: It looks too close to the real vulture (even fools us sometimes…) Don’t take our words for it, go ahead and judge for yourselves. Here it is:

This year we grew four types of melons, most of them local Israeli-developed. Three are of the Ananas specie – long, elliptical and juicy with a very prominent hometown heritage, developed from the local baladi melon that has grown in Israel for years.

The local farmers termed it Shamam (melon in Arabic), or sometimes Batichi Aspar (yellow watermelon, named after its cousin). The three types we grow are Hudson, Justin and Donna.

In addition, this year we planted the Galia melon as well, another veteran melon, round with a green interior.

Melon history begins in Africa, where there are still many wild varieties. It is unknown when, where and how they were cultivated, but somehow the farmers of an ancient era selected and saved the seeds of the sweetest melons. They were abundant in Egypt over 4000 years ago, and after many epochs travelled on commercial routes to Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, India, South-Central Russia, China and Japan. Melons are depicted in ancient art, including a 2,400-year-old Egyptian burial drawing. In the over 2000-year-old Gilgamesh Epic, Gilgamesh is mentioned eating aromatic melons. The fruit arrived in Europe sometime around the Greek and Roman period. The Moors brought them from North Africa to Spain during their reign there. Here in Israel, melon is mentioned in the Mishna under the name melafefon (cucumber)… Melons back then were very small compared to today’s varieties, probably about the size of an orange.

Different cultures feast on melons in different ways: in the Far East they are cooked, but these are a different variety than the sweet melons we know. In the Middle East, Central and South America and China, their dried seeds are eaten as a snack. In Mexico, a refreshing melon cooler called agua fresca (fresh water) is a popular summer drink. In Japan, they make a different drink called midouri, a very sweet and heavy melon liqueur produced by soaking the melons in alcohol for a month (!). Even in our familiar way of eating the melon raw, there are many variations in seasoning: salt, pepper, powdered ginger or lemon juice.

Alchemists of the Middle Ages claimed that melon encourages blood circulation, and is suitable for soothing both slow and heated tempers. It is said to ease the pain of kidney stones and cleanse the skin. In Chinese medicine, melon is considered a cold food which influences the heart and stomach, encouraging urination, easing constipation, helping fight liver diseases, easing a cough, lowering body temperature and quenching thirst. It is recommended to eat melon separately, as its own little meal.

From a nutritional viewpoint, melon is rich in Vitamin C (half a melon contains 117 mg, almost twice the recommended daily consumption), Vitamin A and beta carotene, both of which are antioxidants that help protect the cells against harmful free radicals. In addition, half a melon contains over 800 mg of potassium (almost double the amount of a banana), which is helpful in reducing blood pressure and easing muscle pain.

Wishing us all a sweet and bountiful week, thirst quenching, juicy and refreshing!

Alon, Bat Ami, Dror, Orin and the Chubeza team

_ֹֹֹֹֹֹֹֹֹֹֹֹֹֹֹֹֹֹֹֹֹֹֹ___________________________________________

WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S SUMMER BOXES?

Monday: Zucchini, potatoes, melon/corn, cucumbers, tomatoes, Amoro pumpkin, slice of pumpkin/butternut squash/acorn squash, parsley/coriander, lettuce, New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard. Small boxes only: leeks/garlic/onions.

Large box, in addition: Beets, eggplant/fakus, cherry tomatoes, yellow string beans

FRUIT BOXES: Peaches, bananas, cherries. Large box, in addition: Avocado/apples

Wednesday: Zucchini, potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, yellow string beans/long sweet peppers, parsley/coriander, lettuce, Butternut squash/slice of Napoli squash/Amoro pumpkin, New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard, melon/watermelon. Small boxes: cherry tomatoes

Large box, in addition: Fakus/eggplant, garlic/onions/scallions, beets, Acorn squash.

FRUIT BOXES: Nectarines, bananas, apples. Small boxes: cherries. Large box, in addition: Peaches

June 8th-10th 2020 – Squish Squash

This is the wondrous hour of the Cucurbitaceae family, and in its honor, the Ish shel lechem bakery is offering a very special seasonal bread: pumpkin and rosemary sourdough wheat!

The dough combines grated pumpkin and rosemary leaf slices to create the gentle hint of pumpkin in this rich, delectable loaf.

Celebrate spring! Add this amazing bread to your order via our order system. Bon appetite!

_________________________________

Summer is almost here, and for some weeks now you’ve been receiving one of the first vegetables spring arrivals – the squash. And there’s more varieties on the way! Squash comes in a range of colors, including the light Galilean squash and dark green zucchini as well as the yellow and striped zucchini. As the leader of the band, we happily dedicate our exuberant end-of-Spring Newsletter to this remarkable vegetable

Squash belong to the prominent Cucurbitaceae family, a very diverse, widespread clan whose members are grown primarily for food, but also for other interesting uses. Within the subdivision of cultivated plants, the family tree splits off into five main branches: 1. cucumber, fakus and melon; 2. watermelon; 3. various types of pumpkins and squashes; 4. the decorative, inedible pumpkin that is used for decorations and to make serving utensils and musical instruments; and 5. Lupa pumpkins, whose skin is used to prepare natural sponges.

Pumpkins and squash are close cousins, different treatments affect their characteristics:

Pumpkins are harvested at maturity after a long growth period of 3-5 months, when their shell is hard and the seeds within are stiff and plump. Usually we seed them before cooking. Conversely, squash is harvested young, after only one or two months of growth. Its peel is still soft, and chafes easily. The seeds are thin and barely discernible, which is why there’s no need to remove them before eating.

Squash and pumpkins are natives of Central America. Columbus introduced them to the Europeans, who first grew them only in botanical gardens, enjoying their beautiful blossoms. The Israelites, pleading “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost–also the squash, melons, leeks, onions and garlic…” apparently were not craving what we call squash, but probably the fakus, their African/Mid-Eastern cousin, as we explained last week.

Even within its very own family, squash varieties vary from one sibling to another. The Mid-Eastern squash is chubby and light green. His longer and thinner brothers, the zucchinis, received their name from the Italian zucca for pumpkin, thus “a small pumpkin.” Chubeza grows dark green, yellow and striped zucchini. And there are also round squash varieties used to stuff, and even beautiful flower-shaped squash.

Preparation for squash season starts here at the end of winter. We sow our squash seeds in the beginning of February when it’s still mighty cold.  To protect them, we cover the earth with a plastic surface, and cover the seeds with another plastic cover to insulate them from the cold. The result is a sort of tunnel that heats up from the sunrays and acts as a shield from the biting frost and any end-of-winter storms. Usually in the first rounds, we use transplants as well as seeds. The seeds need relatively high temperatures in order to sprout, while transplants have priority since they are more mature and can grow in lower temperatures as well.

In the annals of Chubeza, there were years when our first squash crops suffered a mysterious disappearance due to the young sprouts being eaten, probably by crickets or other earthy inhabitants. This was another reason to choose transplants during this season, attempting to outwit the pests.

When wintertime makes room for spring and it gets too hot under the plastic, we cover the squash plants in Agril – a cloth made of non-woven material. These sheets are very thin but insulated. They are not opaque, allowing the sunrays to penetrate, but are relatively strong. In winter we use Agril to protect the delicate greens from possible hail damage, and in springtime we spread it over the Cucurbitaceae family in the first stages of their growth to protect them from insects.

These aren’t your average vegetarian insects who need to feast on some squash greens, but rather flies, mosquitos and other fly-by insects who merely wish to land a hand or leg on the squash. The problem is that they aren’t great about hygiene, and therefore transmit viruses and diseases that damage the young squash plants. The viruses and leaf diseases are the worse problems this gourd family encounters, with the squash, fakus, melons and various small pumpkins being the most sensitive of all. Which is why we cover them with cloth as they start their lives in the world, just like we would put up a screen at home to prevent flying insects from entering our living space. Once the squash begins to bloom, we remove the cover, because it’s a whole new concert now, and for this segment we do need the humming of flying insects…

So how does squash move from being a green, impressive plant to actually ripening and bearing fruit? Along the way, there are the big, beautiful yellow flowers, lovely to look at and particularly attractive to yellow-loving pests. The squash plant bears two types of flowers: male and female (everything written about squash holds true for pumpkins, cucumbers, melons, watermelons, fakus and the rest of the Cucurbita or gourd family). Both types of flowers resemble each other from afar, but when you look closely, the differences are evident.

This is what the male flower looks like:

    squash-male-far

and here it is close up:

male-squash-blossom

And this is what his female counterpart looks like:

squash-female-far

Close up:

female-squash-blossom

The insects, thrilled by the bright yellow, enter the male flower, have their fun, and gather some nectar and pollen that look like this:

pollen-on-male-squash

Then they continue on to frolic in the next nearby playground, the female flower, spreading the male pollen all over. The now-fertilized female flower closes and shrinks, and at the end of the process looks like this:

pollinated-zucchini

If you look closely, you will see that at the edge of this flower, a fresh, new little squash is growing. It’ll only take him a few days before he is ready for careful and delicate picking, so as not to scratch or damage the shiny, delicate peel. Squash grow so quickly that we harvest them daily. A squash forgotten on the bush will be discovered a few days later in monster-like dimensions…

Squash is low in calories and high in dietary fiber. It contains magnesium, potassium and folic acid, Vitamins A and C and other antioxidants. Zucchini has a fresh, neutral flavor (some call it bland), but no need for a PR campaign: its neutral taste is probably the ingredient that made zucchini a favorite child in almost every country. In France they are used in ratatouille and quiches; in Italy they are prize components of caponata, frittata, antipasti and pasta primavera. The Italians also harbor a special affection for stir-fried zucchini flowers. Romania and Bulgaria cook it in a givetch, in Turkey it stars in patties, in the Middle East one can stuff it with rice and chopped meat, and Iraqis use squash generously in kubeh soup or sauce. In the Far East, zucchini and squash are stir-fried together in a wok, while in the United States they make their way into yummy bread and zucchini jam……

But hey, zucchini can also be eaten with no cooking, frying or baking whatsoever. Just squeeze them to make squash juice, a great detox for the body, or enjoy them fresh in your salad, a la cucumbers. On days when cucumber shortages struck Chubeza, we cheerfully chopped zucchini to fill our family lunch salad, which was polished off in seconds.

And on this hopeful and yummy note, we wish you a good, calm week,

From all of us at Chubeza

_____________________________________________

WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Zucchini, potatoes, leeks/garlic, beets, cucumbers, tomatoes, acorn squash, yellow string beans, parsley/coriander/dill, lettuce, New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard.

Large box, in addition: Fakus/melon, eggplant/bell peppers, cherry tomatoes/butternut squash/slice of Napoli squash.

FRUIT BOXES: Bananas, nectarines, peaches. Small box: Red or white cherries. Large box, in addition: Red and white cherries

Wednesday: Zucchini, potatoes, leeks/garlic/onions, beets, cucumbers, tomatoes, acorn squash, yellow string beans, parsley/coriander/dill, lettuce, butternut squash/slice of Napoli squash.

Large box, in addition: Fakus/melon/carrots, eggplant/cherry tomatoes, New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard.

FRUIT BOXES: Bananas, nectarines/avocado, peaches, apricuts/cherries

June 1st-3rd 2020 – Focus on Fakus

Blueberry season in Israel lasts around two months. To mark the midseason celebration, super blueberry growers Gadi and Tamir are offering more economical, ecological 1/2 kg packages in addition to the small 125 gr packages available.

Blueberry prices:
125 gr – 20 NIS
1/2 kg – 74 NIS

Celebrate! Use our order system to add these treats to your vegetable boxes.

_________________________________________

The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the Fakus has come!

In perfect calibration with Shavuoth, Chubeza’s field is now decked out with new springtime arrivals. Over the last two weeks, we harvested our first beds of fakus, aka “Arabic cucumber.” In response, we now await the annual barrage of queries that begin something like, “This week I received two portions of zucchini and no cucumbers!” So for those whose boxes may contain fakus and not cucumbers, let me offer this handy key to distinguishing between a fakus and a zucchini, which I learned from our longtime client Tzipi from Jerusalem: the fakus stem resembles that of a cucumber, not zucchini! If you received a light-colored elongated vegetable that kind-of-resembles-zucchini-but-also-kind-of-doesn’t, check out its stem (the part where it attaches to the plant): if it is wide and star-shaped like a zucchini, well… it’s a zucchini. If it’s thin and willowy like a cucumber, then say hi to our friend the fakus.

Here, ladies and gentlemen, is The Fakus in all its glory:

 

At the heat of the day in the scorching Sinai desert, the Israelites craved the Egyptian fare, reminiscing, “We remember the. . . .  cucumbers, and the melons…” (Numbers 11, 5). The “cucumbers” they missed were most probably the fresh fakus. And to be honest, I totally understand them. Fakus is definitely worth pining for. Thus, every summer, we descendants of those Egyptian exiles are proud to bring to you the vegetable hankered by our great-great-great-great-great-great-greeeaaaaaat-grandparents….

Tiberius Julius Caesar Augustus was also known for his fondness for cucumbers. He would eat cucumbers every day of the year, necessitating the Roman farmers to develop artificial methods to grow the vegetable year-round. According to Historia Naturalis by Pliny the Elder (Book XIX, Chapter 23), “Indeed, he [Tiberius] was never without it [cucumber]; for he had raised beds made in frames upon wheels, by means of which the cucumbers were moved and exposed to the full heat of the sun; while, in winter, they were withdrawn, and placed under the protection of frames glazed with mirrorstone.”

However…

Tiberius was probably not munching on the cucumber we all know and love, i.e., the Cucumis Sativus, but rather on the light and somewhat hairy fakus, aka Armenian cucumber. And today’s surprising revelation: The fakus is in fact …a melon. Also coined the “snake melon,” on account of its looks, in botanical terms this is the Cucumis melo var. flexuosus melon. However, we do not let the fakus mature like our melons—we pick it in its crunchy sweet youth, like the cucumbers (which is a good thing, really, because the fakus just would not ever become a real tasty melon at full maturity). There are all sorts of fakus varieties grown worldwide: light green, striped, long and curved, or short and light like a cucumber. At Chubeza we grow two types of the light-colored variety: the small fakus, about the length of a cucumber, and one which is long and curved.

Melons and cucumbers belong to the same family, but they are two different entities with diverse characteristics. When you look at the leaves, you can tell that fakus leaves are rounder and less serrated, similar to their melon brothers. Its flavor and appearance are closer to the cucumber, but not really: the fakus is not thorny at all. It is covered with soft fuzz and is sweeter and crunchier than the cucumber. However, like the cucumber, it is picked in its youth, before its seeds mature, which is why it is not as soft as a melon.

Like the cucumber, the fakus sometimes tends to be bitter. Various attempts to overcome this bitterness have proven that we must carefully choose the plants whose seeds are to be kept for next year, making certain that they are non-bitter plants. We hope you will not receive a bitter fakus, but to be on the safe side, when you slice them up into a salad, first nibble at the point where the fakus was attached to the plant. That’s where the bitterness begins. If you like what you taste, slice away. If it’s bitter, take a bite further down. Sometimes the bitterness remains contained at the end…

The fakus is lauded by chefs as part of the trend to return to local, homegrown “baladi” food of the past. It does resemble the cucumbers enjoyed here in bygone years, prior to the arrival of the garden cucumber. Several years ago we were visited by Dr. Moshe Ra’anan, who has written many articles about plants and animals in the Bible. He photographed our nice fakus varieties and wrote a few words about them (in Hebrew). I learned from him that during the Mishnaic period there was actually a verb “to fakus” (“לפקס”), related to the ripening of the fakus. Our commentators offered two different interpretations for its definition: 1. the stage at which the fuzz is shed from the fruit, or 2. the stages at which the flower dries up and falls from the fruit.

Either way, when the fakus’s are fakused, you can wash, slice, add some salt if desired and joyfully bite into it, or you may preserve it, just like a cucumber, producing delicious pickles, and even fry or stuff it like a zucchini. And all this while being …a melon!

Check out our recipe section for some delectable fakus recipes.

Confused? That’s ok, just enjoy the fakus and Bon Appetite!

Many of you may have noticed that the transition period between winter and summer produce includes a few “bummer” weeks when the winter vegetables are almost done but the summer veggies haven’t yet gotten their acts together. The cabbage is small, the beets are at the end of their line and therefore smaller, and broccoli, cauliflower, fava beans, fennel and kohlrabi are no more… On the other hand, zucchinis are making their debut to be followed by small squash varieties and fakus, but the rest of the vegetables (lubia, eggplant, squash, peppers and corn) are not mature enough to be harvested just yet. Cucumbers and tomatoes are also scarce – in general, the hothouse vegetables are diminished in number over the transition period – the winter rounds are over, and it takes some time till the summer veggies begin to produce nice big yields. Therefore, we were forced to supplement our tomato and cucumber supply by purchasing from other organic farms, and since our situation is prevalent in all fields, the prices are very high, making the quantities smaller.

In time, the transition period evolves into summer, of course. Our tomatoes have already entered a serious growth spurt. In order for us to expand quantities, the fakus crop will come to the fore, and in the weeks to come your boxes will contain either fakus or cucumber quantities.

The significance of purchasing vegetables from a CSA (Community-supported agriculture) like Chubeza is that your purchase allows us the stability and confidence to work year-round. Together we enjoy the abundant products of the peak of summer and winter, and the unique vegetables which are usually more expensive (e.g., peas, Jerusalem artichoke and green fava beans in wintertime, and corn, lubia and others in summertime), and together we go through the sparser transition periods. Now, as your boxes begin to fill up with new vegetables and the first fruits of spring and summer, we thank you again for your ongoing support.

This week Mohammed, Majdi and Ali returned to work after almost two months of Corona-distancing that included Ramadan and Id El Fitr. Welcome Back! In turn, we bid our farewell to the two workers who came to pinch-hit and just now returned to their previous jobs. We are full of gratitude for their help over this remarkably busy period.

Wishing you a good week,

Alon, Bat Ami, Dror, Orin and the Chubeza team

______________________________________

WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Zucchini, potatoes, beets, fakus/cucumbers, tomatoes, acorn squash/Napoli squash, cherry tomatoes/yellow string beans, parsley/coriander, lettuce, melon.

Large box, in addition: Bell peppers/cabbage, scallions/garlic, New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard.

FRUIT BOXES: Bananas, peaches, nectarinesLarge box, in addition: Cherries

Wednesday: Zucchini, potatoes, beets, fakus/cucumbers, tomatoes, acorn squash/Napoli pumpkin/butternut squash, parsley/coriander, lettuce, New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard, scallions/garlic/leek. Small boxes: cherry tomatoes/yellow string beans/carrots.

Large box, in addition: Bell peppers/melon, eggplants/peppers, yellow string beans, carrots.

FRUIT BOXES: Bananas, peaches, nectarines. Small box: Cherries. Large box, in addition: Apricots