Aley Chubeza #18 – May 10-12, 2010

NOTICE & REMINDERS:

  • · Wednesday, Yom Yerushalayim: Deliveries as usual (to Jerusalem as well)
  • · Shavuot: Monday, 17.5 delivery as usual. Wednesday delivery to take place on Thursday, 20.5.
  • An additional item, unrelated to food or farming, but sent to me by some of our oldest friends– and related to my daughter Netta’s school: Over the weekend of October 14th and 15th (Friday-Saturday), a sale of original, signed lithographs will be held at the Kesem school in Kibbutz Ma’ale Hachamisha. All proceeds go towards the establishment of a “green” school building in the Jerusalem Mountains for the Kesem children. The lithographs were donated for the cause by an art collector who wishes to remain anonymous. All are invited to see the creations of Naftali Bezem, Yair Garbuz, Oded Feingersh and many other artists, and of course, to buy their work at reasonable prices.

For details (Hebrew…):

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Made in Israel- Part 2:

Last week I told you about Dani and Galit’s Granula, Maggie’s sprouts and Helaf’s fruit. The granola sprouts and fruit are usually sold on the basis of weekly/bi-weekly subscription, like our vegetable boxes. This week we shall continue with our parade of associates, today focusing on those that sell by personal order, according to your requirements and on the dates that suit you. Of course, a subscription can be acquired with them as well, as some of you have already arranged.

(As in last week’s newsletter, I’m adding Hebrew-language links for each producer with full details and prices for their products. From next week, an English-language link will be added for Yiftah’s sprouted spelt bread products. If you need further details in English on any of our “associates,” please call me at 054-6535980)

At Shavuot, the holiday of the wheat harvest, it feels good to go back to the beginning, to the grains of wheat that are harvested this season and collected to be ground into flour, that fundamental staff of life upon which humankind has depended for tens of thousands of years. Domesticated wheat, one of the first agricultural products that man learned to develop and grow, began its course right here in the Fertile Crescent area, with Israel almost at its direct center. This domestication symbolizes the cradle of intensive farming here and worldwide.

I think wheat and its local history deserve their own newsletter, and will perhaps devote one to them in the near future. Today I want to tell you about the opportunity we offer for organic flour, ground by Assaf from “Minchat Ha’aretz,” located in the Jordan Valley village of Rotem. This flour is especially wonderful, because it is ground from Israeli organic wheat, growing mainly near Assaf in the Beit Shean Valley fields. From the moment it is ground, the flour is maintained at a cool temperature to prevent the development of insects and various maggots. Aside from 100% whole wheat flour, Assaf grinds the wheat into semolina and also prepares 70% wheat flour, as well as flour made from spelt and rye seeds (imported). All the flours are organic and of excellent quality.

And while in praise of the Land of Israel, our next three colleagues personally fulfill the blessing of making it a Land of Milk and Honey. In the spirit of Shavuot, we’ll start with the milk, which in this case (and probably as in days of old) is goat milk from natural pastures. Rona of the Yotav Dairy collects milk from various flocks in the country, some of which graze in tiny farms, others in slightly larger locales. In all places, the goats are first and foremost nourished from the grass that grows in their pasture areas. After the milk is collected at the small dairy in Moshav Ness Harim in the Jerusalem hills, Rona prepares a wide variety of milk products including milk, yogurt, and soft and hard cheeses. You can order from the various products, or ask Rona for one of the goodie-baskets they assemble for you at the dairy.

From milk to honey– starting with bee’s honey, made by the bees, of course, and assisted by Tamir and Daniella of “Father’s Honey,” on moshav Sha’al in the Golan Heights. As a beekeeper, Tamir is continuing the heritage of his father in Ethiopia. In keeping with family tradition, Tamir insists on adding no sugar to the bees’ food, not warming the honey, and abstaining from any artificial, unnecessary interference, so that the product is perfectly natural and simply wonderful. The farms and nature of the Golan Heights provide bees with a host of flowers to feast upon, enabling Tamir and Daniella to offer a variety of honey flavors: wild-flower honey, eucalyptus honey, raspberry honey, blueberry honey and even kiwi honey. Honey season just started at Tamir and Daniella’s, so you can also order honeycombs by weight (1 kg, 1.5 kg or 3 kg), or by the jar. If you’re interested in a honeycomb, please advise. I will be getting the prices for honeycombs soon.

But the “honey” in the land of milk and honey is really date honey, and a few months ago we were approached by Kibbutz Samar with an offer hard to resist: organic dates. Kibbutz Samar in the Eylot region raises a wide variety of date species. We started with the Brahi type, known also as the yellow “wet” dates sold in clusters at the beginning of the season. We met them in their dried state, characterized by a unique, startling sweetness. Every week or two Gili, the marketing director, sent me a kibbutz member from Samar to renew our stock of Brahi dates in packages of 5 kg.

As of now we have run out of Samar dates, and are exploring the possibility of receiving a new stock. If you’re interested, please advise so I can prepare the order in advance. The dried Brahi date season begins in November, and we will meet them once again (and maybe we’ll also be able to offer new dates…) I promise to keep you informed.

We started this week’s newsletter with grains, and we’ll close with them as well. Our two last partners, also the youngest in the Chubeza circle, are returning to the basics, but from a different angle: crackers and sprouted bread.

Yiftah from Rechovot is a very special baker. Every two weeks he begins a long, gradual process of preparing sprouted spelt bread in his kitchen. I say “preparing,” not “baking,” because with Yiftah’s spelt bread the baking comes only at the end of the long process. Unlike “regular” bakers, Yiftah meets the bread and cultivates it from its absolute “seed” state to a full loaf. The first step is washing the spelt organic seeds over and over again, after which they’re placed for a germination period whose duration varies due to the outside temperature, humidity, and other factors. Several days later, small seeds peek from the earth, and it’s time to grind them. The product looks nothing like regular flour, although it’s basically made out of the same raw material. Yiftah adds to the basic spelt grind such additions as oats, olives, seaweed, nuts, and dry fruits or seeds. The loaves he then designs are baked for a long stretch of time, resulting in compact loaves of rich, compressed bread in various flavors. Yiftah bakes the bread every other week, according to a schedule I try to remind you of in advance.

And last but not least, you received yummy samples of the Lev HaTeva crackers in your boxes last week, from a small factory in Kibbutz Kfar HaNasi. Zohar and Assaf’s organic crackers are made of basic ingredients: flour, grains and seeds, with no sugar, additives or preservatives. The crackers at Lev HaTeva come in three different flavors: wheat, rye and spelt. Aside from the quality and health they embody, these crackers are prepared in the nation’s economically hard-hit north, enabling more jobs. For me, this is a significant factor in choosing whether to buy these crackers or the imported type.

As previously clarified, we are certainly pro-blue-and-white products which paint this country and its residents with the entire array of colors needed to live a full and happy life. This is without Assaf and Zohar and the rest of the Kfar HaNasi workers, Tamir and Daniella the beekeepers, Danny and Galit from Granula, Gili and the date people from Samar, Maggie from Nataf, Helaf from Karmei Yosef, Assaf from Rotem, Yiftah the baker, Rona and the dairy crew from Ness Harim- without them all working “for us.” We’re happy enough to see them working in good and productive jobs which show respect to those who work there– specifically since we enjoy their excellent products.

And last, we extend warm wishes to Tom, who became an uncle (again) a few weeks ago, to Mohammed on the birth of his fourth granddaughter (only girls at Chubeza), and to Tamir and Daniella, our honey people, who were married several days ago. Mazal Tov, and much happiness!

Alon, Bat Ami and the Chubeza team

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This week’s basket includes:

Monday: cucumbers and fakus, zucchini and squash, beets, potatoes, Swiss chard, tomatoes, celery/celeriac, cilantro, lettuce, garlic, green onions

In the large box, in addition:  fennel/turnip, red Russian kale, dill

Wednesday: cucumbers and fakus, zucchini and squash, beets, potatoes, Swiss chard, tomatoes, celeriac, cilantro, iceberg lettuce, garlic, green onions

In the large box, in addition: red Russian kale, dill/parsley, green cabbage

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RECIPES FOR THE VEGETABLES IN YOUR BOX

At the end of the last round of fennel, Alon from Beit Shemesh, who works with us each Monday, sent this recipe. I saved it to share with you during the Return of the Fennel, which will be leaving us really soon. Alon admits he’s not crazy about the natural taste of fennel, but this particular recipe transforms it to an artichoke flavor.

FENNEL COOKED IN SWEET-AND-SOUR SAUCE (from mevashlim.com)

Ingredients:

4 large fennel bulbs
Juice of 2 large lemons (around 3/4 cup)
4 T. sugar
1 t. salt
1/2 cup olive oil
Water

Preparation:

– Cut a thin slice from the base of the fennel bulbs. Remove the rest of the stems, leaving any greens.
– Place the fennel slices and greens in a large, wide pot. Add all remaining ingredients, plus enough water to cover 2/3 of the fennel’s height.
– Bring to a boil and cover.
– Cook at a hard boil for 50-60 minutes, till fennel is soft. The cooked sauce will be sweet and sour.

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Mitch and Tali sent me this recipe, which Mitch says may sound like a “kvetch,” but is quite delicious.

PUREED CELERIAC AND POTATOES

Ingredients:

6-7 potatoes
2 celeriac
Parsley, chopped
Garlic
Olive oil (or butter)

Preparation:

– Peel potatoes and celeriac and slice into quarters.
– Bring to a boil and cook till fork pierces easily.
– Drain liquid, add olive oil (or butter), garlic and chopped parsley, and mash till smooth.

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Shacham, who returned to work with us after studying at Kibbutz Naot Smadar, told me about humous made from zucchini that he used to make when he worked in Mitzpe Alumot.

ZUCCHINI HUMOUS, FROM MITZPE ALUMOT

(Makes 10-12 portions)

Ingredients:

2 large zucchini or 4 medium
4 T. olive oil
6 garlic cloves
1/2 c. lemon juice
1/2 t. cumin
Pinch of hot chili pepper
2 t. paprika
1 1/2 t. Atlantic salt
1 1/2 c. sesame, soaked 4 hours in water
1 1/2 c. tehina

Serving suggestion:
1 thinly sliced tomato
1 c. alfalfa sprouts
1 head of lettuce

Preparation:

– Mix all ingredients together in blender, except sesame and tehina, till pureed.
– Add sesame and tehina and mix till puree is smooth.
–         Serve on a bed of lettuce, garnished with chopped tomatoes and alfalfa (or other) sprouts.

Aley Chubeza #17, May 3-5 2010

NOTICE & REMINDER:

*Shavuot deliveries: During the week of the upcoming Shavuot festival, the Monday 17.5 delivery will take place as usual. The Wednesday delivery will be moved to Thursday, 20.5, the day after the holiday.

*A reminder: After Pesach, Yiftach resumed regular bi-weekly baking of his sprouted spelt bread. Those wishing to place an order for loaves being baked next week, please send it to me by this coming Friday, May 7th.

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Made in Israel

Lately there’s a new advertising campaign promoting Israeli products. Two guys roam the streets, and one boasts to the other that everyone around is working for him. I identify with the idea of local products, and we at Chubeza try to connect you to local and smaller manufacturers, but I’m a little bothered by the idea that the way to our hearts, according to the spin makers, is to convince us that “everyone is working for you if you buy blue and white!” Some may think this is humor– I find it embarrassing.

But forget about the commercial, let’s get back to the actual issues. On Independence Day, I wrote you about our attempts over the past year to add more cottage industries, small manufacturers and small farmers/growers to the Chubeza circle. The person who initiated this was my dear brother, Yochai, who worked with us for five years, in direct contact with our clients during the latter years. Yochai started dealing with outside manufacturers in response to the many requests from our clientele to expand the product range.

I was a little wary, especially of the added bureaucracy, but Yochai was determined. He sowed the seeds that later sprouted and grew, and now we have many nice products to add to the vegetable box—Their common denominator is that all products are raised or manufactured by local businesses, from small home kitchens to a little factory in the north or a southern kibbutz. We started out with manufacturers from our immediate surroundings, and over time added representatives from across the nation.

Business-minded friends, and sometimes clients who hear how we work, wonder about it being cumbersome to buy from each manufacturer individually. They suggest instead that we assemble all the information and orders and not complicate others by having them order directly. We’re trying to do it carefully. If you would like to order from us, we will pass your order to them, but will make an effort to keep an open channel between you and the growers/manufacturers, so they will feel responsibility towards your order, and receive your immediate feedback as well.

Today I proudly present you with the list of busy hands you can purchase from. You will see that we are guided not only by “basic products” which can easily be purchased in shops and chains, but rather by the desire to personally introduce you to manufacturers who make good, quality products with their own hands. We want you to learn how flour, honey, sprouts or cheeses are made, and about the various choices made when preparing granola, sprouted breads or crackers, and about the host of challenges and great wealth of growing organic fruits or dates.

We have nearly ten partners. I will tell you about part of them today, and the others next week. With each description, there’s a link to Hebrew-language information sheets on the product. I’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have—just phone me at 054-6535980

The pioneers are Danny and Galit who established a small, charming business a couple of years ago named ”Granula.” After an extensive test period, where they acted as guinea pigs for the granola they mixed and baked in their kitchen at Moshav Kidron near Gedera, they started preparing granola, and then various cookies, all based on the concept of healthy, whole-grain ingredients. Today they offer a variety of granola: rich granola (4 types of nuts and dried bananas); cranberry-cashew; date-halva, and even Rice Krispie granola, halva-flavored, gluten free! They make yummy cookies as well: Rice Krispie with sesame gluten free, oatmeal cookies with techina and honey and chocolate chip cookies. Delicious!

The next on our list is an impressive organic farmer, Maggie, who sprouts for us, but also has her own organic vegetable garden from which she distributes to dozens of families, just like Chubeza. Maggie started her unique sprouts by attempting to sprout everything in sight, wherever there was room in her house in Nataf. After a period of learning and experiencing, Maggie decided to focus on over ten different types of sprouts: alfalfa, fenugreek, radish, turnip, broccoli, black beans, lentil, mung beans, azuki beans and more. Every week she sprouts in a small hothouse behind her house. All these varieties produce a wealth of sprouts that vary in taste, color and appearance. They seem very tender and young, these sprouts, but they are a huge powerhouse of vitality and health. And this daily miracle occurs every week in Maggie’s back yard.

The third of our crowd is Helaf Menachem, a fruit grower from the Melo HaTene farm. Helaf is a close neighbor– all he has to do to bring us his boxes of fruits is to cross the little mounds separating our farm from his. The Menachem family created a beautiful and magical endeavor, where instead of one orchard that grows one type of fruit, they grow a varied garden with many fruit trees, bushes, climbing plants, and even some vegetables. The fruit assortment does include “regular” fruits like apples and citrus, plums and grapes, along with raspberries, guava, Annona squamosa (sugar apple), figs, pomegranates, loquats and others. The fruits change with the seasons, and you can order a small/large box regularly or make an individual order directly from Helaf.

That’s it for now, more to come…

Wishing you a great week,
Alon, Bat Ami and the Chubeza team

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This week’s basket includes:

Monday: parsley, cucumbers and fakus, zucchini and squash, lettuce, fennel, kohlrabi, turnips, tatsoi, Swiss chard, tomatoes, celery.

In the large box, in addition: beets, green onions, dill

Wednesday: parsley, cucumbers and fakus, zucchini and squash, lettuce, fennel or kohlrabi or turnips, tomatoes, Swiss chard, lettuce, green cabbage, green onions, celery, potatoes – our first harvest of springtime potatoes – welcome!

In the large box, in addition: beets, garlic, New Zealand spinach

Fruit box: Small: oranges, apples, avocado. Large: melon, watermelon, apples, oranges, avocado.

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Our cucumbers and facus (Armenian cucumbers/snake melon) started maturing in abundance. To celebrate, here are some recipes. I promise a Cucumber Newsletter coming soon!

Gingery Armenian Cucumber Salad

Cucumbers and peanuts salad

Armenian Cucumber Salad

Armenian Cucumber Pickles

Aley Chubeza #16 – April 26-28 2010

Summer is a’ Coming, with harvests anew….

Beekeepers Daniella and Tamir are starting their honey-collecting season in Moshav Sha’al in the Golan, and they already have beautiful white honeycombs. At this point they have 3-3.5 kilo honeycombs, but smaller ones are on the way, and of course, new and fresh honey.

The honeycombs are not as durable as the honey (because of the beeswax, which is more susceptible to temperature changes and insect pests), so we are not sure how many honeycombs to bring for Chubeza customers. Please let me know so I can estimate the required quantities to order from Daniella.

This week you will find in your boxes information (in Hebrew) about organic crackers made in a small factory in Kibbutz Kfar HaNasi. The price per package is 16 NIS. There are wheat, rye and spelt flavored crackers. For questions, please contact Assaf or Zohar (see contact info on information papers). If you wish to order, let me know and we’ll add them to your boxes.

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Squash, anyone?

It was only a few weeks ago that we left Egypt. Spring was in full bloom, but now summer is encroaching, bringing great heat, and also the craving for summer vegetables. Wandering through the wilderness this season, relying on supernatural-fast food doesn’t sound like great fun to me, and it surely is no substitute for fresh grown produce…

Oh, I can certainly identify with the Israelites plea: “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost–also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” (Numbers 11, 5-6) Usually they are viewed as ungrateful, ridiculed, (“hey, it’s free and you’re complaining?”) and preached at: “The manna was like coriander seed and looked like resin, the people went around gathering it, and then ground it in a hand mill or crushed it in a mortar. They cooked it in a pot or made it into cakes. And it tasted like something made with olive oil…” and yet, I can identify with them. With all the hope and ideals and future in the offing, beginning summer without some juicy zucchini, without their beautiful yellow flowers, sounds too difficult to me. I’m glad we’re done with this wilderness episode.

This week’s newsletter is dedicated to our new squash harvest, happily heralding that the remainder of the summer vegetables will follow. Soon we will joyfully bite into their relatives, the cucumber and fakus, and the rest of their peers: the beans and lubia, the various tomatoes, mint and basil, eggplant, corn and other friends already planted and growing in the field.

Squash season starts at the end of winter, which is when we sow our baladi squash seeds, coined in our field “Mohammed Squash” because he is the one who introduced us to this variety, teaching us to grow it with faith and devotion. These squash are sowed in the beginning of February, when it’s still cold. In order 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 the storms at winter’s end.

Mohammed’s squash are really… winter squash from the vegetable “marrow” clan. They are siblings to the spaghetti squash, but unlike the latter, we pick the baladi squash in their youth, before they have time to mature, harden their skin and turn into hard squash. Their pumpkin-like behavior is evident in the way they grow. Unlike the summer squashes- the green and yellow zucchinis and the white and striped zucchinis which grow out of one center from which the stems project, the Mohammed squash/pumpkins sprawl and curve all around, just like winter squash and pumpkins (and also cucumbers and fakus). Two months later, the result is small, chubby, striped, delicious squash. Their short, stout stature make them perfect to stuff, but even lazy cooks like myself have what to do with them: stir-frying, oven-baked, or a great addition to pasta dishes.

After three years of acknowledging the strength and staying power of these squashes, we decided to test the abilities of the rest of the Chubeza squash roster. Thus, a month after our “Mohammed squash” crop is already acclimated in the field, we introduced them to other squash species: the green squash and the striped squash. In this round, we experimented with transplants and seeds, to determine which option is best.

Some of you may recall that last year our first squash crop suffered a mysterious disappearance due to the young sprouts being eaten, probably by crickets or other earthy inhabitants. This was another reason to test transplants, as opposed to seeds, during this season. These squash were planted and sowed at the beginning of March, given a plastic cover and undercoat treatment. The result: both the plants and seeds were very well-acclimated, were not nibbled away as in the past, and no major difference was noted between the seeds and transplants. These squash, too, are already in your boxes– they only needed two months to ripen and bring joy to our hearts.

But how does a squash move from being a green, impressive plant to actually ripening and bearing fruit? On the way, there are the big and beautiful yellow flowers, lovely to look at and particularly attractive to pests. The squash plant bears flowers of two types: the male and female flowers (everything written about squash holds true for pumpkins, cucumbers, melons, watermelons, fakus and the remainder of the Cucurbita family). The 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 are thrilled by the bright yellow, and they enter the male flower, have their fun and play, 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.

Meanwhile, back to our farm, let’s take a step back to the beginning: a third squash round was sowed and planted a month after the previous one, i.e., at the beginning of April. This time it was the familiar light-green Middle Eastern type, as well as the green, yellow and striped zucchinis. This round is growing nicely as well, though here we detect a preference for the sowed rather than the planted crops. But they all are advancing well.

A new round of squash is planned for the beginning of May, which will include a variety of the species. After this, we generally stop sowing zucchini, which is more susceptible to the summer viruses, and continue to sow the regular, light-colored squashes. The various zucchinis will be sowed again from September onwards.

This year, however, we have a major dilemma regarding sowing after May. Over the past years, and even more so this last year, we have noticed bites in our young Cucurbitas, planted from the month of June onward- the cucumbers, fakus and squashes. Our investigations led us to the sad conclusion that it is probably the work of the Mediterranean fruit fly, or Ceratitis capitata, a pest almost impossible to control, specifically in populated areas hosting many gardens with fruit trees, like the pretty gardens of Kfar Ben Nun.

Last year, after all the post-May sowing went down the drain, we were able to pick a miniscule amount of plants. This year we consulted with other farmers and agricultural advisors, and we are attempting to find an effective solution to the problem. If we’re not able to do so, we may stop sowing squash after June. Keep your fingers crossed… we will, of course, report all developments.

So, wishing you a season of “real” food— the kind that grows and breathes the seasonal type that you miss when it’s not around, even though its taste doesn’t change upon demand and it is not ready-made upon gathering…

Have a good, summery week,

Alon, Bat Ami and the Chubeza team

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In our box this week – still wintry, but winking towards summer:

Monday: parsley root, leeks, lettuce, cucumbers, zucchinis and squash, beets, cilantro, Swiss chard, tomatoes, New Zealand spinach, kohlrabi.

In the large box, in addition: cabbage, celery, carrots

Fruit box: apples (two varieties – Golden and Starking), avocado (Hass and Nabal varieties), clementines-Ora, Valencia oranges, loquat (two varieties: Yehuda and Akko)

Wednesday: zucchinis and squash, dill, tomatoes, beets, Swiss chard, New Zealand or tatsoi, kohlrabi, lettuce, garlic, cucumbers. Small boxes: fennel/turnips

In the large box, in addition: celery, turnips, fennel, green onions, lemons

Fruit box: small: oranges, loquat, avocado, apples. large: loquat, avocado, apples, watermelon!

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Zucchini and Squash Mostly-Easy Recipes:

Zucchini Oven Chips

Grilled Zucchini-and-Summer Squash Salad with Citrus Splash Dressing

Fregola Sarda pasta with Zucchini and Pinenuts

Leek and Zucchini Pasta

Chocolate Zucchini Cake Recipe

Aley Chubeza #15 – Independence Day – April 18-21 2010

On Independence

These past few days have brought with them introspections on independence. Working in the field is somewhat like raising children, moving from the first stages of intensive protection and caring, to development and growth with less need for supervision–and more need for faith and letting go. The young seedlings just peeking out of earth sometimes need a plastic cover, a daily water inspection, and constant weeding to lessen the competition with the weeds. As they grow stronger, they send deep roots downward and are able to reach the water themselves; they are better able to face cold and heat, and they create foliage that successfully grapples with the surrounding weeds.

Our farm is not a baby anymore either. We’ve been around for seven years, and we’re slowly beginning to realize that we have become more independent. We’re more sure of ourselves, our experience, and our ability. And we’re confident that this whole Chubeza puzzle constructed of earth, plants, animals and insects, workers and clients is  all marching together, where we’ve been living together for awhile in a balance that is stable and blessed. Independence is also accompanied by an outward openness and responsibility. When my eldest, Netta, first learned how to dress herself, she took upon herself the responsibility to dress herself every morning. When she learned to pour water into a cup, she could do it for her sister as well. Part of the maturing of Chubeza was expressed over the past year in a close collaboration with small manufacturers, most from our area, who prepare various products in modest, honest and professional labor. We’ve been privileged to introduce them to you.

In one of our upcoming newsletters, I would like to tell you about them a little more, but for now I will only mention Danny and Galit, the Granula people, who started with homemade granola and now also prepare delicious nutritious cookies (with perhaps some more surprises in the near future); Maggie, who sprouts wonderful organic sprouts; Rona and the staff of Yotav who make goat cheese in a natural pasture; Assaf who grinds organic flours, using Israeli wheat; Tamir and Daniella who prepare wonderful natural honey, continuing a family tradition; Yiftach, who bakes the unique sprouted spelt breads; and Kibbutz Samar that grows the most amazing organic dates.

Our decision to offer additional products arose from the feeling that we have grown. We are now able to take an additional step along the path we believe in by attempting to cultivate local productivity; clean, natural, less-processed, less hi-tech labor, which takes upon itself with love and understanding the changes of nature and constraints of the seasons, and sees the abundance, liberty and power of life which they possess, not only the limitations.

You, too, hold a great part within this. In a world where “liberty” and “independence” mean receiving everything I want whenever I want it in the quantities I want, your opting for a seasonal, uniform Chubeza box seems such a contradiction, so limiting and difficult. I am always happy and encouraged to hear your voice, for I am constantly surprised and excited by words like, “Once I did not want you to send the beets, but now that I’ve learned to cook them, we cannot get enough!” or “the surprises in the boxes make me cook creatively, dare, taste vegetables I did not know and do not always recognize…”

I realize that the Chubeza box creates challenges, and that it is certainly easier to take the known route of buying vegetables available in markets all year round (even if growing in wintertime means expending a great deal of energy into raising them in hothouses, on a detached surface or in hydroponics). To me, part of being independent is being daring and prepared to face the challenge. When my three-year-old will not let me button her shirt, and keeps inserting the button with her little fingers (and then doing it over, after realizing she’s buttoned it wrong), she is taking her steps in independence, and will gain self-confidence, despite the difficulties. This is how she grows.

I’ve told you several times about my beginnings in Chubeza, when the caring consultants of The Israel Bio-Organic Agriculture Association (IBOAA) tried to steer me away from the CSA idea, insisting that “Israelis will never buy ‘a pig in a poke’ if they’re not sure what’s in it.” A year after we established the farm, still taking baby steps, I had to part from Chubeza and hand over the reins to Alon. I did this with full confidence in him, which was well-placed. The feedback I received regarding his work in my absence, and to this day, from suppliers and clients, from fellow farmers and young farmers trained by Alon, tell me how things can indeed be done in an honest and straightforward way, in security and confidence in the path we chose, out of full cooperation and not competition and threats, out of pure faith that you can depend and be depended upon.

Today, over 400 families depend upon us to be precise with what we grow and how we grow it, to do everything we can in order to fill the boxes with goodies, to be concerned about their advice/criticism or requests. They depend on us to care, to work with respect and decency in the wide realm of disciplines that touch agriculture: our workers, the earth we cultivate, the animals and insects, social responsibility, the water, the clients, the moshav where our farm in located, the vegetable species we choose, the way we grow them, etc. Over the past few years, more and more small farms like us have been established, maintaining relationships of faith, equity and reciprocity with their clients, the environment, the workers and with agriculture.

We are, of course, a marginal phenomenon, but we exist. For me, in cheerless Israel of 2010, this is a small and hopeful evidence for a different existence in Israel, out of respect, collaboration, trust, caring, decency and confidence in the simple and productive way of life.

And finally, an independent and charming 9 years old child walked with me through the farm on our last Open Day. He had a camera, and in a very professional manner knelt down in precarious positions to take photos of our vegetables with curiosity and fondness. I would like to share his photos with you, and thank you, Yossef Chaim, for taking the pictures, and thanks to his father, Lior, for sharing:

cabbage chinanit turnip

zucchinni beans sprouting red cabbage

kale squash sprouting carrots

new zealand spinach brave beet tomato

cabbage leaf fennel rows beet color

Happy Independence Day from all of us at Chubeza!

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This week’s basket includes:

Sunday: cucumbers, carrots, zucchinis, dill, Swiss chard, tomatoes, turnips/radishes, parsley, iceberg or red leaf lettuce, tatsoi, green cabbage.

In the large box, in addition: garlic, beets, leek

Wednesday: zucchinis, parsley, tomatoes, leek, Swiss chard, tatsoi, carrots, lettuce, beets, kohlrabi, cucumbers.
In the large box, in addition: garlic, dill, green cabbage/turnip/iceberg lettuce

 

Aley Chubeza #14 – April 12-14 2010

Yom Ha’Atzmaut Changes in Delivery:

Next week’s Monday delivery will take place on Sunday, April 18th, in order to avoid the Erev Yom Ha’Atzmaut traffic.
This is, of course, only relevant to Monday deliveries. Wednesday delivery will continue as scheduled.

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Spring Awakenings

The weeks following Pesach are marked by an emotional roller coaster: celebrations swerve into mourning followed by celebrations at the next turn. Memories create empowerment, which opens room for pain, which transforms to happiness and major celebrations. The weather too is veering: a heat wave turns into scattered showers, then warms up and suddenly becomes an autumn-like day. This is springtime in Israel–and perhaps other transitional periods in life, specifically those which require leaving and going to a new, unfamiliar place, bringing eventual growth and development, but with so many hitches, doubts, falls, and reminiscences along the way…

Chubeza’s field, however, is actually undergoing a quiet, relatively calm transformation. We are gradually parting from the winter vegetables that warmed our hearts and hearths with soups and dishes over winter, and happily greeting the nascent spring and summer vegetables.

But first, let us bid farewell to the broccoli, cauliflower, fava bean, winter spinach, clementines and arugula leaves. The last of the fennel, celery, mustard and tat soi greens, turnip, beet, radish, kale and carrots are still growing in the field, and they will appear in your boxes over the next couple of months. But they’re the last of the season.

The field has been emptied of most of its winter occupants, the garden beds have been cleaned, the earth loosened and prepared for new seeding and planting. Much of the planting will take place in plastic covered beds to maintain moisture, prevent weeds and protect the earth from harmful summer radiation. Last year we successfully used plastic made from cornstarch, which slowly and gradually wears out and degrades before being buried in the earth to disintegrate. This year, too, we will use as much cornstarch cover as possible. Although it looks like a thinner version of regular plastic, the cornstarch product is not as sustainable when temperatures rise, and tends to tear when being spread. Eventually, as summer proceeds, we will move on to regular plastic, but most of the coverings take place during this season when we happily use the biodegradable covering.

The first of the summer vegetables have already been seeded and planted, some quite a while ago, and others over the past few weeks. Spring fever is in the air, bringing rigorous planting and seeding: zucchini (the heirloom chubby, striped kind as well as green zucchini, light zucchini and long-striped zucchini), pumpkins (two types), cucumbers, fakus, winter squash (acorn, butternut and kabocha), small watermelons, lubia (black-eyed pea), string beans, corn, popcorn, tomatoes (round and plum-tomatoes).

Some crops will enjoy two rounds and more, such as zucchini, tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, beans and fakus. The many rounds we give our crops (summer and winter) are designed to ensure a more or less constant supply throughout the season, with an aging bed maintained by one that is only beginning to ripen, and then passing the torch before retiring. Some crops are sown at one-and-a-half-month intervals, other have a break of only several weeks. As the summer heat advances, the intervals between rounds shorten, resulting in corn, for instance, being sown almost every week or two.

Other beds are now ready, clumped and festively awaiting to be planted over the next couple of weeks. These are the eggplants, cherry and plum tomatoes, yard-long beans, mint, basil, orange kabocha pumpkins and yellow zucchini, to be joyfully followed by melons (galia and pineapple) and peppers at the end of this month. Last, the queens of summer, green soybeans (adamame) and okra, anxiously await the real May heat.

Some of the first harvest is already included in this week’s boxes: the first four squashes were our Tuesday lunch, and this week we already managed to pick a few boxes’ worth. The beans, lubia, fakus and cucumbers need over two months during this season, facing cloudy days and heat waves, and will start arriving next month. And there are others which demand patience: the sweet corn which requires a grace period of 100 days; his explosive sibling the popcorn, which needs almost five months; and the large pumpkins in kind. Smaller winter pumpkins make do with just over three months, as does the watermelon.

Tomatoes, too, will take approximately three months until they produce their sweet, red fruit. This year we are exploring tomato species that are more virus-resistant, particularly against that vicious tomato yellow leaf curl virus which has destroyed our tomato plants in their mid-youth. We are experimenting with around six different species to test their ability to fight, hoping to be rewarded with a nice, bountiful harvest.

The dry garlic which grew from fall to the end of winter, and whom you met in February in a moist-green form, has dried in ventilated boxes and will reappear in your boxes as aromatic dry garlic.

I feel like a school principal bidding the graduates farewell and acknowledging their contribution to the school, as I thank our graduating winter vegetables for a nutritious and yummy winter. Now I gladly welcome the new crop, those just beginning to sprout and those which are already acclimated and can now plunge their energy into growth, flowering, germinating and bearing fruit.

Wishing us all days of growth and festive transitions,

Alon, Bat Ami and the Chubeza team

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This week’s basket includes:

Monday: cucumbers, carrots, leek, kohlrabi, Swiss chard, red Russian kale/New Zealand spinach, parsley root, Iceberg/red leaf lettuce, Osaka or Suehlihung mustard greens, red or green cabbage.
In the large box, in addition: green onions/beets, dill/cilantro, turnip

Wednesday: red/green cabbage, cilantro/parsley, tomatoes, Suehlihung mustrad greens, Swiss chard, tatsoi, carrots, red leaf lettuce, beets/turnip, parsley root, cucumbers
In the large box, in addition: kohlrabi, zucchini, New Zealand spinach/red Russian kale.

Fruit box: Hass avocado, Yehuda loquat (small white sweet variety), Valencia oranges, Mor clementines. In the large box, in adiition: strawberries

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You ask, “What is life?” That is the same as asking, “What is a carrot?” A carrot is a carrot and we know nothing more.
Anton Chekhov in a letter to his wife, Olga Knipper Chekhov (April 20, 1904)

We are slowly approaching the end of carrot season. The carrot does not like heat. Though it is possible to grow it under special conditions, we stop growing carrots for a few months, and re-sow towards autumn. The carrots you will be receiving over the next several weeks are the last for now, but after the joy they’ve brought us over the winter, I’m devoting this end-of-the-season tribute to the carrot.

Genealogy first: the carrot (Daucus carota) belongs to the Umbelliferae family which includes such vegetables and spices as celery, parsley, fennel, dill and cilantro. Various wild carrot species have grown in many areas in the world, specifically in the Mediterranean, south Asia, Africa, Australia and America.

The domesticated carrot comes from the wild species D. carota, or rather, from a crossbreeding with an additional wild species. The origin of various domesticated species is probably Afghanistan and Turkey. The Arabs introduced the carrot to Spain, where it spread to Europe. The first domesticated types came in a variety of colors: red, purple and yellow-green. Later, the yellow and white carrots were developed in the 18th century. The Dutch grew orange carrots, which are today’s most common variety. In Israel, the carrot has been harvested from the beginning of the Jewish settlement. The Arabs used to grow dark purple carrots, which can still be found today, to a small extent.

carrots_of_many_colors

The wild carrot is known in English as “Queen Anne’s lace,” whose name originated in a fairy tale about how the wild carrot’s flower got its unique look: a sort of white lace embroidery, with a dark red-purple dot at its center. Queen Anne, wife of King James the First, queen of Denmark in the 16th and 17th centuries, was an experienced lace tatter. One day she pricked her finger while sewing and a drop of blood rolled onto the center, creating this special flower. Although the tale only appeared in writing some 200 years after Anne’s death, it is possible that it’s associated with the 17th century custom for ladies to smartly adorn their hats with wild carrot flowers.

Today the importance of this distinctive look is perceived as a means to attract insects to the flower. A fly or beetle in flight might notice the white flower, take the dark spot at its center for a fellow (or female) insect and drop by to say hello. As the insect rubs against the flower, the pollen scatters and sticks to the insect, which will, in turn, pass it on and assist in the pollination process.

carrot flower

When we place a carrot seed in the ground, it sprouts and begins to develop leaves and a root. The leaves grow quickly and use sunlight to make sugars through the process of photosynthesis. Much of this sugar is transported to the root, where it is stored. The accumulation of sugar in the root causes it to expand greatly, forming the taproot. Biennial, carrots in natural environments rather than gardens live for more than one year. At the end of their first year of growth, the carrot’s leaves die and the tiny stem becomes dormant. The next year, in spring, the sugars in the root rise into the stem, which begins to grow. The stem extends upward and ultimately forms flowers and fruits. Flowering and fruiting often require tremendous energy, provided by the sugars stored in the carrot roots during the first year of growth that are now ready to be broken down for energy. When a carrot is grown for food, we are interested in its taproot, which is why it should be picked before reaching flowering and seeding – for by then the root is too old and becomes woody-textured.

The root develops in three stages: at the first stage, right after sprouting, a long skewer-like root grows. At the second stage, the root thickens and becomes longer, receiving its orange color. At the third stage, the downward growth stops and the root only thickens.

The root consists of a central stele, the endodermis and the cortex. The cortex tissue is rich with color substance and sugars. A carrot’s quality is determined by the thinness of its central stele in comparison to the cortex tissues. In difficult growing conditions, or as the plant ages, the central stele becomes woody and the carrot is no longer fit for human consumption, although it is a common animal fodder.

carrot root

The carrot consists of a short stem from which the leaves develop. At exposure to the sun, it receives its green chlorophyll color. The orange color is a result of the accumulation of pro-vitamin A, beta-carotene, a member of the carotenoid family that is also an antioxidant.

Beta-carotene supplies the carrot with a multitude of medicinal attributes: it strengthens the immune system, minimizes sensitivity to light thus protecting the skin from sun damage, and fights infections and bronchitis. It relieves symptoms of alcoholic hangovers and symptoms of AIDS. It assists in battling anemia, reduces the chances of heart disease and high blood pressure, and fortifies muscles and skin. The carrot — particularly its juice– protects against stomach ailments. Vitamin A spurs production of normal cells, as opposed to cells that do not develop properly and are more susceptible to cancer. The carrot is indeed good for your eyes, with beta-carotene and vitamin A reducing the chances of contracting eye diseases. Vitamin A also assists in relieving heavy menstrual bleeding, vaginal infections, urinary infections and others.

Overdosing on carrots may cause carotenemia– a temporary yellowing of the skin, caused by excess consumption of beta-carotene from fresh carrots. This is not dangerous, only a little strange looking, and it goes away several weeks after going cold turkey on beta-carotene.
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Tips

– To store carrots, remove the green leaves, otherwise they will draw water from the root and cause it to shrivel.

– Carrots should be kept in the coldest place in the refrigerator in a sealed container, to protect from gases discharged by other fruits and vegetables that encourage ripening and may also lead to shriveling.

– The carrot is best unpeeled. You can lightly scrape the peeling, or not at all. The peeling is tasty and nutritious.

– Like the tomato, a cooked carrot is more nutritious and healthier than a raw carrot. The level of vitamin A rises as the cooking breaks down the cell walls. It is best to cook the carrot in a small amount of water, so the vitamins do not get wasted in the cooking liquid.

– Adding a small amount of oil to the cooking liquid will increase the absorption of antioxidants.

– It is recommended to combine carrots with foods containing vitamin E, like peanuts, pumpkins, leafy vegetables and whole grains.

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I assume that you all have a stock of tried-and-true carrot recipes, so below are recipes for The Last of the Winter Vegetables.

In the coming weeks, you’ll be receiving the last beets and turnips of the season. For those of you who loathe parting with them, here’s an idea for Pickled Turnips and Beets, with thanks to Tami from Jerusalem, who gave us a delicious sample for lunch:

Ingredients:
Beets
Turnips
Garlic
Hot green peppers (optional)
Vinegar
Coarse salt
Water

Preparation:
Slice beets and turnips and arrange in layers in a jar. Sprinkle whole garlic cloves and hot peppers, if desired, throughout.
In a separate bowl, dissolve coarse salt in boiling water (quantity depends on size of jar), and pour over turnips and beets to 3/4 of the jar. Fill the space remaining with vinegar. Place in the sun for several days. Enjoy!

This week I was asked if there’s anything to make from red cabbage besides salad. Indeed, there are delicious options for cooked/steamed/stir-fried red cabbage, all somehow sweeter, lighter and less wintry than the green variety. Attached, for example, is a recipe for red cabbage with apples

And before we bid farewell to kohlrabi, it deserves a different notice, like in a soup thinly chopped with lemon and salt. (Not that it’s any less spectacular when just eaten raw, but even kohlrabi needs a little diversity in life….) Try these, for example:

Roasted kohlrabi and carrots
Roasted kohlrabi

And just before the kale departs, remember that it is an outstanding accompaniment to pulses of all varieties. Here’s a recipe for kale and bean soup.