January 31-February 2nd 2022 – Portrait of the potato as a mirror of its native land

Over the past few weeks, we have discussed the weather and the various ways it influences the vegetables in the field. In this week’s segment, we shall attempt to shed light on the surprising phenomenon we encountered this year with our autumn potatoes. (And why are they coined “autumn” when winter is here full blast?)

In Israel, potatoes are grown in two seasons: the autumn seeding, September-October, ripening and harvested from December to April, and those seeded from January-February, ripening and picked during May and June. The rest of the year here, we eat spring potatoes from cold storage. The potatoes seeded in autumn are called “autumn potatoes,” and those picked in springtime are, of course, “spring potatoes.”

Potatoes are tubers (not roots!). If the roots are the foundations of the house anchoring it to the earth, the tubers are the basement, where important things are stored for a time-of-need. The tubers are actually a segment, or several segments, of the stem, used for accumulation – a type of storage bin for important nutrients (except water). And as such, the tubers are usually thick, round and bereft of the stem-color-green attained from chlorophyll. The base of the tuber shoots out roots, while its top sends stems, branches and leaves upward. This is what it looks like:

As the tuber is in fact a subsoil stem, when it meets daylight, the chlorophyll begins to develop and turns the tuber green. This is not something we want to happen, which is why we make a little mound at the base of the stems to keep moisture in the roots that prevent the earth from cracking, and to protect the tubers from light. As the potatoes grow, we mound them once again to add some expansion space. Over the past few weeks, we inserted our pitchforks into the mounds to crumble them, extracting beautiful, fresh yellow potatoes. After extraction, a fresh tuber is in a comatose state due to its growth inhibitors. After a while, these substances subside and growth material develops, which makes the tuber bloom and sprout. In order to keep it asleep, we store it in dark, refrigerated conditions.

The potato is the winter representative of the Solanum tuberosums,  who are cousins of the tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. Unlike these guys who enjoy the heat, the potato needs cool weather to yield tubers. High temperatures will make the plant grow tall and prominent, but with hardly any tubers underground, and sometimes none at all. A too-cold temperature will hinder the plant’s ability to grow. Small and weak, the tubers are left bereft of a source of energy for growth. Aggressive frost, too, can completely wipe out nice looking, elegant potato plants (speaking from painful experience). The ideal solution: moderate, cool weather – not too cold, not too hot. In short, an Israeli winter.

Except that this year,  the winter was not moderate at all. Our dear potatoes, seeded at the end of September, faced challenging upheavals over the three to four months of their development. To refresh your memory, as we are currently soaked in puddles of rain and snow, here’s a short recap of the last few months: at the very end of autumn, in mid-November when our potatoes were just a month old, the field faced difficult days of dry heatwaves, dust winds and high temperatures. We had to generously irrigate in order for the potatoes to survive, but without overdoing it, as excess liquid can create diseases and be disastrous for the potatoes (just you wait and see…). Then again, extreme dryness is problematic. The strong east winds dried everything up in minutes, forcing us to find the balance between the contradictory needs of our vegetables.

Two weeks later, the rain came pouring and then continued to visit regularly, with nice sunny days in-between. As winter proceeded with more rainy days, the field gulped down nice quantities of water as cold temperatures reigned. The young potatoes indeed matured, but while we may have forgotten their complex heatwave-battling adolescence, some of them kept the memory in their flesh, in the form of cracks and rifts in the bulbs:

This rift happens to the bulbs when they grow in unstable conditions, usually an irregular supply of water, when dry days turn wet. The bulbs that grew in dry conditions are suddenly showered with water, spurring accelerated growth causing them to ‘explode’ and split. These rifts often start at the tip of the bulb and can expand horizontally. As the bulbs mature, the surface within the crack develops its own peeling, like that covering the rest of the bulb. Despite their cracked exterior, these potatoes are delicious. To avoid the task of getting out the mud within the crack, slice the potato along the crack and voila – problem solved.

Something else you might have noticed in some of the recent potatoes are dark spots at the core of the bulb. The potato can look great on the outside, but when sliced it displays strange-looking brown spots. This occurrence is called “internal browning” or “blackheart”, caused by a lack of oxygen in the center of the bulb. This oxygen deficiency creates suffocation, loss of breath and cell death. The damaged tissue blackens, and that is what you see at the center of the potato.

But why, do you ask, do our potatoes lack oxygen? Because they are buried deep in the saturated soil. The water in some parts of the bed doesn’t drain well. The deep ends of the bed are not sufficiently ventilated, creating little puddles that fill up the air pores in the soil, creating an oxygen shortage.

The center of the potato bore the brunt, as the oxygen was cut off at a later stage of its development. Being farthest from the surface, the core got the least oxygen, unlike the external parts of the bulbs which received sufficient air and grew well. The damage only affected the central inner parts, which is why the spots appear on the inside. Thanks to the low temperatures slowing down their breath, the situation wasn’t that bad. Things could be much worse if the bulbs are flooded or their oxygen is cut off at high temperatures. It’s important to understand that the darker parts do not indicate rotting or a disease. Even the potato parts that aren’t necessarily attractive are good for use.

These two phenomena are interesting because these are physiological problems, i.e., not caused by an insect, contamination or fungus, but rather by uncomfortable conditions, be it weather or the state of the soil. The potatoes respond to this stress by a change in shape and color. Of course, we cannot control the weather, but we try to do everything in our power to improve the conditions for our potatoes as they develop and grow.

Here’s where we come full circle: Remember how careful we were not to over-irrigate the potatoes during the heatwaves? Well, now you know why. Too much water will cause this problem (and others), too little water causes other problems, thus the game of quantities is a gentle dance of finding the right balance.

We are also constantly trying to improve soil ventilation in problematic areas. Our earth is valley Terra Rossa soil – heavy, thick soil that absorbs water and holds on tight. This is a great advantage, because the vital nutrients remain in the earth and don’t easily wash away (as in sandier soil). But in very rainy seasons when it’s challenging to keep the soil ventilated, we help out by adding high-quality compost that boosts the soil’s texture and ventilation. Every few seasons, we use a deep soil loosening plow that penetrates the earth without flipping and mixing the other layers (not recommended, as the upper 30 centimeters of the soil are the most fertile and it would be a pity to drive them deeper). The plow loosens the consolidated layers that hardened under those fertile 30 cm of soil, allowing better drainage during wintertime.

And yet, as you can see, in stormy seasons such as this one, there are major challenges which we are not always able to overcome. But we always strive to meet the challenges and improve.

Store potatoes in a cool, dark place.

As mentioned, potatoes turn green when they are exposed to light for any length of time. The green hue is the result of the chlorophyll, a natural plant pigment which is tasteless and harmless. The problem with green potatoes is that in the areas where the chlorophyll develops, an alkaloid called solanine can also develop, tasting bitter and toxic when consumed in large quantities. A greater concentration of solanine is found in the peeling or just below it, which is why older potatoes should be peeled. Cooking or steaming them reduces the solanine by 60-70%, as compared to a raw potato. The greening is caused by light, but also temperature, age, species and ripeness. Light potatoes turn green faster than red ones.

Potatoes keep quite well at a temperature between 8-28 degrees Celsius. A higher temperature will cause the tubers to sprout, wither and rot. At a lower temperature (in the refrigerator, or at 6 degrees and lower), the starch within the potato turns to sugar, giving the potatoes a sweetish taste and causing them to burn faster when fried.

Read this poetic post from the charming blog Shira Achila about potatoes and their potential, complete with a nice recipe (Hebrew). Enjoy!

May we have a wintery-but-moderate week, perfect potato weather. Wishing you a good week,

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

_________________________________________

A reminder: The frigid cold has a profound effect on the cucumbers and tomatoes. It significantly slows down their growth…they simply don’t move. So this week there were not enough cucumbers to put in your boxes. We attempted to buy cucumbers from other organic growers, but unsurprisingly, with every single one, even those in the Arava, nothing is moving. Instead, we succeeded in buying sweet, yummy red bell peppers, which will arrive in your boxes in place of the cucumbers. We await the accelerated growth of our bright green friends.

Monday: Potatoes, cauliflower/slice of pumpkin, Swiss chard/kale/ broccoli greens/tatsoi, daikon/baby radishes/turnips, fresh onions, broccoli, sweet red peppers, tomatoes, carrots,  celery/celeriac. Small boxes only: lettuce/baby greens (mesclun mix)

Large box, in addition: Jerusalem artichoke/garden or snow peas, cabbage/sweet potatoes, leeks/beets/parsley root, parsley/coriander/arugula/rakula.

FRUIT BOXES: Red apples, oranges/pomelit/lemons, clementinas, avocado, bananas.

Wednesday: Potatoes, cauliflower/cabbage/kohlrabi, Swiss chard/kale/broccoli greens/spinach, fresh onions, broccoli, sweet red peppers, tomatoes, carrots,  celery/celeriac, red leaf lettuce, parsley/coriander/arugula/rakula.

Large box, in addition: Snow peas/sweet potatoes/slice of pumpkin, leeks/parsley root, daikon/baby radishes/turnips/beets, .

FRUIT BOXES: Red apples, oranges/pomelit, clementinas/lemons, avocado, bananas.

June 17th-19th 2019 – Hidden treasures

This week we will discuss what goes on beneath the earth – not with roots, but with tubers. If the roots are the foundations of the house, anchoring it to the earth, the tubers are the basement, where important things are stored for a time of need. The tuber is not a root, but rather a segment, or several segments, of the stem, used for accumulation – a type of storage for important nutrients (except water). And as such, the tubers are usually thick and round and bereft of the stem-color-green attained from chlorophyll. The base of the tuber shoots out roots, while its top sends stems, branches and leaves upward. This is what it looks like:

Over the past few weeks, you have been receiving fresh, yummy potatoes from our winter rounds. They’re called “spring potatoes” because even though they were seeded in wintertime, they are harvested in springtime, yet most of their growth happened in the cooler season. In Israel, potatoes are grown in two seasons: the autumn seeding, September-October, ripening and harvested from December to April, and those seeded from January-February, ripening and picked during the months of May and June (those that you’re currently receiving). The rest of the year here in Israel, we eat spring potatoes from cold storage.

The potato is the winter representative of the Solanum tuberosums, cousins of the tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. Unlike these guys who enjoy the heat, the potato needs cool weather to yield tubers. High temperatures will make the plant grow tall and prominent, but with hardly any tubers under the earth, and sometimes none at all. A too-cold temperature will hinder the plant’s ability to grow, and it will remain small and weak, damaging the tuber’s source of energy for growth. The ideal solution: moderate, cool weather – not too cold or too hot. In short, an Israeli winter.

As the tuber is in fact a sub-soil stem, when it meets daylight, the chlorophyll begins to develop and turns the tuber green. This is not something you want to happen, which is why you make a little mound at the base of the stems, keeping the moisture in the roots to prevent the earth from cracking and to protect the tubers from the light. As the potatoes grew, we mounded them once again so we could weed them and add some expansion space. Over the past few weeks, we inserted our pitchforks into the mounds to crumble them, extracting beautiful, fresh yellow potatoes. A fresh tuber after extraction is in a comatose state due to the growth inhibiters within it. After a while, these substances subside and growth material develops, which makes the tuber bloom and sprout. In order to keep it asleep, we store it in dark, refrigerated conditions.

The potato originated in the Peruvian Andes, Chili and Bolivia, where it was grown by local Indians. They used all sorts of Solaneum’s for food. At the beginning of the 16th century when the Spanish conquered the area, they brought home some of the strange little tubers. The Spaniards weren’t too keen on eating what they coined “edible rocks,” but the conquering soldiers armed themselves with potatoes for their emergency vittles as they travelled to Spain and England.

In fact, except for the Irish, the Europeans wanted nothing to do with the strange vegetable that suffered from really bad PR: In the 16th century, a British botanist developed a cultivated species of the potato, but when he presented the potato dish to the queen in an elegant meal, it turned out the chef had cooked the leaves and tossed the tubers. The queen was mortified (off with his head!). The Scottish did not find any mention of potatoes in the Bible, thus declared it impure. Botanists discovered that it belongs to the Belladonna family (a poisonous plant whose extract was used as a sedative) and worried that it too was toxic. The innocent potato was even blamed for causing leprosy, when it was discovered that the solanine in the tuber can create a rash. But the Irish couldn’t afford to be choosy. They were starving, and the tubers grew wonderfully well in the wintry Irish climate and earth.

The potato arrived in Germany in the 16th century, but was considered animal fodder and prisoner rations till the 18th century, when the king instructed the farmers to plant potatoes in order to save themselves from famine. He distributed tubers and instructions, and threatened to chop off the noses of those who disobeyed him. And what about France? Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, a French chemist who fought in the Seven Years War, was held prisoner by the Prussians and given a steady diet of potatoes (considered animal fodder). Yet upon his return to France, he made it his business to popularize the lowly tuber. Parmentier circulated an article in praise of the potato. For the king’s birthday, he brought him a potato bouquet, which the queen, Marie Antoinette, donned in her hair. Thus, potatoes became a desirable fashion accessory in France, but not yet a desirable food. Parmentier did not despair, and threw lavish parties where he served twenty potato dishes. Wisely, he planted a few more acres of potatoes, and set a guard to watch over them by day. As per his plan, the farmers presumed that if he took such stringent measures to guard his plot of land, it must contain something valuable. Sure enough, they crept in by night and stole the plants. In no time, potato plants were sprouting throughout French fields, becoming a status symbol and highly sought-after food in all of Europe as well. Potatoes were brought to Israel at the end of the nineteenth century to the villages established by the Baron Rothschild.

Potatoes made European history in the 19th century after the crop was badly injured due to a late blight, inflicting major damage and resulting in widespread famine. In 1845 the blight fungus immigrated to Ireland as well (probably on the deck of an American ship), spreading fast and leaving a massive trail of devastation. The small quantity of potato varieties caused an escalation from fungi to major plague, generating a total collapse of Irish potato farming and the greatest famine in Ireland’s history.

This famine sparked a massive immigration to America, where the new immigrants were quick to begin planting crops (the potato, of course) in the fertile soil of their new homeland. Thus, the charming tuber returned to the continent of its forefathers (albeit some hundred miles north…). More about the fascinating history of the potato, a tale encompassing prejudice, love, hate, abundance and destruction, can be found in this fascinating article (Hebrew).

Today, potatoes are popular worldwide and serve as a major source of carbohydrates. Even in the Far East, where nutrition is rice-based, potatoes are used to vary the cuisine. Potato tubers supply digestible carbs, vitamins B6, C, iron and potassium. The peeling is very rich in dietary fibers, which is why it is best not to peel a potato prior to baking or cooking it.

The thousands of potato species across the globe vary in shape and color: round, elongated, flat, white, yellow, pinkish-red, purple and others. At the close of this past winter we grew four varieties: yellowish potatoes called “Nicola” and “Vitabella” and red species named “Desiree” and “Delila.” They’re all simply delicious! For details about the various types of potatoes grown in Israel, click here.

Potato seeds are in fact the tubers themselves, with stems stretching out from them, roots shooting down, and special underground hunting stems from which new tubers develop. This time we received small seeds for part of the species. The plants they produced were thinner than what we’re used to (fewer stems, probably due to the small seed) and they did not develop as well as usual…perhaps the cold and wet weather (blessed and desired, true, but sometimes – as in this case – detrimental) slowed down the development of the plant and created stress. Others were attacked by leaf diseases (Bacterial speek), greatly minimizing the size of the potatoes. small. But they were very yummy!

Store potatoes in a cool, dark place.

As mentioned, potatoes turn green when they are exposed to light for any length of time. The green hue is the result of the chlorophyll, a natural plant pigment which is tasteless and harmless. The problem with green potatoes is that in the areas where the chlorophyll develops, an alkaloid called solanine can also develop, tasting bitter and toxic when consumed in large quantities. A greater concentration of solanine is found in the peeling or just below it, which is why older potatoes should be peeled. Cooking or steaming them reduces the solanine by 60-70% compared to a raw potato. The greening is caused by light, but also temperature, age, species and ripeness. Light potatoes turn green faster than red ones.

The potato “eyes” are in fact small buds developing from the tubers which are, as mentioned, the accumulative organ as well as the reproductive organ from which a new plant grows. The buds develop even when the tuber is young and they are absolutely not a sign of old rotting potatoes. This year we got some “eyes” when the potatoes were still underground, before they were actually harvested! Potato “eyes” are not a problem, and they are not evidence of solanine. If the potato is not green, simply remove them and enjoy the potato.

Potatoes keep quite well at a temperature between 8-28 degrees. A higher temperature will make the tubers sprout, then go bad. At a lower temperature (in the refrigerator, or at 6 degrees and lower), the starch within the potato turns to sugar, giving the potatoes a sweetish taste and causing them to burn faster when fried.

Read this poetic post from the charming blog Shira Achila about potatoes and their potential, plus with a nice recipe (Hebrew).

May we enjoy a nice summery-though-moderate week, perfect for the potato.

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

____________________________________________________

WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Zucchini, fakus, lettuce, melon/watermelon, cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, Amoro pumpkin, eggplant, New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard, parsley/dill.

Large box, in addition: Garlic/scallions, yellow and green string beans/cherry tomatoes, butternut squash/acorn squash.

Fruit box: Banana, apricut. Small boxes: apples, peach. Large boxes: cherries. nectarines.

Wednesday: Zucchini, fakus, lettuce, melon/watermelon, cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, Amoro pumpkin, eggplant, New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard, parsley/dill/cilantro.

Large box, in addition: Garlic/scallions, yellow and green string beans, butternut squash/acorn squash.

Fruit boxes: Banana, apricutapples, cherries. Large boxes also: plums.

June 12th-14th – Hidden treasures

On Open Day, I took our young visitors for a tour of the field. Usually I assign the kids detective tasks, with their mission being to discover which vegetable is growing in a particular bed. They were quite good at identifying the zucchini, pumpkins, lettuce and corn. But when we reached one particular bed, silence prevailed. Not one junior detective could solve the mystery. Only after we dug deep in the moist earth did we find the shadowy habitant: beautiful, jubilant tubers that drew cries of joy from the children. Potatoes!!!

This week, in our continuing account of the secrets that lie within the earth, we shall speak not of roots but of tubers. If the roots are the foundations of the house, anchoring it to the earth, the tubers are the basement, where important things are stored for a time of need. The tuber is not a root, but rather a segment, or several segments, of the stem, used for accumulation – a type of storage for important nutrients (except water). And as such, the tubers are usually thick and round and bereft of the stem-color-green attained from chlorophyll. The base of the tuber shoots out roots, while the top of it sends stems, branches and leaves upward. This is what it looks like:

Over the past few weeks, you have been receiving fresh yummy potatoes from our winter rounds. They’re called “spring potatoes” even though they were seeded in wintertime, because they are gathered in springtime, but most of their growth happened in the cooler season. In Israel, potatoes are grown in two seasons: the autumn seeding, September-October, ripening and harvested from December to April, and those seeded from January-February, ripening and picked during the months of May and June (those that you’re currently receiving). The rest of the year here in Israel, we eat spring potatoes from cold storage.

The potato is the winter representative of the Solanum tuberosums, cousins of the tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. Unlike these cousins who enjoy the heat, the potato needs cool weather to yield tubers. High temperatures will make the plant grow tall and prominent, but with hardly any tubers under the earth, and sometimes none at all. A too-cold temperature will hinder the plant’s ability to grow, and it will remain small and weak, damaging the tuber’s source of energy for growth. The ideal solution: moderate, cool weather – not too cold or too hot. In short, an Israeli winter.

As the tuber is in fact a sub-soil stem, when it meets daylight, the chlorophyll begins to develop and turns the tuber green. This is not something you want to happen, which is why you make a little mound at the base of the stems, keeping the moisture in the roots to prevent the earth from cracking and to protect the tubers from the light. As the potatoes grew, we mounded them once again so we could weed them and add some expansion space. Over the past few weeks, we inserted our pitchforks into the mounds to crumble them, extracting beautiful, fresh yellow potatoes. A fresh tuber after extraction is in a comatose state due to the growth inhibiters within it. After a while, these substances subside and growth material develops, which makes the tuber bloom and sprout. In order to keep it asleep, we store it in dark, refrigerated conditions.

The potato originated in the Peruvian Andes, Chili and Bolivia, where it was grown by local Indians. They used all sorts of Solaneum’s for food. At the beginning of the 16th century when the Spanish conquered the area, they brought home some of the strange little tubers. The Spaniards weren’t too keen on eating what they coined “edible rocks,” but the conquering soldiers armed themselves with potatoes for their emergency vittles as they travelled to Spain and England.

In fact, except for the Irish, the Europeans wanted nothing to do with the strange vegetable that suffered from really bad PR: In the 16th century, a British botanist developed a cultivated species of the potato, but when he presented the potato dish to the queen in an elegant meal, it turned out the chef had cooked the leaves and tossed the tubers. The queen was mortified (off with his head!). The Scottish did not find any mention of potatoes in the Bible, thus declared it impure. Botanists discovered that it belongs to the Belladonna family (a poisonous plant whose extract was used as a sedative) and worried that it was too was toxic. The innocent potato was even blamed for causing leprosy, when it was discovered that the solanine in the tuber can create a rash. But the Irish couldn’t afford to be choosy. They were starving, and the tubers grew wonderfully well in the wintry Irish climate and earth.

The potato arrived in Germany in the 16th century, but was considered animal fodder and prisoner fare till the 18th century, when the king instructed the farmers to plant potatoes in order to save themselves from famine. He distributed tubers and instructions, and threatened to chop off the noses of those who disobeyed him. And what about France? Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, a French chemist who fought in the Seven Years War, was held prisoner by the Prussians and given a steady diet of potatoes (considered animal fodder). Yet upon his return to France, he made it his business to popularize the lowly tuber.

Parmentier circulated an article in praise of the potato. For the king’s birthday, he brought him a potato bouquet, which the queen, Marie Antoinette, donned in her hair. Thus, potatoes became a desirable fashion accessory in France, but not yet a desirable food. Parmentier did not despair, and threw lavish parties where he served twenty potato dishes. Wisely, he planted a few more acres of potatoes, and set a guard to watch over them by day. As per his plan, the farmers presumed that if he took such stringent measures to guard his plot of land, it must contain something valuable. Sure enough, they crept in by night and stole the plants. In no time, potato plants were sprouting throughout French fields, becoming a status symbol and highly sought-after food in all of Europe as well. Potatoes were brought to Israel at the end of the nineteenth century to the villages established by the Baron Rothschild.

Potatoes made European history in the 19th century after the crop was badly injured due to a late blight, inflicting major damage and resulting in widespread famine. In 1845 the blight fungus immigrated to Ireland as well (probably on the deck of an American ship), spreading fast and leaving a massive trail of devastation. The small quantity of potato varieties caused an escalation from fungi to major plague, generating a total collapse of Irish potato farming and the greatest famine in Ireland’s history.

This famine sparked a massive immigration to America, where the new immigrants were quick to begin planting crops (the potato, of course) in the fertile soil of their new homeland. Thus, the charming tuber returned to the continent of its forefathers (albeit some hundred miles north…). More about the fascinating history of the potato, a tale encompassing prejudice, love, hate, abundance and destruction, can be found in this fascinating article. Today, potatoes are popular worldwide and serve as a major source of carbohydrates. Even in the Far East, where nutrition is rice-based, potatoes are used to vary the cuisine. Potato tubers supply digestible carbs, vitamins B6, C, iron and potassium. The peeling is very rich in dietary fibers, which is why it is best not to peel a potato prior to baking or cooking it.

There are thousands of potato species across the globe of varying shapes and colors: round, elongated, flat, white, yellow, pinkish-red, purple and others. From Day One at Chubeza (14 years now!), we have been growing two varieties: yellowish potatoes called “Nicola” and a red species named “Desiree.” They’re both delicious! You can find details about the various types of potatoes grown in Israel here.

Store potatoes in a cool, dark place.

As mentioned, potatoes turn green when they are exposed to light for any length of time. The green hue is the result of the chlorophyll, a natural plant pigment which is tasteless and harmless. The problem with green potatoes is that in the areas where the chlorophyll develops, an alkaloid called solanine can also develop, tasting bitter and toxic when consumed in large quantities. A greater concentration of solanine is found in the peeling or just below it, which is why older potatoes should be peeled. Cooking or steaming them reduces the solanine by 60-70% compared to a raw potato. The greening is caused by light, but also temperature, age, species and ripeness. Light potatoes turn green faster than red ones.

Potatoes keep quite well at a temperature between 8-28 degrees. A higher temperature will make the tubers sprout, then go bad. At a lower temperature (in the refrigerator, or 6 degrees and under), the starch within the potato turns to sugar, and the potatoes get a sweetish taste and burn faster when fried.

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_____________________________________________

We send our condolences to our dear delivery man, Amit, on the death of his mother-in-law. May he and his family be comforted and know no further sorrow.

Wishing us all a summery-though-moderate and very pleasant week!

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

WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Parsley, melon/butternut squash/ acorn squash, lettuce, fakus, zucchini, tomatoes, green beans/carrots, onions/garlic/leeks, potatoes, New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard, eggplant/cucumbers.

Large box, in addition:  Beets, coriander/nana mint, parsley root.

Wednesday: Parsley, butternut squash/ acorn squash, lettuce, fakus, zucchini, tomatoes, green or yellow beans, melon/carrots/eggplants, onions/garlic/leeks, potatoes. Small boxes only: eggplant/cucumbers/corn.

Large box, in addition:  New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard, beets, coriander/nana mint, parsley root.

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!

Ruth friday`s soup

4-5 turnips, cleaned and trimmed
4-5 sweet potatoes
1-2 big onions
water
salt and pepper
olive oil
fresh sage
a little butter

Sauté onions in olive oil. Add turnips and sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Cook in water till tender, then blend.
In a small frying pan, heat olive oil and a little butter, stir-fry fresh sage leaves till brownish. When serving soup, garnish with crumbled sage leaves.

In honor of the upcoming summer vacation –

We are happy to invite you to join us in a drumming workshop in the field,  full of sunny energy. We will start with a short tour of the field (very short… it’s too hot…) and harvest some vegetables for a hearty vegetable salad, after which Yifrach, a veteran Chubeza employee and currently teacher, will conduct a joyful drum session in our sweet little grove. For dessert, we’ll serve a fresh salad from the vegetables we harvested in the morning. The workshop is geared for children age 6 and above, but adults who are young at heart are more than welcome…

When? Friday, July 3, 9:30

Where? The grove at the edge of our field. Click here for driving instructions.

Fee: 45 NIS per participant

How: Email Matan matan.israel7@gmail.com with the number of participants, names, ages and contact info

Places are limited. Sign up now!

If you cannot make it this time, Matan gives drumming workshops and classes at other events throughout the year. Give him a call for more details: 054-6698695

Mister Potato

For some weeks now, we have been happily gathering our young potatoes from their beds with open arms. This newsletter is dedicated to the spectacular spuds in our midst.

Over the past few weeks you have been receiving fresh yummy potatoes from our winter rounds. They’re called “spring potatoes” even though they were seeded in wintertime, because they are picked in springtime, but most of their growth happened in the cooler season. In Israel, potatoes are grown in two seasons: the autumn seeding, September-October, ripening and harvested from December to April, and those seeded from January-February, ripening and picked during the months of May and June (those that you’re receiving at this time.) The rest of the year here in Israel, we eat spring potatoes from cold storage.

I’m always delightfully surprised to see how the autumn potatoes, seeded in autumn and harvested in winter, have such a different effect on my heart (and belly) from the spring potatoes, seeded in winter and collected now, in springtime. In wintertime they come accompanied by warmth and thoughts of mashed potatoes or hot, thick soup. In sunny springtime, they always seem so much lighter to me, cooked, cooled and sliced into a fresh potato salad, or perhaps thin, “chips” style. Usually they’re ready right in time for a Yom Ha’Atzmaut celebration, as if synchronized for my traditional reunion with my best girlfriends from high school and our families. And of course, any quantity of potatoes, any time, sliced thinly and placed in the oven with olive oil and salt is devoured in moments by hungry young mouths.

The potato is the winter representative of the Solanum tuberosums, cousins of the tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. Unlike these cousins who enjoy the heat, the potato needs cool weather to yield tubers. High temperatures will make the plant grow tall and prominent, but with hardly any tubers under the earth, and sometimes none. A too-cold temperature will make it hard for the plant to grow, and it will remain small and weak, damaging the tubers’ source of energy for growth. The solution: moderate, cool weather– not too cold or too hot.

Here is a quick look at what happens to the potato above and below the earth:

 potato

What you may see if you look at the illustration closely, is that the potato is not a root. Its roots develop under the tubers. The potato is a tuber that develops from sub-earth stems, basically, a thickened stem. The first chapter in the Annals of Chubeza Potato Growth took place in January, when we planted tubers (they can also be sliced and planted in parts). The tubers are planted in slightly heightened mounds, in pairs. As the tubers awaken in the earth, the roots develop and some of the “eyes” on the tubers grow stems. Each tuber yields a few main stems and secondary stems.

From the base of the stems, sub-earth stems develop, growing vertically and ending in a tuber resembling a thickened stem. So the potato is really not a root, it is actually a thickened sub-earth stem! As the tuber is actually part of the sub-earth stem, when it meets daylight, it turns green due to the chlorophyll developing. This is not something you want to happen, which is why you make another little mound at the base of the stems, keeping the moisture in the roots to prevent the earth from cracking and to protect the tubers from the light.

As the potatoes grew, we mounded them again so we could weed them and add some expansion space. Over the past few weeks, we inserted our pitchforks into the mounds and crumbled them, extracting beautiful, fresh yellow potatoes. A fresh tuber after extraction is in a comatose state due to the growth delayers within it. After a while, these substances subside and growth material develops, which makes the tuber bloom and sprout. In order to keep it asleep, we store it in dark, refrigerated conditions.

Almost half the potatoes grown in Israel are exported overseas, specifically to Europe. Of course, these are the better varieties, more unique and tastier. Naomi from Jerusalem told me that when she visited Switzerland she ate the most delicious, sweet and juicy potatoes.  When she checked the label, she was amazed to find out they were Israeli. It’s a pity they do not make it to our local markets… I hope Chubeza’s potatoes will fulfill the need for yummy quality potatoes, even if only temporarily.

Lobsang, who worked at Chubeza for many years, lived in a village on jungle- covered mountains in central India where they grow potato fields. He told us the locals call potato farming “roulette growing,” because you plant the little potatoes and never know what to expect over the next few months and what you’ll find when you dig open the earth. Sometimes it’ll be a huge success, overflowing with a bountiful, lucrative yield. But other times you’ll discover after two months, to your horror, the first signs of a leaf disease that can take down the field in a week. In this case, you tear out the contaminated plants and hope there aren’t any others, but if the late blight or Alternaria macrospora attacks them, there’s not much we can do (especially not in organic agriculture) other than harvest the healthy vegetables that ripened and hope that Lady Luck is kinder to you next time around.

The potato originated in the Peruvian Andes, Chili and Bolivia, where it was grown by local Indians. They used all sorts of Solaneum’s for food. At the beginning of the 16th century, when the Spanish conquered the area, they brought home some of the strange little tubers. The Spaniards weren’t too keen on eating what they coined “edible rocks,” but the conquering soldiers armed themselves with potatoes for their emergency vittles as they travelled to Spain and England.

In fact, except for the Irish, the Europeans wanted nothing to do with the strange vegetable that suffered from really bad PR: In the 16th century, a British botanist developed a cultivated species of the potato, but when he presented the potato dish to the queen in an elegant meal, it turned out the cook had cooked the leaves and tossed the tubers. The queen was mortified (off with his head!). The Scottish did not find any mention of potatoes in the Bible, thus declared it impure. Botanists discovered that it belongs to the Belladonna family (a poisonous plant whose extract was used as a relaxant) and worried that it was too was toxic. The innocent potato was even blamed for causing leprosy, when it was discovered that the solanine in the tuber can create a rash. But the Irish couldn’t afford to be choosy. They were starving, and the tubers grew wonderfully in the wintry Irish climate.

The potato arrived in Germany in the 16th century, but was considered animal fodder and prisoner fare till the 18th century, when the king instructed the farmers to plant potatoes in order to save themselves from famine. He distributed tubers and instructions, and threatened to chop off the noses of those who disobeyed him. What about France? Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, a French chemist who fought in the Seven Years War, was held prisoner by the Prussians and given a steady diet of potatoes (considered animal fodder). Yet upon his return to France, he made it his business to make the tuber popular.

Parmentier circulated an article complimenting the potato. For the king’s birthday, he brought him a potato bouquet, which the queen, Marie Antoinette, donned in her hair. Thus, potatoes became a desirable fashion accessory in France, but not yet a desirable food. Parmentier did not despair, and threw parties where he served twenty potato dishes. Wisely, he planted a few more acres of potatoes, and set a guard to watch over them by day. As per his plan, the farmers presumed that if he took such stringent measures to guard his plot of land, it must contain something valuable. Sure enough, they crept in by night and stole the plants. In no time, potato plants were distributed throughout French fields, becoming a status symbol and highly sought-after food in all of Europe as well. Potatoes were brought to Israel at the end of the nineteenth century to the villages established by the Baron Rothschild.

Potatoes made European history after the yields were badly injured due to the late blight which inflicted major damage to the crops, resulting in widespread famine. In 19th century Ireland, this famine sparked a massive immigration to the U.S. Today, potatoes are popular worldwide and serve as a major source of carbohydrates. Even in the Far East, where nutrition is rice-based, potatoes are used to vary their food. Potato tubers supply digestible carbs, a host of minerals, and even some vitamins.

 

There are thousands of potato species over the world of varying shapes and colors: round, elongated, flat, white, yellow, pinkish-red, purple and others. This year, Chubeza grew two varieties: yellowish potatoes called “Nicola” and a red species named “Desiree” (coming soon). They can be used for cooking, frying and baking. They are rich in fibers, carbohydrates, vitamin C, and iron, and their peel is rich in nutrients. If you can, eat it unpeeled.

Potatoes are also ground for potato flour, and used in many canning capacities, as well as for animal fodder. Aside from food, potatoes are used to make starch, alcohol, acetone and other industrial products.

Tips: 

Store potatoes in a cool, dark area.

Potatoes turn green when they are exposed to light for a length of time. The green color is the result of the chlorophyll, a natural plant pigment which is tasteless and harmless. The problem with green potatoes is that in the areas where the chlorophyll develops, an alkaloid called solanine can also develop, tasting bitter and toxic when consumed in large quantities. A larger concentration of solanine is found in the peeling or right below it, which is why older potatoes should be peeled. Cooking or steaming them reduces the solanine by 60-70% compared to a raw potato. The greening is caused by light, but also temperature, age, species and ripeness. Light potatoes turn green faster than red ones.

Potatoes keep quite well at a temperature of 28 degrees. A higher temperature will make the tubers sprout, then go bad. At a lower temperature (in the refrigerator), the starch within the potato turns to sugar, and the potatoes get a sweetish taste.

 

May we have good weeks to come!

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

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Zucchini, butternut squash/eggplant/melon, onions/ garlic, lettuce, tomatoes, spinach/Swiss chard, potatoes, carrots, parsley/mint, parsley root, small boxes: cucumbers/fakus

Large box, in addition: Cucumbers and fakus, leeks, green/yellow beans

 Wednesday: onions/scallions, butternut squash/melon, spinach/Swiss chard, potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes, zucchini, parsley root, parsley, green beans, small boxes: cucumbers/fakus, a gift of nana.

Large box, in addition: Cucumbers and fakus, leeks, acorn squash/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, garbanzo beans, crackers, probiotic foods, dried fruits and leathers, olive oil, bakery products 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!