May 9th-11th 2-022 – Cucs!

We’ve waited patiently for them since last year and now the time has come: Gadi and Tamir’s excellent blueberries are here! (with raspberries  following shortly!)

Over the past five years, in a small plot in Teqoa, Gadi and Tamir have been growing blueberries and raspberries, painting the desert fringe blue and purple. Gadi Afik, an agronomist specializing in blueberries, and Tamir Deutsch, an organic farmer and long-time friend, joined forces to meet the challenge of raising blueberries and raspberries in Israel.

Blueberries need special conditions to grow, including acidic soil, thus they’re grown on detached beds inside large containers. Cold weather agrees with them, and when frost gathers outside, it warms Gadi and Tamir’s hearts. To maintain an accurate level of acidity in the soil, Gadi and Tamir use (non-organic) fertilization, but throughout their growth the berries are not sprayed.

Their nutritional and health values are high: Rich in antioxidants, Vitamins C, K and other minerals, blueberries are known to prevent inflammation in the blood vessels and to lower cholesterol. They are recommended as a fruit portion for diabetics, as these berries can lower sugar levels in the blood. And we haven’t even mentioned the tantalising flavour…

19.5 NIS per 125 gram package | 72 NIS per 500 gram package

Blueberry season is short! Only 2-3 months! Add them to your boxes today via our order system.

_______________________________

And, speaking of the science of Life, have you got the cucumber sandwiches cut for Lady Bracknell?

Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

But then what does one do when this science of life, i.e., cucumbers, undergoes a hard winter? At the close of this winter, all the organic farmers in the country were confronted with a major shortage in cucumbers, and I found myself thinking about this ‘science of life’ and why it is disorienting when the cucumber supply is amiss. Cucumbers are a permanent component of our boxes, thus generally taken for granted. Then, in times of shortage, we feel that something has gone wrong: where are those familial faces? Should we be worried? Has something gone terribly wrong in the world…?

This winter’s extreme temperatures (which was nonetheless blessed in many agricultural aspects) brought with it a frost that damaged our cucumber bushes. Though new cucumbers were planted, the cold temperatures persisted. Even when the cucumbers weren’t frosted over, they were greatly influenced by the cold weather, which slowed them down to the point they simply did not budge. Thus, they remained small and struggling. Luckily for us, patience is one of the cucumber’s virtues, in addition to its very impressive growth characteristics. As soon as the weather warmed up a bit, they renewed their growth spurt and quickly caught up.

Cucumbers grow in our greenhouse all winter – a single winter child of the Cucurbit family. In a short time, he will be joined by all the cousins, nieces and nephews from this very prominent family – the first to visit us in springtime. So just before he is smothered with hugs and kisses from those who missed him over winter, we’re happy to provide the cucumber with its seven minutes of solo fame:

Cucumbers originated in the heart of the Indian subcontinent. This very ancient domesticated vegetable has been raised by the human farmer for over 3,000 years. By virtue of being so ancient, today there is almost no place in the world where a wild cucumber grows.  This versatile veggie spread to China, North Africa, Europe and the Middle East even before written documentation could be had. The Biblical Hebrews craved it when they went out of Egypt—their mouths watered as they “remember… the squash,” but they actually are referring to “cucumbers” and not the squash we know today. But this is not the only complicated part. The Hebrew word Melafefon derives from the Greek melopepon – meaning ‘an apple melon,’ which probably refers to squash or melon…

The cucumber is a vegetable that needs heat in order to grow and yield. Thus, in wintertime it can only be grown in a hothouse (which is warmed up by plastic walls that protect them from the cold… until it didn’t this past winter). In the open field, cucumber plants spread out in all directions, similar to their aunt squash or cousins melon and watermelon. Within the greenhouse, the cucumber is grown by trellising – i.e., climbing on strong strings which stretch upward, allowing the cucumber to curl itself around them all by itself using its tendrils (curly stems growing from the leaf’s bottom). Thus, we can grow many plants in a way that allows for cross ventilation among the stems, while the cucumber can do its growing and climbing and yielding of beautiful, bountiful elongated fruit.

The original cucumber is monoecious, meaning the male and female flowers grow on the same plant. The “traditional” summer cucumber species start by producing male flowers, which then are combined with female flowers to create bi-gender flowers, concluding with only female flowers. These cucumber species require pollination by pollinating insects that transfer the powder from the male to the female flowers. In breeding the species by crossbreeding and selection, new gynoecious hybrid cultivars were developed that produce almost all female blossoms which are parthenocarpic (virgin fruits, without fertilization or formation of “real” seeds). These varieties do not need to be fertilized, an act that might even hurt the quality of the fruit, which is why growing them in a greenhouse where they are isolated from pollinating insects is beneficial.

Greenhouse cucumbers look somewhat different from the open-field varieties: they are smoother and more uniform in appearance, and they have round edges, as compared to the little point at the ends of the open-field cucumbers. There are also open-field cucumbers grown in Israel, but those are aimed mostly towards the “industry,” i.e., pickling.

There are many varieties of cucumbers in the world, of course, other than the “Israeli” cucumber we discussed. There are also huge greenhouse cucumbers, sold in Europe and the United States, individually Saran-wrapped, called “Dutch” “British” or “European.” There are the long, thin Asian species, and tiny white cucumbers. There is even a “lemon cucumber” which grows to be round and yellow. Its seeds are big, and its taste is a bit sour.

This year we are growing a new type of cucumber of Japanese origin called Aromato, developed by the Israeli-based Hazera Company, after discovering it in a global food exhibit. The Aromato is very long and thin, compared to the Israeli cucumber.  At the time, Hazera was working in tandem with the “Aroma” coffee chain on a different project, and suggested that Aroma try out the new cucumber in their salads. In a gesture of appreciation towards the “guinea pigs,” the cucumber was named Aromato after the chain, albeit with a Japanese variation. You will meet them in your boxes in the near future. Thy are solid and crunchy, and less liquid, creating a concentrated flavor in a cucumber that hardly drips liquid when sliced. We think they’re great!

A popular use for cucumbers, other than biting into them, is cutting them in circles and placing them on the eyes. What do cucumbers actually do to the eyes? They cool and freshen them. Underneath the peeling, the cucumber is seven degrees cooler than the outside world. The fresh juice of the vegetable cools down the skin, cures it and flexes it. For treatment of light sunburn, it is recommended to place cucumbers slice on the damaged area, or to gently smear cucumber juice. Cucumber strips on the forehead are a classic folk cure for headaches. So are cucumber strips on aching feet, as well as 30 minutes of rest…

People tend to peel the cucumber, but this is really unnecessary. Basically, it is recommended to eat as many fruits and vegetables with their peeling intact, which adds dietary fibers to the food and slows down the release of sugar from the food into the blood (vital for those who suffer from such sugar-related ailments as diabetes, Candida, fungus, sugar addiction, etc.). Also, leaving the peeling intact keeps the vitamins close at hand, especially the antioxidants.

The cucumber is considered a cooler in Chinese medicine: a diuretic thirst-quenching vegetable that helps cleanse the body of toxins. It is considered to be a sweet vegetable that assists the digestive organs, rich in high-quality water (because plants purify their own water), containing calcium, potassium, beta carotene C and a trace of vitamin B.

In all honesty, even vegetable fussies are usually willing to take a bite out of cucumbers, which sometimes marks the beginning of a beautiful friendship! Scour our vegetable recipe section for many interesting, innovative cucumbers delights. Totally worth a peek!

May we all enjoy a satiating, cleansing, and refreshing week, chock full of juice.

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

________________________________

WHAT’S JOINING THE CUCUMBERS IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Fennel/kohlrabi, carrots, coriander/dill/parsley, potatoes, beets, onions/garlic, Swiss chard/kale/New Zealand spinach, zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce. 

Large box, in addition: Cabbage/sweet potatoes, parsley root/pumpkin slice, celeriac/celery stalk.      

FRUIT BOXES:  Pears/apples, avocados, nectarines, bananas.

Wednesday: Carrots, coriander/dill/parsley, potatoes, beets, onions, parsley root/garlic, Swiss chard/kale/New Zealand spinach, zucchini, tomatoes/cherry tomatoes/peppers, cucumbers, lettuce. 

Large box, in addition: Fennel/kohlrabi, cabbage/sweet potatoes/pumpkin slice, celery.      

FRUIT BOXES:  Pears/apples, avocados, nectarines, bananas/clemantinot.

June 3rd-5th 2019 – Focus on Fakus

Shavuot Changes

Over the week of Shavuot, Monday deliveries switch to Tuesday 11/6.

Chag Sameach!

_______________________________________________

NEW PRODUCTS!

  • Udi’s Sprouts has now added wonderful portobello mushrooms to their distinctive assortment of mushrooms and sprouts. Perfect for your Shavuot table!  Like all the mushroom varieties, the portobellos come in 200 gm. packages. Cost: 19 NIS
  • Tomer of Hamatsesa (“Tomer the Fermenter” —Mazal tov on the new name!) is now offering his well-known, well-loved apple cider in large-size bottles. 750 m”l @ 29 NIS.

Order these and other delectable items from our ordering system today!

 _________________________________________

Fakusiyada!

It’s less than a week till Shavuoth, the festival of the first fruits, but Chubeza’s field is already well decked out with new springtime arrivals. Over the last two weeks, we harvested our first beds of fakus, aka “Arabic cucumber.” We now await the annual barrage of phone calls that begin something like, “This week I received two portions of zucchini and no cucumbers!” 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 you cannot define, 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 fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons…” (Numbers 11, 5). The “cucumbers” they missed were most probably fakus. And to be honest, I totally understand them. Fakus is definitely worth craving. Thus every summer, we descendants of those Jews in exile are proud to bring to you the vegetable hankered by our great-great-great-great-great-great-great-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 The Natural History of Pliny, by Pliny the Elder (Book XIX, Chapter 23), “Indeed, he [Tiberius] was never without it; 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, which is actually…a melon. Also coined the “snake melon,” 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 wouldn’t 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. At Chubeza we grow two types: the small fakus (about the length of a cucumber), and one which is long and curved, resembling its English name “snake melon.”

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 taste and appearance are closer to the cucumber, which is why it is easy to confuse the two, 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, straight into the salad bowl. 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. It does resemble the cucumbers eaten here in the past, before 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.

________________________________________

WHAT’S JOINING THE FAKUS IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Zucchini, fakus, lettuce, beets, cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, pumpkin/butternut squash, onions, New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard, coriander/ parsley.

Large box, in addition: Yellow string beans, acorn squash/melon, garlic.

FRUIT BOXES: Nectarines, bananas, peaches, apples. Large boxes, in addition: cherries

Wednesday: Zucchini, fakus, lettuce, beets, cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, pumpkin/butternut squash, onions, New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard, coriander/ parsley.

Large box, in addition: Yellow string beans, acorn squash/melon, garlic/scallions.

FRUIT BOXES: Nectarines, bananas, apricuts. small boxes: apples. Large boxes: cherries

March 25th-27th 2019

This week we open with a few words from Carole and Ido, our outstanding Ish Shel Lechem bakers:

Dear Customers,

We’d like to share with you some of the processes we are undergoing – never-ending processes, if you ask us – which occur naturally when one works with raw materials that have independent lives of their own! We constantly make alterations and adjustments based on our Golden Rule to serve customers tasty, aesthetic, nutritious food, handmade from products we ourselves choose and love. The kind you can taste and feel good about right away.

This week we will tell you about some changes we’ve made in our bread, prince of the bakery:

All our breads begin with a sourdough culture made of organic whole wheat. The bread’s total ingredients can be counted on one hand, not including the thumb: Flour. Water. Culture. Salt.

C’est tout, ladies and gentlemen. Sound easy, doesn’t it? Well, halevai. The ingredients are only the beginning. Then it starts getting complicated.

Kneading, shaping, rising and baking are all processes involving tiny, gentle nuances which demand our full attention. Each day we must spontaneously adjust the process according to time and temperature in order to produce a perfect loaf. True, we have learned to work with the variables at hand, but the most important lesson is that bread marches to its own drum. It may feel it’s too cold or too warm. Sometimes the air is too moist, while other times the aristocratic-natured Flour will simply not rise on time. Sometimes this is just because it can, or other times it loves frustrating us, but once the loaves come out of the oven, everyone at the bakery holds their breath. We lift a loaf, turn in around, inhale its aroma, compliment the color, check out the crust, tap its belly and listen to the sound that emits.

In our attempt to offer the most uniform product possible, we have decided to try out a new type of flour.

The organic seeds of grain are ground at the Kemach Ha’aretz mill. Last week, some of the loaves were made from the new flour, and this week all of them sport the new ingredient. We are beginning to get acquainted, adjusting the recipes to meet the new demands. Thus far, we are very pleased with the results.

At first glance, 100% whole wheat bread looks darker. It also contains more bubbles, full of fragrance and a texture that allows both spreading and also pulling apart and dipping right into the spread. And the crust is delectable!

The spelt bread is now just a tad taller than the previous type, making the slices nice and big. Its characteristic caramel color remains very similar to the earlier version.

The rye bread is also a little more aerated. Well, “a little” is relative, for this is still a very condensed bread, and we still cannot slice it ahead of delivery because it is too sticky for the machine and crumbles inside. But hey, it’s hearty enough for your kitchen knife to slice, and highly recommended. In terms of nutritional value, the delicious rye contains more vitamins and minerals than the whole wheat loaves.

In general, the new breads are lighter, with more bubbles on the inside. The culture is still the same – celebrating six years now – which Ido maintains, cultivating like the very devoted father he is.

Those are the main changes we have seen thus far. We will be very happy, and actually request that you share your opinions with us: what did you like/dislike (whether we’re discussing bread or any other product.) You are the most important component of our enterprise, and it is crucial for us to hear from you.

Shavua Tov from the Ish Shel Lechem family

___________________________

Spring is in the air, and Pesach is around the corner…

In honor of Chag HaMatzot, the “Minchat HaAretz” flour mill is offering handmade matza shmura:

Whole Spelt Matza – Crisp matza (15-16 pieces) – 1 kg. – 195 NIS
Organic Whole Israeli Wheat Matza – Crisp matza (15-16 pieces) 1 kg. – 135 NIS
The matzot are shmurot from the time of reaping and hand-baked for 18 minutes.

Orders may be made by email (chubeza@gmail.com) or SMS (054-6535980) until 1.4.19.   

________________________________________

Cucumber, my number
You have it, it’s true
In slumber I wonder
With you what I’ll do
Slice you up thin in the
Julienne style
Make cucumber cookies
Stacked high as a mile
Salt you and dress you in
E.V.O.O.*
Add cherry tomatoes
A colorful show
Another idea
Won’t cost but a nickel
Bathe you in vinegar
Make you a pickle!

*Extra Virgin Olive Oil

(from Poems on Fruits and Odes to Veggies by, Judith Natelli McLaughlin)

The time has come to turn our attention to a permanent guest in your boxes that is usually taken for granted: the vivid cucumber. It certainly deserves some special attention, and there’s no time better than now to turn our eyes (and sink our teeth into) the cucumber than the days after Purim, thanks to this vegetable’s ability to tackle a hangover, among many other attributes.

Cucumbers grow in our greenhouse all winter – a single winter child of the Cucurbit family. In a short time, he will be joined by all the cousins, nieces and nephews from this very prominent family – the first to visit us in springtime. So just before he is smothered with hugs and kisses from those who missed him over winter, we’re happy to provide the cucumber with its seven minutes of solo fame:

Cucumbers originated in the heart of the Indian subcontinent. This very ancient domesticated vegetable has been raised by the human farmer for over 3,000 years. By virtue of being so ancient, today there is almost no place in the world where a wild cucumber grows.  This versatile veggie spread to China, North Africa, Europe and the Middle East even before written documentation could be had. The Biblical Hebrews craved it when they went out of Egypt—their mouths watered as they “remember… the squash,” but they actually are referring to “cucumbers” and not the squash we know today. But this is not the only complicated part. The Hebrew word Melafefon derives from the Greek melopepon – meaning ‘an apple melon,’ which probably refers to squash or melon…

In the open field, cucumber plants spread out in all directions, similar to their aunt squash or cousins melon and watermelon. Within the greenhouse, the cucumber is grown by trellising – i.e., climbing on strong strings which stretch upward, allowing the cucumber to curl itself around them all by itself using its tendrils (curly stems growing from the leaf’s bottom). Thus, we can grow many plants in a way that allows for cross ventilation among the stems, while the cucumber can do its growing and climbing and yielding of beautiful, bountiful elongated fruit.

The original cucumber is monoecious, meaning the male and female flowers grow on the same plant. The “traditional” summer cucumber species start by producing male flowers, which then are combined with female flowers to create bi-gender flowers, concluding with only female flowers. These cucumber species require pollination by pollinating insects that transfer the powder from the male to the female flowers. In breeding the species by crossbreeding and selection, new gynoecious hybrid cultivars were developed that produce almost all female blossoms which are parthenocarpic (virgin fruits, without fertilization or formation of “real” seeds). These varieties do not need to be fertilized, an act that might even hurt the quality of the fruit, which is why growing them in a greenhouse where they are isolated from pollinating insects is beneficial.

Greenhouse cucumbers look somewhat different from the open-field varieties: they are smoother and more uniform in appearance, and they have round edges, as compared to the little point at the ends of the open-field cucumbers. There are also open-field cucumbers grown in Israel, but those are aimed mostly towards the “industry,” i.e., pickling.

There are many varieties of cucumbers in the world, of course, other than the “Israeli” cucumber we discussed. There are also huge greenhouse cucumbers, sold in Europe and the United States, individually Saran-wrapped, called “Dutch” “British” or “European.” There are the long, thin Asian species, and tiny white cucumbers. There is even a “lemon cucumber” which grows to be round and yellow. Its seeds are big, and its taste is a bit sour.

A popular use for cucumbers, other than biting into them, is cutting them in circles and placing them on the eyes. What do cucumbers actually do to the eyes? They cool and freshen them. Underneath the peeling, the cucumber is seven degrees cooler than the outside world. The fresh juice of the vegetable cools down the skin, cures it and flexes it. For treatment of light sunburn, it is recommended to place cucumbers slice on the damaged area, or to gently smear cucumber juice. Cucumber strips on the forehead are a classic folk cure for headaches. So are cucumber strips on aching feet, as well as 30 minutes of rest…

People tend to peel the cucumber, but this is really unnecessary. Basically, it is recommended to eat as many fruits and vegetables with their peeling intact, which adds dietary fibers to the food and slows down the release of sugar from the food into the blood (vital for those who suffer from such sugar problems as diabetes, Candida, fungus, sugar addiction, etc.). Also, leaving the peeling keeps the vitamins close at hand, especially the antioxidants. The cucumber is considered a cooler in Chinese medicine: a diuretic thirst-quenching vegetable that helps cleanse the body of toxins. It is considered to be a sweet vegetable that assists the digestive organs, rich in high-quality water (because plants purify their own water), containing calcium, potassium, beta carotene C and a trace of vitamin B.

in all honesty, even vegetable fussies are usually willing to take a bite out of cucumbers, which sometimes marks the beginning of a beautiful friendship! Scour our vegetable recipe section for many interesting, innovative cucumbers delights. Totally worth a peek!

May we all enjoy a satiating, cleansing, and refreshing week, chockful of juice.

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

__________________________________________

WHAT’S JOINING THE CUCUMBERS IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Snow peas or garden peas, fresh garlic bunch, cabbage/cauliflower, potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, beets/baby radishes, onions/leeks, parsley root/celeriac, fresh fava beans, parsley/coriander/dill.

Large box, in addition: Kohlrabi, carrots/fennel, lettuce/kale/chubeza (mallow)greens.

FRUIT BOXES: Avocadoes, bananas, pomelit, clementinot.

Wednesday: Snow peas or garden peas, fresh garlic bunch, cabbage/carrots, potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, beets/baby radishes, parsley root/celeriac, fresh fava beans, parsley/coriander/dill, lettuce/kale/chubeza (mallow)greens.

Large box, in addition: Kohlrabi/zucchini, onions/leeks, fennel/peppers.

FRUIT BOXES: Avocadoes, bananas, pomelit/pink grapefruit, clementinot.

May 7th-9th 2018 – Focus on Fakus

Less than two weeks remain before Shavuoth, the festival of the first fruits, but Chubeza’s field is already decked out with new springtime fruits. Last week, we harvested our first beds of fakus, aka “Arabic cucumber.” We’re now awaiting the barrage of phone that begin something like, “This week I received two portions of zucchini and no cucumbers!” On behalf of those whose boxes this week 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 you cannot define, 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 fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons…” (Numbers 11, 5). The “cucumbers” they missed were most probably fakus. And to be honest, I totally understand them. Fakus is definitely worth craving. Thus every summer, we descendants of those Jews in exile are proud to bring to you the vegetable hankered by our great-great-great-great-great-great-great-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 The Natural History of Pliny, by Pliny the Elder (Book XIX, Chapter 23), “Indeed, he [Tiberius] was never without it; 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, which is actually…a melon. Also coined the “snake melon,” 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 wouldn’t 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. At Chubeza we grow two types: the small fakus (about the length of a cucumber), and one which is long and curved, resembling its English name “snake melon.”

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 taste and appearance are closer to the cucumber, which is why it is easy to confuse the two, 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, straight into the salad bowl. 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. It does resemble the cucumbers eaten here in the past, before 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.

As mentioned, there’s less than two weeks till Shavuot, but this week, too, is bringing stormy rains (and warm temperatures). The combination of warmth and moisture is already beginning to wreak havoc in the field. The melon and fakus beds are already struggling to cope with the dreaded hibiscus disease which thrives on warmth and moisture to zealously attack the plants’ leaves. We greatly look forward to the summer dryness which will give our vegetables a fighting chance to dry out their wilting leaves and recover. Meanwhile, they’re suffering miserably. One very confusing Spring this year indeed……

Regardless of the weather, may you eat your vegetables in joy and good health!

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 WHAT’S JOINING THE FAKUS IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: New Zealand spinach, garlic/cabbage, lettuce, cucumbers/fakkus, leeks, tomatoes, potatoes, Swiss chard/kale, zucchini, parsley root/celery stalk, cilantro/parsley.   

Large box, in addition: Beets, onions, acorn squash

Monday: New Zealand spinach, garlic/cabbage, lettuce, cucumbers/fakkus, leeks, tomatoes, potatoes, Swiss chard/kale, zucchini, cilantro/parsley, beets.   

Large box, in addition: Parsley root, onions, acorn squash

August 21st-23rd 2017 – Silly, Slow, (no) Cucumber season

Augustus Caesar, who gave this month his very own name, probably did so in order to glorify himself. Somehow Caesar did not take summer in the Holy Land into consideration, where the mere mention of “his” month evokes an instant moan, groan and a brush of sweat off the brow. Or perhaps a wish to disappear from the near-inferno till August ends.

Its Hebrew equivalent, the month of AV, received a more appropriate title deriving from the word Abu, Acadian for “stalk” (or stem). Probably because this was the time of year when the harvesting of the stalks ended and the trees – dry from the hot weather – were chopped down and stored for personal needs and for use in the temple services. In Babylonian, the word translated to “fire” (no further explanation required…)

Our fields are cooking away in the heavy heat. Most of the crops are, of course, summer vegetables, but they too need some occasional relief from the heat. We help them out by irrigating frequently, covering the earth to prevent the moisture from evaporating, and covering certain beds with shade nets. Some of the vegetables you have been receiving in your boxes over these summery weeks are those which harden and dry up upon ripening, thus they have been extracted from the earth, stored at Chubeza and gradually distributed to you. Such are the pumpkins, onions, potatoes and garlic. The veggies growing in the field are the juicier, greener members of your boxes – tomatoes and cherry tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, lubia, okra, New Zealand spinach and Swiss chard, the herbs, sweet potatoes, zucchini, leeks and scallions.

Others grow in the wide open field – the tender greens are protected under black shade nets which somewhat lessen the radiation, and vegetables with more stamina courageously brave the hot sun in the open field. Our growth houses – the big hothouse and smaller tunnels– accommodate the tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and peppers. The tunnels, too, are covered with black nets which limit the radiation, somewhat easing the heat in the already hot structure. In the field, many of the summer vegetables we bade farewell to have been replaced by watermelon, melon, pumpkin, and onions. Other parts of the field stand empty, dry and brown, storing the earthly cool with its hidden virtues that await the next rounds of seeding and planting – for winter vegetables, which started this week.

Because, though August is still at its peak and the heat prevails, our fields are already dotted with autumn and winter plants: for some weeks now, light green lettuces have been confidently growing in the shady tunnel, and this week we were excited to start planting the first round of such autumn plants as cabbage, cauliflower, fennel, beets, celery and celeriac. We also seeded carrots and beans, which will be joined next week by autumn greens and fresh roots: totsoi, arugula, turnips, daikon and autumn onions. Next in line: broccoli and kale. So, after a few weeks bereft of planting, we are back to filling up the clumps of earth with plants and seeds. And although the heat beats down on us and our mouths are parched with thirst, we feel fresh within as we wait for these young’uns with an autumny-wet-kind of happiness.

And what about the cucumbers? Well, mid-summer is not their best of times. Though they are summer varieties, cucumbers are not as heat resistant as their “tough” summer vegetable colleagues, and they are quite vulnerable to extreme heat waves. The July heatwaves harmed cucumber hothouses all over the country. Organic and non-organic, we cucumber growers all share the same hardships…. The regular market compensates for the shortage by importing cucumbers, making the local blight go nearly unnoticed. In the already small organic market, every loss of hothouse produce is felt. Last year we were lucky, as our cucumbers did very well over this period, so we did not feel the lack that hit various organic markets. This year, our cucumbers suffered and then wilted, and due to the general shortage we been unable to purchase enough cucumbers to supplement your boxes.

New fresh cucumber bushes are already growing nicely in the tunnel, but we will only begin gradually harvesting them in a few weeks’ time. We hope the great cucumber famine will end soon and we will be able to purchase cucumbers for your boxes until ours yield, but at this point we’re not sure exactly when this will happen. We are thoroughly enjoying the rest of the summer vegetables filling up the baskets, but miss the cucumbers dearly and hope for their speedy return.

And till then we wish you all a pleasant end-of-summer, despite the heavy heat. Drink up and take cover from the hot sun!

Wishing us good days,

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

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Parsley/coriander, butternut squash/white pumpkin, yard-long beans, bell peppers, eggplant/ potatoes, tomatoes, corn, onions, slice of pumpkin, sweet potatoes. Small boxes only: leeks/garlic.

Large box, in addition: New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard, okra, scallions, edamame (green soy)/cherry tomatoes.

Wednesday: Parsley/coriander, butternut squash/white pumpkin, yard-long beans, bell peppers, tomatoes, corn/potatoes/cherry tomatoes, slice of pumpkin, sweet potatoes, leeks/garlic, edamame (green soy). Small boxes only: scallions.

Large box, in addition: New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard, onions, eggplant, okra.

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