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

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

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

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

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

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

Anansi and the Talking Melon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ouch!” cried Anansi.

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

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

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

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

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

“Where are taking that melon?” asked Hippo.

“To the king,” said Elephant

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

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

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

“…a skinny hippo,” retorted the melon.

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

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

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

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

On their way they met a warthog.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But the melon did not say a word.

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

But the melon remained silent.

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

Silence.

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

And that was when the melon spoke.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy your weekend
From all of us at Chubeza

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BASIL!

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

WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 15th-17th 2020 – One in a Melon…

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

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

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

Bon appetite! Be healthy!

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

Price: 33.50 NIS per 150 grams

Bon Appetite!

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 When summer gives you melons…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_ֹֹֹֹֹֹֹֹֹֹֹֹֹֹֹֹֹֹֹֹֹֹֹ___________________________________________

WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S SUMMER BOXES?

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 8th-10th 2019 – Fragrance of a Melon

New! Eliezer and Rose from Shorshei Zion are now offering a variety of spreads: walnut, almonds and unique natural chocolate.

The spreads consist of 100% walnuts, almonds and sprouted seeds, and homemade chocolate spread with no additives or preservatives.

The spreads are prepared at our factory in small quantities to ensure freshness and high quality. Order your packets of 200 gram via our order system.

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Our Melons, Ourselves

For some weeks now, you’ve been receiving sweet, aromatic, elliptic fruit in your boxes. So this week’s sweet summery newsletter is dedicated to the fruit that almost makes the summer heat worth it, or at the least provides a measure of comfort: the melon.

While we at Chubeza maintain the identity of veggie farmers working the land and growing vegetables, there was a moment or two when we considered planting a small fruit orchard. In the end, we decided to stick with those crops that grow close to the earth, and leave the fruit department to Helaf of Melo Hatene Orchards. And yet, we are very pleased to claim the glory of a couple of fruits that have become regulars in our summer boxes, because they grow calmly across the open field, not on a tree or bush. They are, of course, the melon and watermelon. We’ve already discussed the tough brother, Mr. Watermelon, so this time the melon rates the Newsletter spotlight.

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

We attempt to get the melons into the field as early as possible. Some are seeded; others are planted to gain more time and fewer weeds. We seeded and planted the first round of melons in February and a second round at the beginning of March and April. Since it was still winter, we protected them with plastic sheets from above so they would be warm and cozy and able to grow and thrive in their little hothouse under the plastic. The first melons were harvested and sent to you a few weeks ago. After them came more rounds, so we’ll extend the harvest of these sweeties for as long as possible.

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

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

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

As mentioned, we aren’t the only ones who crave the sweetness of this juicy friend, and every year we conduct a stubborn battle with the crows, who just love pecking and nibbling off our sweet melons. Which is why we cover them as soon as they ripen with a black bird net that is supposed to prevent the gluttonous birds from arriving at the prize before we do. This year, we have an additional competitor, or rather, a lot of them, from six feet under. The field mice have discovered the treasure, nibbled little holes in some of our melons and gobbled away their sweet insides. This is a new problem for us, which we’d avoided till now. Perhaps in the past, the birds of prey scared them away, but something went awry this year. For some reason, the birds of prey are not eating enough mice to prevent them from reaching our melons.

Fortunately, many farmers, specifically those who tend to barley fields, encounter an ongoing mice problem, which is why an ecological solution was found: mustering the barn owl for reinforcement. The barn owl is a night prey that feeds on rodents. In one night, it can gobble up 10 rodents, and a pair of barn owls can eat between 2,000-6,000 rodents a year. They love having offspring. A barn owl couple raises up to 13 chicks, and together, the big happy hungry family can definitely clean our field of mice and rats. In order for them to come live with us, we need to offer a solution for their living conditions and build Mrs. Owl a nesting crate, and… well, that’s it. By building these nesting crates, we tempt the young couples to the field. They’ve got lots to eat here, and we hope that next year (maybe even this year) we will no longer encounter the rodent problem. Read more about the barn owl as a biological form of pest control and how they cooperate with farmers in Israel here.

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

The local farmers termed it Shamam (melon in Arabic), or sometimes Batichi Aspar (yellow watermelon, named after its cousin). The three types we grow are “Raymond” – with light creamy flesh, “Hudson” and “Yaniv” – bright orange on the inside. Hudson and Raymond ripen early and are therefore suitable for the beginning of the season, while Yaniv ripens late and is thus appropriate for the middle and end of season. The first melons were already harvested and delivered to you several weeks ago. Of the later bloomers, some were seeded and planted as recently as May, and they are now beginning to ripen.

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

And this year we are trying out a brand new type of melon – the Pralina, round and orange-fleshed. She will introduce herself to you over the next few weeks.

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

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

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

From a nutritional viewpoint, melon is rich in Vitamin C.  Half a melon contains 117 mg, almost twice the recommended daily consumption. It is also rich in Vitamin A and beta carotene, both of which are antioxidants that help protect the cells against harmful free radicals. In addition, half a melon contains 853 mg of potassium (almost double the amount of a banana), which is helpful in reducing blood pressure and easing muscle pain.

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

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

______________________________

What’s in this week’s boxes?

Monday: corn/red bell peppers, Amoro pumpkin/Acorn squash, lettuce, melon/watermelon, cucumbers/fakus, tomatoes, green or yellow string beans/yard long beans, butternut squash/Napoli pumpkin, eggplants/onions, cherry tomatoes. Small boxes only: zucchini.

Large box also: New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard, parsley, leek/garlic/scallions, potatoes.

Fruit box: watermelon, mango, plums. Small box: banana. Large box: cherry.

Wednesday: corn/red bell peppers, green or yellow string beans/yard long beans/okra/Acorn squash, melon, cucumbers/fakus, tomatoes, eggplants, cherry tomatoes, potatoes/onions, New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard/lettuce, butternut squash/Napoli pumpkin, Amoro pumpkin.

Large box also: zucchini, parsley, leek/garlic/scallions.

Fruit box: watermelon, mango, grapes. Small box: banana. Large box: apricuts.

June 18th-20th 2018

Eliezer and Rose of Shorshei Zion have prepared beautiful packages for their excellent chocolate bars.

They have also reduced their sizes, and reduced the price accordingly. Shorshei Zion chocolate bars contain 75% organic raw cocoa melted at a low temperature, making it an ideal source of magnesium, and sweetened with unprocessed cane sugar. Healthy and delicious! Check out these chocolate delicacies on our order system, available in six distinctive flavors: natural, ginger and turmeric, coffee, Mexican chili, orange and raspberry.

It’s the Moment We Have All Been Waiting For:

Tomer and Hamutal’s famous apple cider vinegar is back in town!

After a long, patient (until we became impatient!) wait as it took its sweet time to ferment and sour, this absolutely amazing product has returned to us at last!

If you haven’t yet experienced this absolutely remarkable natural vinegar prepared by Tomer and Hamutal from surplus apples of the Tzuba orchards, join the crowd rushing to order it via the Chubeza order system! You’re in for a treat………….

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What a Melon!

Last Wednesday, as we were packing your boxes, rain started pouring in our field. The raindrops pelting on our tin roof made a tumultuous roar and for almost half an hour we felt that winter had returned. Of course, an hour later the skies cleared up, and two days later came the Return of the Heatwave, reminding us that this is indeed the middle of June. So confusing. And yet, most of the vegetables now growing in the field and adorning your boxes are fluent “summer” speakers: squash, fakus, various pumpkins, melons, eggplant, garlic, cherry tomatoes, first stalks of corn (!), and making their debut in this week’s boxes: watermelon and Thai yard-long beans.

Meanwhile, at Chubeza we remain vegetable-growing farmers, though for a minute or two we considered planting a small fruit orchard. We have since reconsidered, opting to remain close to the earth, and compensate you with fruit boxes from various organic orchards cultivated by other farmers throughout the country.

And yet, we are very pleased to claim the glory of a couple of fruits that have become regulars in our summer boxes, because they grow calmly across the open field, not on a tree or bush. They are, of course, the melon and watermelon. Of the two, the melon precedes his tough brother, so he rates the first Newsletter spotlight.

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

We attempt to get the melons into the field as early as possible. Some are seeded; others are planted to gain more time and fewer weeds. We seeded and planted the first round of melons in March, right after their relatives the cucumbers, fakus, pumpkins and squash went into the earth. After them came more rounds, so we can extend the harvest for as long as possible.

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

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

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

This year we grew two melons of the Ananas specie: one long, elliptical and juicy with a very prominent hometown heritage, developed from the local baladi melon that has grown in Israel for many, many years. The local farmers termed it Shamam (melon in Arabic), or sometimes Batichi Aspar (yellow watermelon, named after its cousin). The two types we grow are “Raymond” – with light creamy flesh, and the “Hudson” – bright orange on the inside. The former ripens early and therefore is suitable for the beginning of the season, while the latter ripens late and is thus appropriate for the middle and end of season. The first melons were already delivered to you several weeks ago. Of the later bloomers, some were seeded and planted as recently as May, and they are already beginning to ripen.

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

You can read about the history of melons in Israel, various species and surprising recipes in this nice article (Hebrew) written by chef and author Ofri Zuta. Different cultures feast on melons in different ways: in the Far East they are cooked and eaten like other cooked vegetables, but these are a different variety than the sweet melons we know. One of the Oriental types is the Chukiang melon, grown from Thailand to South China. This type of melon is pickled and preserved for months. In the Middle East, Central and South America and China, their dried seeds are eaten as a snack. In Mexico, a refreshing, melon cooler called agua fresca is a popular summer drink. In Japan, they make a different drink called midouri, a very sweet and heavy melon liqueur produced by soaking the melons in alcohol for a month (!). Even in our familiar way of eating the melon raw, there are many variations in seasoning: salt, pepper, powdered ginger or lemon juice.

Alchemists of the Middle Ages claimed that melon encourages blood circulation, and is useful for soothing heated tempers. It is said to ease the pain of kidney stones and clear the way for their discharge. In Chinese medicine, melon is considered a cold food which influences the heart and stomach, encouraging urination, easing constipation, helping fight liver diseases, soothes a cough, lowers body temperature and quenches thirst. It is highly recommended to eat melon separately, as its own little meal.

From a nutritional viewpoint, melon is rich in Vitamin C.  Half a melon contains 117 mg, almost twice the recommended daily consumption. It is also rich in Vitamin A and beta carotene, both of which are antioxidants that help protect the cells against harmful free radicals. In addition, half a melon contains 853 mg of potassium (almost double the amount of a banana), which is helpful in reducing blood pressure and easing muscle pain.

How to Store a Melon

  1. A ripe melon can keep for two weeks if refrigerated
  2. Melons are sensitiveto the ethylene gas emitted from ripe fruit, making it rot from a fellow melon’s gas or that of other fruit. If you have a bunch of melons you wish to eat over time, place them in an open area, storing only the softer ones. Do not place them alongside apples.

Wishing us all a sweet week full of good, thirst-quenching freshness and juice.

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

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

Monday: Melon/watermelon, butternut squash/acorn squash/Amoro, lettuce, cucumbers + fakkus,  beets, tomatoes, potatoes, New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard, zucchini, parsley/coriander. Small boxes only: leeks/garlic.

Large box, in addition: Onions/eggplant, Napolitano pumpkin, cherry tomatoes/Thai yard-long beans, corn.

FRUIT BOXES: Bananas, nectarines, avocado, apples.

Wednesday: Melon/watermelon, butternut squash/Napolitano pumpkin, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini, parsley/coriander, leeks/garlic, cherry tomatoes/Thai yard-long beans, corn.

Large box, in addition: Onions/eggplant/fakkus, Amoro/acorn squash, New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard.

FRUIT BOXES: Bananas, grapes, mango, apples.

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!