July 2nd-4th – A ballad for summer eggplants

This week we begin with an important message from Michal and Avigail of Tahina, a cottage industry in Netiv Halamed Heh specializing in pure and unique whole grain tahini, with no additives:

A few weeks ago,  the media carried disturbing news about tahini: several Israeli tahini manufacturers are being sued on the claim that they do not disclose adding salt to their product. For us at Tahina, this is an opportunity to reassure you and proudly reiterate:

Our Tahina includes one ingredient, and one ingredient alone: pure sesame. It’s all as clear as our jar, and the very distinct information on its label: 100% sesame – 100% transparency – Nothing added, nothing removed.

And – we discovered an incredible, easy recipe to make with our tahi-na. it’s called: “Tahi-na malabi”: a layer of raw tahini, covered by a thin spread of raspberry jam (or any sweet-and-sour fruit preserve), topped with almond flakes. A delectable desert or a perfect energy boost:

Add Tahi-na to your boxes today via our order system.

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Growing up here in the eighties, there were community service announcements instead of commercials. One glorified the eggplant, praising its availability year-round. Indeed, eggplants haven’t been seasonal for some time. The eggplant, so adored in Israeli cuisine, is one of the vegetables grown in hothouses during the cold season in order to maintain a constant supply to its Israeli aficionados. At Chubeza, we bid the eggplant farewell in winter and are happy to welcome it back with the great heat of summer, when the outdoor temperatures remind them of their birthplace: Southern India and Sri Lanka. (Last winter, when the cold weather refused to show up, the eggplants remained till December…)

From India and Sri Lanka, the eggplant migrated to Burma and then China. In ancient Chinese writings, eggplants are mentioned as early as the fifth century. From there, they migrated to the Middle East, where they became prominent ingredients in the local cuisine. The Muslim Moors from North Africa who conquered Spain in the eighth century brought eggplants with them, and the Italians made their acquaintance with the exotic vegetable via commercial ties with Arab merchants in the 13th century.

Eggplants are considered a long annual or biennial crop. We once visited Iris Ben-Zvi, a veteran organic farmer from Emek Yizrael, who showed us how to keep eggplants in the field during wintertime: at the end of their yielding, prune the plants and leave them in place for their winter sleep. In springtime they bloom again. We did try this method, but it was hard to determine whether or not the results justified the effort. So we continue to replant our eggplant crop annually.

We plant eggplants in our field when winter is turning to spring, at the beginning of April, when the zucchinis and pumpkins have already been in the field for a couple of months. This is when the first eggplant seedlings acclimate in the ground, young and youthful with silky leaves. A month later we plant the second round, and six weeks later in the middle of June, we plant the third and last round.

The plants grow calmly, strong and healthy, and grace us with lovely purple flowers that start peeking out of the leaves around two months after being planted. (A personal thanks – again – to Chana for the very beautiful photos in this newsletter.)

Within a few weeks, the flowers are fertilized and they grow round dark fruits. That is when we harvest. We prefer to pick them at a medium size and not wait for huge fruits that have passed their climax. To determine if the eggplant is ready, we measure it, but also apply slight pressure to check its softness. An unripe fruit will be hard and unresponsive to fingertip pressure. A ripe fruit is more flexible, but not soft.

The eggplant is an androgynous plant, meaning every flower is both female and male. The flowers usually ripen themselves, but sometimes they get by with a little help from friendly fly-by insects:

And that reminds me, I’m duty-bound to refute the Number One Urban Legend: there is no such thing as a male (fewer seeds, less bitter) and female (more seeds, more bitter) eggplant. The difference in seed quantity has to do with spraying using vegetal hormones (Auxin) in order to prevent the leaves and flowers from falling, particularly during the cold months. (Naturally, in organic agriculture and in our fields we do not use those methods…)

Eggplants arrived in Israel long before the Hebrew pioneers, for, as noted, this vegetable was an important component in the Arab cuisine. The idea to match the eggplant with the charcoal grill must have arrived in the area just about the time the wheel was invented. But the love affair between eggplants and the Israeli cuisine was more complex. During the era of austerity in the nascent State of Israel, eggplant recipes were invented and designed to take full advantage of this vegetable’s three most admirable characteristics: availability, low price and amazing ability to absorb flavors. In Israel’s early days, the eggplant was used as a convenient replacement for the real thing. Liver was expensive, so let’s liver-flavor the eggplant (remember mocked chopped-liver?!). Tomatoes scarce and expensive? One tomato, ten eggplants, and voila: a tomato-flavored eggplant! There is even a dessert dish: sugar-coated eggplant, baked like a strudel and served in Israeli restaurants during interesting times. And alongside these wonder foods, the eggplant always starred in Mideast cuisine as a component of various salads, or sliced and fried to one day become, in Israeli culinary jargon… antipasti! There will always be those who claim the eggplant as king of the local vegetables, but in any case, it is definitely a guest of honor in the emerging Israeli kitchen and one of the most local and rooted vegetables in the area.

The first important test for basic essentials in the local kitchen is the Long-Term Adaptability Test, i.e., will this food appear over the years in simple and popular recipes alongside the “gourmet” recipes of prosperous times? The eggplant passes this test with flying colors: from various eggplant salads in nearly every meat meal, to eggplant-mocking chopped liver during austerity, from popular fast-food—the sabich–to high-falutin’ roasted eggplant with tahini and goose liver, eggplant with tuna tartar, eggplant cream, eggplant jam, and more.

There are many types of eggplants in the world, in various shapes and colors. In Israel we are acquainted with the big dark purple elliptic variety, and over the past years, the striped zebra type as well. But eggplants also come in green and yellow, in elongated or round forms and in various sizes. The name eggplant refers to the fact that the fruits of some 18th-century European cultivars were yellow or white and resembled goose or hen’s eggs hanging on a bush. (The hen is for illustrative purposes only. Trust us, those are eggplants):

To please the eye and paint the summer green (purple and black), take a look at this array of eggplant shapes and colors:

This year we are growing three different types of eggplants – two of the “classic” variety, and one Baladi (local) variety that connotes a cross between an eggplant and a fancy prom dress: wider (but not chubbier), with flowing curves along its length. Here’s one:

The first eggplants, members of the Solanaceae family, were received cautiously and suspiciously by the Europeans. The solanaceae family includes tomatoes, peppers, potatoes and certain non-edible plants, some of which are lethal. Because of the eggplant’s genetics, they were suspected to be toxic as well. Even today there are those (macrobiotic enthusiasts, for example) who do not eat vegetables from the solanacea family. The harmful components are not as prominent in eggplants, and therefore pose no danger to most people. (The hazardous components exist to a higher degree in the leaves and stems.) It took some time until the Europeans could fully trust the eggplant, so in its early days it was used only as an ornamental plant, sporting its spacious leaves, impressive shape and lovely purple flowers.

Today the eggplant is acknowledged for its medicinal and nutritional benefits as well: it contains elements which shrink blood vessels, and is therefore considered to be beneficial for treating hemorrhoids and bleeding wounds. Eggplants promote secretion of liver and gall bile and are advantageous for anemia, constipation, stomach ulcers and infections of the large intestine. The eggplant contains antioxidants that can help prevent strokes and bleeding, and the phytochemical monoterpene which assists in preventing heart disease and cancer. Researchers have been examining the eggplant’s possible influences on battling cancer by reducing the steroid hormones which encourage the development of tumors, and preventing the oxidization of cells that lead to cancer’s spread. A folk cure for scorpion bites is a slice of raw eggplant applied directly to the sting, and to relieve frostbite, eggplant tea is chilled to room temperature and its compresses are placed over the burn.

But the most popular use of the eggplant is for food: steamed, toasted, baked (if fried, use only a little oil, because its sponge-like texture absorbs large quantities of oil), grilled, chopped and diced, stuffed, sliced or cut into cubes. Your dependable peacemaker, it goes nicely with cheeses or meat, tahini or tomatoes, but also does very well on its own with some coarse salt, lemon juice and parsley.  Bon Appétit!

And for a chuckle – the vegetable community service announcements we told you about (eggplant is at 2:05 minutes). Enjoy!

Wishing everyone a gentle, summery week,

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

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Melon/watermelon, Amoro pumpkin/slice of pumpkin, New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard, cucumbers, onions/leeks,  tomatoes, potatoes, corn,  Thai yard-long beans/squash, eggplant, parsley/coriander.

Large box, in addition: Lettuce, cherry tomatoes, acorn squash/butternut squash.

FRUIT BOXES: Apples, mango, banana, grapes.

Wednesday: Melon/watermelon, New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, potatoes, corn,  Thai yard-long beans/garlic/green beans, squash/cherry tomatoes, eggplant/butternut squash. Small boxes: Amoro pumpkin

Large box, in addition: Onions/leeks, parsley , acorn squash, slice of pumpkin,

FRUIT BOXES: Apples, mango, grapes. small boxes: banana. Large boxes: plum.

August 28th-30th 2017

Beautiful shiny eggplants

The Gonenim-Mekor-Haim Bookstop in Jerusalem is delighted to invite you to our upcoming five jam sessions celebrating creativity, community and the love of music. For details check out these ads (Hebrew and Arabic) or contact Aliza at bookstop.mh@gmail.com

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September is right around the corner, marking your very last chance to purchase the beautifully detailed and illustrated “Shana Bagina” calendar – a monthly guide to home gardening and local harvests. This year in two new editions and two languages: “Friends in the Garden” (Hebrew) and “The Porcupine Edition” (English)

For further details and a preview glimpse at the calendar, check out their website. You are welcome to order via our order system under “Chubeza vegetables”

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Our eggplants are beginning to emerge, and will remain with us from mid-summer till autumn, as the outdoor temperatures remind them of their birthplace: Southern India and Sri Lanka. The eggplant first migrated from India to Burma and then China. In ancient Chinese writings, eggplants are mentioned as early as the fifth century. From there, they migrated to the Middle East, where they became prominent ingredients in the local cuisine. The Muslim Moors from North Africa who conquered Spain in the eighth century brought eggplants with them, and the Italians made their acquaintance with the exotic vegetable via commercial ties with Arab merchants in the 13th century.

The eggplant, so adored in Israeli cuisine, is one of the vegetables grown in hothouses during the cold season in order to maintain a constant supply to its Israeli aficionados. At Chubeza, we bid it farewell in winter and are happy to welcome it back with the great heat of summer. The eggplant is considered a long annual or biennial crop. We once visited Iris Ben-Zvi, a veteran organic farmer from Emek Yizrael, who showed us how to keep eggplants in the field during wintertime: at the end of their yielding, prune the plants and leave them in place for their winter sleep. In springtime they bloom again. We did try this method, but it was hard to determine whether or not the results justified the effort. So we continue to replant our eggplant crop annually.

We plant eggplants in our field when winter is turning to spring, around April, when the zucchinis and pumpkins have already been in the field for a couple of months. This is when the first eggplant seedlings acclimate in the ground, young and youthful with silky leaves. Two months later we plant the second round, and six weeks later in the middle of June, we plant the third and last round.

The plants grow calmly, strong and healthy, and grace us with lovely purple flowers that start peeking out of the leaves around two months after being planted. (A personal thanks – again – to Chana for the very beautiful photos in this newsletter.)

Within a few weeks, the flowers are fertilized and they grow round dark fruits. That is when we harvest. We prefer to pick them at a medium size and not wait for huge fruits that have passed their climax. To determine if the eggplant is ready, we measure it, but also apply slight pressure to check its softness. An unripe fruit will be hard and unresponsive to fingertip pressure. A ripe fruit is more flexible, but not soft.

The eggplant is an androgynous plant, meaning every flower is both female and male. The flowers usually ripen themselves, but sometimes they get by with a little help from friendly fly-by insect:

And that reminds me, I’m duty-bound to refute the Number One Urban Legend: there is no such thing as a male (fewer seeds, less bitter) and female (more seeds, more bitter) eggplant. The difference in seed quantity has to do with spraying using vegetal hormones (Auxin) in order to prevent the leaves and flowers from falling, particularly during the cold months. (Naturally, in organic agriculture and in our fields we do not use those methods…)

Eggplants arrived in Israel long before the Hebrew pioneers, for, as noted, this vegetable was an important component in the Arab cuisine. The idea to match the eggplant with the charcoal grill must have arrived in the area just about the time the wheel was invented. But the love affair between eggplants and the Israeli cuisine was more complex. During the era of austerity after the State of Israel was established, eggplant recipes were invented and designed to take full advantage of this vegetable’s three most admirable characteristics: availability, low price and an amazing ability to absorb flavors. In Israel’s early days, the eggplant was used as a convenient replacement for the real thing. Liver was expensive, so let’s liver-flavor the eggplant (remember mocked chopped-liver?!). Tomatoes scarce and expensive? One tomato, ten eggplants, and voila: a tomato-flavored eggplant! There is even a dessert dish: sugar-coated eggplant, baked like a strudel and served in Israeli restaurants during interesting times. And alongside these wonder foods, the eggplant always starred in Mideast cuisine as a component of various salads, or sliced and fried to one day become, in Israeli culinary jargon… antipasti! There will always be those who claim the eggplant as king of the local vegetables, but in any case, it is definitely a guest of honor in the emerging Israeli kitchen.

The first important test for basic essentials in the local kitchen is the Long-Term Adaptability Test, i.e., will this food appear over the years in simple and popular recipes alongside the “gourmet” recipes of prosperous times? The eggplant passes this test with flying colors: from various eggplant salads in nearly every meat meal, to eggplant-mocking chopped liver during austerity, from popular fast-food—the sabich–to high-falutin’ eggplant rolls in goat cheeses, eggplant cream, eggplant jam, and more.

There are many types of eggplants in the world, in various shapes and colors. In Israel we are acquainted with the big dark purple elliptic variety, and over the past years, the striped zebra type as well. But eggplants also come in green and yellow, in elongated or round forms and in various sizes. The name eggplant refers to the fact that the fruits of some 18th-century European cultivars were yellow or white and resembled goose or hen’s eggs. (The hen is for illustrative purposes only. Trust us, those are eggplants):

To please the eye and paint the summer green (purple and black), take a look at this array of eggplant shapes and colors:

This year we will be growing three different types of eggplants – two of the “classic” variety, and one Baladi (local) variety that connotes a cross between an eggplant and a fancy prom dress: wider (but not chubbier), with flowing curves along its length. Here’s one:

The first eggplants, members of the Solanaceae family, were received cautiously and suspiciously by the Europeans. The solanaceae is home to the tomatoes, peppers, potatoes and certain non-edible plants, some of which are lethal. Because of the eggplant’s genetics, they were suspected to be toxic as well. Even today there are those (macrobiotic enthusiasts, for example) who do not eat vegetables from the solanacea family. The harmful components are not as prominent in eggplants, and therefore pose no danger to most people. (The hazardous components exist to a higher degree in the leaves and stems.) It took some time until the Europeans could fully trust the eggplant, so in its early days it was used only as an ornamental plant, sporting its spacious leaves, impressive shape and lovely purple flowers.

Today the eggplant is acknowledged for its medicinal and nutritional benefits as well: it contains elements which shrink blood vessels, and is therefore considered to be beneficial for treating hemorrhoids and bleeding wounds. Eggplants promote secretion of liver and gall bile and are advantageous for anemia, constipation, stomach ulcers and infections of the large intestine. The eggplant contains antioxidants that can help prevent strokes and bleeding, and the phytochemical monoterpene which assists in preventing heart disease and cancer. Researchers have been examining the eggplant’s possible influences on battling cancer by reducing the steroid hormones which encourage the development of tumors, and preventing the oxidization of cells that lead to cancer’s spread. A folk cure for scorpion bites is a slice of raw eggplant applied directly to the sting, and to relieve frostbite, eggplant tea is chilled to room temperature and its compresses are placed over the burn.

But the most popular use of the eggplant is for food: steamed, toasted, baked (if fried, use only a little oil, because its sponge-like texture absorbs large quantities of oil), grilled, chopped and diced, stuffed, sliced or cut into cubes. Your dependable peacemaker, it goes nicely with cheeses or meat, tehina or tomatoes, but also does very well on its own with some coarse salt, lemon juice and parsley.  Bon Appétit!

And apropos eggplants – some very local, very Israeli, 80’s nostalgia.  Enjoy!

Wishing everyone a gentle, summery week,

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

WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Parsley, corn/cherry tomatoes/potatoes, yard-long beans, bell peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, edamame (green soy), leeks/garlic, slice of pumpkin, sweet potatoes, scallions/onions.

Large box, in addition: New Zealand spinach/coriander, okra, butternut squash.

Wednesday: Coriander, cherry tomatoes/bell peppers, potatoes/eggplant, corn, yard-long beans,  tomatoes, edamame (green soy), leeks/garlic, slice of pumpkin, sweet potatoes, scallions/onions.

Large box, in addition: Parsley/New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard, okra, butternut squash.

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!

June 26th-28th 2017 – Summertime, and the livin’ ain’t so easy…

Last week, June 22, marked the formal start of summer. We were rewarded with a few days of not-so-hot weather, but this week summer has hurled its scorching heatwaves straight at us.

The livin’ ain’t that easy for the withering potato plants that stood green and erect only a few weeks ago, as summer signals us to pull up the last of them, already. It urges the corn stalks to valiantly stand upright, flying, fighting to fertilize and produce oh-so-sweet cobs. Old Sol is rapidly ripening the cucumbers and fakus, causing the tomatoes to blush furiously. Meanwhile, at the same pace the viruses are quickly spreading to our zucchini, warping the shape of the elder portion of the crop. (Not to worry: these are plant viruses, not human!)

The loquat tree near our packinghouse yielded fruit a while ago, leaving those fruits remaining on the tree to dry and become carved into the branches. The grapes covering the shed by the office are already clustered, heavy and bountiful, winking at us from above as we wait for them to become plump and soft.

The Chubeza team gets very hot by the middle of the day. Our water containers empty quickly, and we remind each other to drink. We all work with long-sleeved shirts to protect us from the relentless sun, and for some time now we have the blower in the packinghouse working heroically to suck out the hot air and slightly cool off the facility. It’s still not oppressively hot, we know, and we’re appreciative of the mild, temperate summer we’ve had till now. And yet, the body that still recalls the pleasure of the cool winter and spring must now get used to the burden of summer. This is why it’s harder for us now than during the peak of the season when were already accustomed to the heat.

This season is full of beginnings, reflected in the changing composition of your boxes. After remaining fairly constant from week to week with only minor changes, it’s time to greet the array of happy newcomers who arrived over the past few weeks. Let’s hear your applause for: The corn! The acorn squash and other squash varieties! The eggplant! The melon! And the watermelon and even the soy bean, signaling our summer makeover! In close proximity, our tomatoes are ripening nicely, along with the okra. Coming very soon: more pumpkins, peppers, yard-long beans, lubia and other happy summer vegetables.

The melons are ripening rapidly, juicy and sweet with a heavenly scent, and they have already graced your boxes. On harvest days our packinghouse is filled with the fragrance of melons. This year we are growing the elliptical pineapple melon, with light orange-tinted flesh.

 

The first watermelons have ripened as well. How do we know? We watch the blackbirds. These intelligent birds are the first to identify good, sweet watermelons. They never touch one that’s not ripe, but they adore plunging their beaks into the sweet ones. For this reason we’ve rushed to cover the watermelon bed with netting to keep out the birds and call off the big watermelon bash they were planning. Stay tuned, coming soon to your boxes! (the watermelons, not the birds…)

The eggplants, too, are ripening slowly, as is their wont. This year we planted our first eggplant bed at the end of March, when winter was still there in full blast. These brave summery fellas are placed in the earth and try to grow and flourish despite the low temperature. Since then, the weather has become warm and summery, and the eggplants have shown their appreciation by turning plump and soft. What a pleasure to harvest summer eggplants again, which absorbed the sunny warmth into their soft skin and show their thanks with their shiny black-purple mane and an absolutely delectable summer savor in your plates. Welcome Mr. Eggplant!

Our tomatoes have begun ripening quickly, and more and more tomato crates are piling up in our packing house. Our first cherry tomatoes were harvested today. They’re still rather large compared to other varieties, but they’re super sweet and taste great! Summer helps them ripen easily. We pick our summer tomatoes red and ripe so they reach maximum sweetness, which is why they are sometimes softer than the winter tomatoes you are used to. Don’t let that bother you – just dig in!

This year we planted six varieties of winter squash and pumpkins, now ripening according to their sizes, with the small acorn squash coming in first. Next in line are the bright orange Amoro pumpkins and the creamy butternut squash. Some of the Provence pumpkins have already turned color and are ready to be harvested, along with a new type we’re trying out this year – round, cute orange pumpkins with edible green seeds (but most of them still need some more time in their royal beds). You’ll get the full pumpkin/squash story in the very near future.

This week we harvest a brand new interesting squash – the squash mashed potato (how cute and tempting is that name?). It’s very white, inside and out, and has a very delicate not-too-sweet taste that combines smoothly with salty fare, and a very unique texture – one that is truly reminiscent of mashed potatoes! This is what it looks like:

Our big Tripolitania pumpkins still aren’t ready, so we’re giving them all the time they need (till midnight, of course, when they turn into royal coaches…).

This year we are adding the green soy, aka edamame, to the beginning-of-summer vegetable collection. Usually we grow it in the throes of summer for a very short period. This year, we are experimenting by seeding it early, at the beginning of May. The first seeds enjoyed the spring weather, not the usual summery heat it is used to, and over time it yielded pods that filled up with chubby peas. Last week we began harvesting bunches of those yummy green pods. We seeded more rounds, testing its ability to deal with various stages of the season. At the end of the season we will be able to report on our results. As a summer tenant, soy beans will be with us all the way to autumn.

And the happiest, most joyful beginning: a brand new beautiful Chubeza baby girl born to Yochai, our loyal Jerusalem delivery person, and his wife Oryn. Some of you will remember Yochai and Oryn from the first welcoming phone call you received as new Chubeza members. We are now overjoyed to greet tiny Yaela with a warm embrace. Much love to Yochai, Oryn, Lavie and Yaela!

These days of beginning are also days of endings – Last week the high school students completed their schoolyear and this week marks the end of the schoolyear for the elementary and kindergarten set. Wishing all the hardworking students a well-earned break and a happy, relaxing summer vacation full of fun.

Shavua Tov from all of us – Alon, Bat Ami, Dror, Yochai and the entire Chubeza team

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Parsley/coriander, acorn squash/yellow beans, lettuce, fakus/cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, edamame, eggplant, potatoes, melon/water melon, corn.

Large box, in addition: Parsley root, butternut squash/Amoro pumpkin, beets.

Wednesday: Parsley/coriander, acorn squash/white winter squash, lettuce, fakus/cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant/green beans, potatoes, melon/water melon, corn. Small box only: New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard.

Large box, in addition: Cherry tomatoes/edamame, parsley root, Amoro pumpkin, beets.

And there’s more! You can add to your basket a wide, delectable range of additional products from fine small producers: flour, fruits, 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!

Aley Chubeza #202, June 9th-11th 2014

Egg-stra Special Eggplants

Our eggplants are beginning to emerge, and will now be with us from mid-summer till autumn, as the outdoor temperatures remind them of home: Southern India and Sri Lanka. The eggplant first migrated from India to Burma and then China. In ancient Chinese writings, the eggplant is mentioned as early as the fifth century. From there, they migrated to the Middle East, where they became prominent ingredients in the local cuisine. The Muslim Moors from North Africa who conquered Spain in the eighth century brought eggplants with them, and the Italians came to know the eggplants via commerce with Arab merchants in the 13th century.

The eggplant, so adored in Israeli cuisine, is one of the vegetables grown in hothouses during the cold season in order to maintain a constant supply to its Israeli aficionados. On our farm, we bid it farewell in winter and are happy to welcome it back with the great heat of summer. The eggplant is considered a long annual or biennial crop, renewing itself at the end of the winter if the plants were left during wintertime. We once visited Iris Ben-Zvi, a veteran organic farmer from Emek Yizrael, who showed us how to keeps eggplants in the field during wintertime: at the end of their yielding, prune the plants and leave them in place for their winter sleep. In springtime they bloom again. We tried this method, but it was hard to determine whether or not the results justified the effort.  So we continue to replant the eggplant annually.

We plant the eggplants in our field when weather is turning to spring, around April, when the zucchinis and pumpkins have already been in the field for a couple of months, and the tomatoes are a month old. This is when the first eggplant plants acclimate in the ground, young and youthful with silky leaves. Two months later we plant the second round.

Two months after being planted, they start growing beautiful purple flowers. (A personal thanks – again – to Chana from Jerusalem for the very beautiful photos in this newsletter.)

Within a few weeks, the flowers are fertilized and they grow round dark fruits. That is when we harvest. We prefer to pick them at a medium size and not wait for huge fruits that have passed their climax. To determine if the eggplant is ready, we measure it, but also apply slight pressure to see how soft it is. An unripe fruit will be hard and not respond to pressure from our fingers. A ripe fruit is more flexible, but not softer. It is important to pick them at this stage, as we do not grow them with support or trellising. Fruits that are too big will be heavy on the bushes, causing them to bend over, become crooked or even break under the weight.

Besides, we find it hard to control ourselves. As soon as we start harvesting the eggplants, we can’t help but add them to our lunch menu. Should you happen to be around the ‘hood, you’re welcome to

come along and share our excellent eggplant and tomato platter!

The eggplant is one of the most fundamental vegetables in the Israeli kitchen. The first important test for basic essentials in the local kitchen is the Long-Term Adaptability Test, i.e., will this food appear over the years in simple and popular recipes alongside the “gourmet” recipes of prosperous times? The eggplant passes this test with flying colors: from various eggplant salads in nearly every meat meal, to eggplant-mocking chopped liver during austerity, from popular fast-food—the sabich–to high-falutin’ eggplant rolls in goat cheeses, eggplant cream, eggplant jam,  roasted eggplant with tahini and goose liver, eggplant a la tuna tartare, etc.

The eggplant is an androgynous plant, meaning every flower is both female and male. The flowers usually ripen themselves, but sometimes they get by with a little help from friendly insect passersby:

 And that reminds me, I’m duty-bound to refute the Number One Urban Legend: there is no such thing as a male (fewer seeds, less bitter) and female (more seeds, more bitter) eggplant. The difference in seed quantity has to do with spraying using vegetal hormones (oxen’s), done in order to prevent the leaves and flowers from falling, particularly during the cold months. (Naturally, in organic agriculture and in our fields we do not use those methods…)

Though today eggplants are of prominent status in kitchens worldwide, it was by no means love at first sight.

Eggplants arrived in Israel long before the Hebrew pioneers, for they were an important component in the Arab cuisine. The idea to match the eggplant with the charcoal grill must have arrived in the area just about the time the wheel was invented. But the love affair between eggplants and the Israeli cuisine was more complex. Remember the mock-chopped-liver eggplant popular during austerity? A traditional Friday night recipe that took full advantage of the three most prominent characteristics of the vegetable: availability, low price and an amazing ability to adsorb flavors.  In the beginning, the eggplant was used as a convenient replacement for the real thing. Liver was expensive, so let’s liver-flavor the eggplant! Tomatoes scarce and expensive? One tomato, ten eggplants, and voila:  a tomato-flavored eggplant! There is even a dessert dish: sugar-coated eggplant, baked like a strudel and served in Israeli restaurants during interesting times. And alongside these, the eggplant always starred in Mideast cuisine as a component of various salads, or sliced and fried to one day become, in Israeli culinary jargon… antipasti! There will always be those who claim the eggplant as king of the local vegetables, but in any case, it is definitely a guest of honor in the emerging Israeli kitchen.

There are many types of eggplants in the world, in various shapes and colors. In Israel we are acquainted with the big dark purple elliptic variety, and over the past years, the striped zebra type as well. But eggplants also come in green and yellow, in elongated or round forms and in various sizes. The name eggplant refers to the fact that the fruits of some 18th century European cultivars were yellow or white and resembled goose or hen’s eggs. (The hen is for illustrative purposes only. Trust us, those are eggplants):

And here is a glimpse of the various shapes and colors of eggplants in green, purple and black:

The first eggplants, members of the Solanaceae family, were received cautiously and suspiciously by the Europeans. The solanaceae is family to the tomatoes, peppers, potatoes and certain non-edible plants, some of which are lethal. Because of the eggplant’s genetics, they were suspected to be toxic as well. Even today there are those (macrobiotic enthusiasts, for instance) who do not eat vegetables from the solanacea family. The harmful components are not as prominent in eggplants, and therefore are not injurious to most people. (The unsafe components exist to a higher degree in the leaves and stems.) It took some time until the Europeans could fully trust the eggplant, so in its early days, it was used only as an ornamental plant, sporting its spacious leaves, impressive shape and lovely purple flowers.

Today the eggplant is acknowledged for its medicinal and nutritional benefits as well: it contains elements which shrink blood vessels, and is therefore considered to be beneficial for treating hemorrhoids and bleeding wounds. Eggplants promote secretion of liver and gall bile and are advantageous for anemia, constipation, stomach ulcers and infections of the large intestine. The eggplant contains antioxidants that can help prevent strokes and bleeding, and the phytochemical monoterpene which assists in preventing heart disease and cancer. Researchers have been examining the eggplant’s possible influences on battling cancer by reducing the steroid hormones which encourage the development of tumors, and preventing the oxidization of cells that lead to cancer’s spread. A folk cure for scorpion bites is a slice of raw eggplant applied directly to the sting, and to relieve frostbite, eggplant tea is chilled to room temperature and its compresses are placed over the burn.

But the most popular use of the eggplant is for food: steamed, toasted, baked (if fried, use only a little oil, because its sponge-like texture absorbs large quantities of oil), grilled, chopped and diced, stuffed, sliced or cut into cubes. It goes nicely with cheeses, meat, tehina or tomatoes, and does very well on its own as well, with some coarse salt, lemon juice and parsley.  Bon Appétit!

May we have a lovely bright, summery week!

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

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WHAT’S ACCOMPANYING THE EGGPLANTS  IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes, parsley root, eggplants, beans, parsley, leeks, zucchini. Small boxes only: Swiss chard, fakus/cucumbers

Large box, in addition: Fakus AND cucumbers, garlic chives, beets, acorn squash

Wednesday: Potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes, parsley root, beans/artichoke, parsley, leeks, zucchini, acorn squash Small boxes only: Swiss chard/New Zealand spinach, fakus/cucumbers

Large box, in addition: Fakus AND cucumbers, sage/thyme, beets, eggplants.

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

Many eggplant recipes:

Imam Bayildi – stuffed eggplant

Easy Eggplant with Ginger

Eggplant Quiche With Tomatoes and Olives

Pasta with Roasted Eggplant and Tomato

Zucchini, Tomato, and Eggplant Risotto

Roasted eggplant

Aley Chubeza #163, June 17th-19th 2013

Eggplants

Our eggplants are beginning to emerge, and will now be with us from mid-summer till autumn, as the outdoor temperatures remind them of home: south India and Sri Lanka. The eggplant first migrated from India to Burma and then China. In ancient Chinese writings, the eggplant is mentioned as early as the fifth century. From there, they migrated to the Middle East, where they became prominent ingredients in the Middle Eastern cuisine. The Muslim Moors from North Africa who conquered Spain in the eighth century brought eggplants with them, and the Italians came to know the eggplants via commerce with Arab merchants in the 13th century.

The eggplant, so adored in Israeli cuisine, is one of the vegetables grown in hothouses during the cold season in order to maintain a constant supply to its Israeli aficionados. In our farm, we bid it farewell in winter and are happy to welcome it back with the great heat of summer. The eggplant is considered a long annual or biennial crop, renewing itself at the end of the winter if the plants were left during wintertime. We once visited Iris Ben-Zvi, a veteran organic farmer from Emek Yizrael, who showed us how to keeps eggplants in the field during wintertime: at the end of their yielding, prune the plants and leave them in place for their winter sleep. In springtime they bloom again. We tried this method, but it was hard to determine whether or not the results justified the effort.  So we continue to replant the eggplant annually.

We plant the eggplants in our field when weather is turning to spring, around April, when the zucchinis and pumpkins have already been in the field for a couple of months, and the tomatoes are a month old. This is when the first eggplant plants acclimatize in the ground, young and youthful with silky leaves. Two months later we plant the second round.

Two months after they are planted, they start growing beautiful purple flowers.

 

Within a few weeks, the flowers are fertilized and they grow round dark fruits. That is when we harvest. We prefer to pick them at a medium size and not wait for huge fruits that have passed their climax. To determine if the eggplant is ready, we measure it, but also apply a little pressure to see how soft it is. An unripe fruit will be hard and not respond to pressure from our fingers. A ripe fruit is more flexible, but not softer. It is important to pick them at this stage, as we do not grow them with support or trellising. Fruits that are too big will be heavy on the bushes, causing them to bend over, become crooked or even break under the weight.

The eggplant is one of the most fundamental vegetables in the Israeli kitchen. The first important test for basic essentials in the local kitchen is the long-term adaptation test, i.e., will it appear over the years in simple and popular recipes alongside “gourmet” recipes of prosperous times? The eggplant passes this test with flying colors: from various eggplant salads in nearly every meat meal, to eggplant-mocking chopped liver during austerity, from popular fast-food—the sabich–to high-falutin’ eggplant rolls in goat cheeses, eggplant cream, eggplant jam, etc.

There are many types of eggplants in the world, in various shapes and colors. In Israel we are acquainted with the big dark purple elliptic variety, and over the past years, the striped zebra kind as well. But eggplants also come in green and yellow, in elongated or round forms and in various sizes. Here is a glimpse of the various shapes and colors of eggplants in green, purple and black:

The name eggplant refers to the fact that the fruits of some 18th century European cultivars were yellow or white and resembled goose or hen’s eggs (the hen is for illustrative purposes only. Trust us, those are eggplants):

The name aubergine which is used in British English, is an adaptation of the French word, derived from Catalan albergínia (or the Arabic al-baðinjān).

The first eggplants, members of the family Solanaceae family, were received cautiously and suspiciously by the Europeans. The solanaceae is family to the tomatoes, peppers, potatoes and other non-edible plants, some of which are lethal. Because of the eggplant’s genetics, they were suspected to be toxic as well. Even today there are those (macrobiotic enthusiasts, for instance) who do not eat vegetables from the solanacea family. The harmful components are not as prominent in eggplants, and therefore are not harmful to most people (they exist to a higher degree in the leaves and stems). It took some time until the Europeans could fully trust the eggplant, so in its early days, it was used only as an ornamental plant, sporting its spacious leaves, impressive shape and lovely purple flowers.

Today the eggplant is acknowledged for its medicinal and nutritional benefits: it contains components which shrink blood vessels, and is therefore considered to be good for treating hemorrhoids and bleeding wounds. The eggplant promotes secretion of liver and gall bile and is beneficial for anemia, constipation, stomach ulcers and infections of the large intestine. The eggplant contains antioxidants that can help prevent strokes and bleeding, and the phytochemical monoterpene which assists in preventing heart diseases and cancer. Researchers have been examining the eggplant’s possible influences on battling cancer by reducing the steroid hormones which encourage the development of tumors, and preventing the oxidization of cells that lead to cancer’s spread. A folk cure for scorpion bites is a slice of raw eggplant applied directly to the sting, and to relieve frostbite, eggplant tea is chilled to room temperature and its compresses are placed over the burn.

But the most popular use of the eggplant is for food: steamed, toasted, baked (if fried, use only a little oil, because its sponge-like texture makes it absorb large quantities of oil), chopped and diced, stuffed, sliced or cut into cubes. It goes nicely with cheeses, meat, tehina or tomatoes, and does very well on its own as well, with some coarse salt, lemon juice and parsley. Bon appetit!

Wishing you a fine summery week,

Alon, Bat Ami, Ya’ara and the Chubeza team

___________________________________

WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Lettuce, parsley, corn, tomatoes, melon, New Zealand spinach/ Swiss chard, scallions/garlic chives, fakus/ cucumbers, beets, potatoes. Small boxes only: eggplant

In the large box, in addition: Butternut squash, green beans, zucchini, garlic