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.

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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.

November 9-11, 2020 – How Beautiful is the Rain!

How Beautiful is the Rain!

By H.W Longfellow

How beautiful is the rain!
After the dust and heat,
In the broad and fiery street,
In the narrow lane,
How beautiful is the rain!

How it clatters along the roofs,
Like the tramp of hoofs!
How it gushes and struggles out
From the throat of the overflowing spout

Across the window-pane
It pours and pours;
And swift and wide,
Like a river down the gutter roars
The rain, the welcome rain!
[…]

Packing up your vegetable boxes last Wednesday, we were accompanied by the most beautiful concert in the world: lots and lots of raindrops dancing joyfully on our tin roof to the point where we could hardly hear one another. So, we stopped talking and withdrew into ourselves, working silently amidst this glorious performance, smiling at each other under our masks.

The rain – especially the first rain – brings with it so much happiness and heartfelt emotions. Everyone I met over last week’s rainy days was walking in a cloud of joy that has been hidden for awhile amongst the clouds of viruses. Our parched hearts were sprinkled with sheer joy. How beautiful indeed is the rain!

We have been yearning for rain since Sukkot, and asked you to join us in our pleas and rain dances. But I’ll tell you a secret: we’re now racing against time to complete all the pre-rain tasks: cleaning beds which are no longer hosting, spreading compost, weeding the autumn plants that are in need of intense coiffing, and more. Kind of like your guests informing you that they are running late – you now have more time to complete the unfinished tasks… Thus, when the wet guest of honor is just a little tardy, it’s not so bad….

Which is why the Wednesday rain was so timely. A nice 70 mm drip pattered all through the evening and nighttime, quenching our dry soil’s thirst. What’s so great about the first rain is that all of it is absorbed in the thirsty and dry earth, infiltrating and then disappearing. The mud dries up easily and quickly, and this Monday we were already able to loosen and aerate the earth in its optimal state – damp, ventilated soil, easy to work with and prepare for the many autumn plantings awaiting.

Even with the fast pace of life, and concrete stretching across vast expanses, we still maintain a basic yearning for rain and the lively wet-and-wildness it brings. When I tried to find answers to the question “what is that scent after rain?” I found scientific explanations (to follow) alongside a palpable gush of yearning for that smell, the memories it evokes of childhood and home, to a time and place where we started to grow, to send out roots and reach a specific starting point. Perhaps this is why it stirs in one’s heart a feeling of renewal and a fresh, new start.

The scent of rain is extracted and produced wisely (for us and other living creatures, as you will soon see) by nature’s main actors: the plants, microbes, and rocks. In nature, this scent has two main components: geosmin and petrichor.

Geosmin (literally “earth smell”) is an organic compound produced by various microorganisms: in the water these are seaweed, while in the earth they are microbes. These microbes die when the earth is dry and hot, sending out geosmin-loaded spores that can survive in a dormant state, even over many years of very dry, hot seasons. Once they meet rain and moisture, the geosmin smell is augmented, the spores disperse into the air through the raindrops, and emit the “rain-like” scent—basically, the smell of newly-wet soil. Our love for this scent is important to the microbes, who need us to come close and toy with their spores in order to disseminate them. And it is true: the human nose is extremely sensitive to geosmin and is able to detect it at very low concentrations.

One of the most sensitive animals to geosmin is the camel. That comes as no great surprise, since this animal has a profoundly acute need to pick up even the slightest trace of the scent of water and moisture. Camels can detect water from a very great distance (up to 80 km!) due to their heightened sensitivity to the scent of geosmin. In camel terms, it is a matter of life and death. Also, many dust mites, like earthworms and other excavators, are attracted to the scent of geosmin and assist the microbes in their mission to disperse.

These microbes, actinobacterias, and more specifically streptomyces, are a group of vital soil-dwelling organisms which produce antibiotic substances that naturally fight infections and fungus. Perhaps our attraction to this smell is not only due to nostalgia for a time in our life where we had a wet plot of soil nearby, but also a key example of the pull to substances that are supposed to protect us – specifically throughout the cold, rainy winter.

But this smell is not always desirable. Water purification devices attempt to remove it from the groundwater which ends up in your faucets. Winemakers try to fight it to prevent a bouquet of mildew in their vino, and even pharmaceutical companies demur from marketing earthy-smelling medicines. A revolutionary study pertaining to the composition and formation of geosmin aspires to solve that problem. In our boxes, you will savor the geosmin in our beets, the secret ingredient in their earthy taste.

The second component in this scent is Petrichor (from Greek petra “stone” + ichor, the fluid that flows in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology). This impressive term, the modern meaning of which is “the nice fragrance accompanying rain after a dry spell,” was coined by two Australian researchers, Bear and Thomas, in an article they published in the 1960’s. Various plants extract oils into the atmosphere, which accumulate upon clay-like soil, rocks and stones. During dry seasons, a larger amount accumulates on the soil and rocks, and once the air grows moister and the rain falls, they are freed into the air, wafting their scent about.

Bear and Thomas wanted the petrichor to explain the special phenomenon of rapid growth and blooming which occurs in desert areas after short rains. They tried to show that there is something in this oil compound which expedites growth. To their surprise, they discovered the opposite: the petrichor slows down and even prevents sprouting and growth. They believe this to be a means for the seeds to protect themselves from short rains followed by the return of the dry spells. Sprouting which is not followed by additional watering brings about the demise of the sprout, while in its seeded, non-sprouted state, it still carries the potential to wait for a real rain. A strong, serious rain will wash the oil off the seeds and annul the stalling of sprouting.

Over the past few decades, we have learned about the destructive aspect of rain, and I don’t necessarily mean disasters like tsunamis or floods. Rain, after all, meets everything that exists around it, and the moisture intensifies these scents, causing its own reactions. If the pervading air carries unpleasant smells, they will be intensified by the rain’s moistness. Gasoline smells, garbage, dust, sewage— all return with a vengeance in the rain. Pollution, as well, is collected in the tiny raindrops, turning into dangerous acids which provide disastrous watering that pollutes plants, lakes and animals. By adding more trees, specifically in noxious-smelling cities that are covered in concrete, and decreasing the contaminates that we release into the atmosphere, the scales will be tipped in favor of the petrichor fragrance that stirs within us a craving for the hearth and home. It’s worth it, don’t you think?

Over the rest of this week’s sunny and dry weather, we’ve taken advantage of our contented, saturated field to get to work on the never-ending autumn demands.

Wishing you all warmth of heart, quenching of thirst, and the lovely, simple happiness of rain,

Alon, Bat Ami, Dror and the Chubeza team smiling behind masks

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday:  Swiss chard/kale, daikon/fennel/kohlrabi, turnips/beets, cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers/eggplant/lubia Thai yard-long beans, slice of pumpkin/ potatoes, coriander/parsley/dill, sweet potatoes, zucchini/carrots. Small boxes only: celery.

Large box, in addition: Winter spinach/New Zealand spinach, cabbage/cauliflower, arugula/mizuna/bok choy/totsoi, lettuce/basil

FRUIT BOXES: Avocados, bananas, apples, oranges, clementinas

Wednesday:  Winter spinach/New Zealand spinach/kale, daikon/fennel/kohlrabi, turnips/beets, cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers/eggplant, slice of pumpkin/lubia Thai yard-long beans, coriander/parsley/dill, sweet potatoes, zucchini/carrots, cabbage/cauliflower/Jerusalem artichoke.

Large box, in addition: Swiss chard//bok choy/totsoi, celery/scallions, arugula/mizunaIlettuce.

FRUIT BOXES: Avocados, bananas, apples, oranges, clementinas.

March 16th-18th 2020 – The Answer is Blowing in the Wind

So, the world has spiraled off into unknown terrain over the past few weeks, but at Chubeza we are all in good health and continuing our routine by working outdoors in a small team with vast spaces between us. Naturally, our orders have grown and multiplied and we are working hard, but we are grateful for the opportunity to continue our work and adhere to blessed routine.

This semi-routine helps us remember that despite the drama and anxiety, life still goes on, the seasons are changing like there’s no tomorrow (hmmmmm, not the best choice of words?), the vegetables are growing and we are in the midst of a different-genre drama in the field.

Last Thursday, our field was hit by a whirlwind. A real whirlwind, not a metaphoric one: massive gusts hurled around everywhere, spinning the plants, hothouses, tunnels, and the spring saplings covered in plastic to protect them from the cold. In the annals of Chubeza history, we’ve never seen winds of this force. The metal structures of the hothouses and the tunnels braved the storm courageously, but the plastic covers flew off, damaging the young cucumbers and cherry tomatoes. The covers protecting the first spring pumpkins blew off as well, injuring some of the plants in their flight and leaving the poor things bare and exposed to the wet and cold. The fava beans, peas and other open-field crops were hit smack in the face by the strong winds, with the brave pea surviving nicely, but losing many of its tall fava bean friends.

Our delivery box shed, normally covered by a net and plastic, lost its roof to drench a great many of the boxes inside. We recovered the boxes that are still useable, and gratefully we had already ordered a new batch. Here’s hoping we’ll breeze through the shortage, so to speak.

The showers that followed those winds fell steadily from Thursday night to Saturday, delivering a grand total of 35mm of rain – Wow! The field has now returned to its muddy wintery state. On Sunday we did our damage assessment: despite our sadness over the marred and battered crops, we were cheered by the hope and restorative capabilities of the plants, who immediately activated their survival mechanisms to embark on the journey towards healing and revival.

The young cucumbers were indeed badly damaged and many will have to be replanted, but the cherry tomato is a sturdy plant which we’re counting on to speedily rebuild its strength and return to normal. (Plants, like human beings, are sometimes stronger in their youth, with their own space to recover, as opposed to a more veteran plant damaged after most of its growth has been completed.)

Unlike the unfamiliar Corona virus and the dread it arouses, weathering the weather is relatively easy: we know the challenges involved and realize that they eventually make way for sunny days (like this Sunday and Monday), bringing comfort and healing to our wounded field.

We wish to convey precisely that emotion this week – albeit things seem terrifying at times, we have healing and recovery to depend on, despite the difficulties and disruptions we are now experiencing. This crisis shall pass. Until then, the new budding growth carries solace and hope for a healthy future to come.

Wishing us all endurance, and healthy, strong and good days,
Alon, Bat-Ami, Dror, Orin, Yochai and the entire Chubeza team

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Cabbage/slice of pumpkin, potatoes, cauliflower/broccoli/beets, green fava beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, celeriac/parsley root, peas/daikon/ Jerusalem artichokes, coriander, lettuce, leeks/green garlic.

Large box, in addition: Swiss chard/kale/chubeza (mallow) greens, parsley, carrots.

FRUIT BOXES: Bananas, oranges, pomelit/red grapefruit, apples.

Wednesday: Potatoes, beets/kohlrabi/radishes, green fava beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, celeriac/parsley root, parsley, carrots, lettuce, leeks/green garlic. Small boxes only: peas/Jerusalem artichokes/onions.

Large box, in addition: Cabbage/cauliflower/broccoli, Swiss chard/kale/chubeza (mallow) greens, slice of pumpkin, coriander.

FRUIT BOXES: Bananas, oranges/red grapefruit, pomelit, apples/avocado.

February 3rd-5th 2020 – Singing after the rain

Tu B’Shvat Treats

A special offer from Melissa of Mipri Yadeha: buy two fruit leather rolls or dry fruit and receive the third one free (only this week and next)

The Ish shel Lechem bakery will prepare special Tu B’Shvat bread this week and next week with yummy nuts and dried fruits in a 70% wheat flour dough.

Happy Birthday, Nature!

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Last Thursday we had the opportunity to actually plant our first spring plants (!) before once again getting drenched by showers… So this newsletter is blessedly rainy and muddy yet once again.

What is this rain descending from above, anyway? If you ask the Polynesians, they would tell you these are the tears of Rangi, the sky and the father of all things, mourning the separation from his wife, Papa, the earth. The Druze will tell you that on winter nights, along with the raindrops are salamanders that fall from the heavens, named “Abu Raflin” (father of puddles), which is why they are black as night and the lightning shines yellow spots on them. If you ask scientists, they will explain that vapor has condensed into tiny drops that join together to create greater drops. Once they become too heavy, gravity makes them fall, collecting more drops on their way down.  Contrary to all we know, the raindrop is not at all shaped like a drop… Raindrops are either round or elliptic, sometimes oblate. They descend to the earth extremely rapidly, at over 7.5 meters per second, a surprising performance for such a little drop which could be as miniscule as only a few millimeters.

In our family, we have a tradition of extreme loyalty to the rain. When it falls, we do not run. We allow it to tickle our nape, to trickle down our ears. Even our little Noga has already learned to put out her hand and let the rain wet it, and that the best thing you can do is lift your face upwards, open your mouth wide, and lick those wet and cold raindrops. Or, you can opt to just sing in the rain.

On rainy muddy days, and a day or two afterwards, we try to reduce our work in the field. The soil does not like being fondled when saturated with water. This is true especially for the heavy Chubeza terra rossa soil, characteristic to the area. As you’ve noted in your boxes, this is thick, red clay-like soil, rich in iron oxides and common to the mountainous areas of limestone and dolomite in which the weathering creates clay. As the rain washes it off the mountains, it slowly accumulates in the adjacent valleys, including our very own Ayalon valley. This red soil is also the material comprising terracotta, and it is the thinnest soil material (tiny grains smaller than 0.004 mm). When this earth is wet, it retains water and becomes extremely muddy. It also retains several minerals, which is why the soil is found in various colors in nature. As it dries up (relatively slowly), it shrinks and naturally crumbles into small lumps, allowing root, water and air to penetrate. This is great planting soil, with pores, ventilation and water retention abilities, in addition to being rich and fertile thanks to storing such oxides as iron, potassium, calcium and even nitrogen.

However, if you play with its clumps while wet, the soil’s hidden desires to become art awaken and it hardens and stiffens, complicating the seed’s ability to burst and the plant within it to grow. Which is why we try to take a break and resume planting and weeding only after the moisture is more or less absorbed and the earth is not so muddy. Prior to the rains, we were able to prepare the soil for end-of-the-winter planting by plowing open the land with a chisel-plow, a long fork that pierces the earth to make deep notches into which the rain can permeate. (In nature, the roots of trees and other plants with deep roots are used as natural “drain openers,” but in a field of annual plants like ours, we need to do this artificially.) Upon carrying out this procedure, we distributed compost and turned over the earth, but after the many rains that re-constricted it, we must loosen the ground anew to crumble up the earthen clods to prepare a proper platform for the new plants.

In its current saturated condition, we will not loosen the earth, but to enable planting in a timely fashion (last week), we needed to somehow ventilate the earth. This is where Gabi came to the rescue, as usual, with a great idea: he borrowed a blade clod-crusher, one with short and straight blades allowing it to only crumble the soil’s top layer without penetrating deeper into the wetter layers so as to prevent over-disturbance of the mud. Thus, after light cultivation we spread out the cover sheets and very gently planted the first zucchinis of 2020!

Wishing us all a nice sunny week with dry skies that allow us to plant again before the weekend’s big-time return of the rain.  We will appreciate your adding your hopes to ours in a Chubeza-style “rain pause” dance.

Shavua Tov to all,

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

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Swiss chard/New Zealand spinach/kale, broccoli, scallions/onions/leeks, cucumbers, tomatoes, celery/celeriac, carrots, parsley/mizuna/arugula, lettuce, cabbage/cauliflower. Small boxes only: Kohlrabi/fennel.

Large box, in addition: Jerusalem artichokes/peas, daikon/baby radishes, beets, totsoi

FRUIT BOXES: Pomelot/oranges, bananas, kiwi/avocado, clementinot 

Wednesday: Swiss chard/totsoi/New Zealand spinach/kale, broccoli, scallions/onions/leeks, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, parsley/mizuna/arugula, lettuce, cabbage/cauliflower, red beets, celery/celeriac.

Large box, in addition: Kohlrabi/fennel, daikon/baby radishes, Jerusalem artichokes/peas.

FRUIT BOXES: Oranges/red apples, bananas, avocado, clementinot 

January 27th-29th 2020 – Welcoming the month of Shvat!

Tu B’Shvat celebrations:

Melissa of Mipri Yadeha is offering 2+1 special: order two fruit leather rolls or dried fruit/crunchies and get the third free.

Ish Shel lechem Bakery is baking a unique Tu B’shvat loaf:  Made of 70% whole wheat organic flour and filled with dried fruits and nuts – Yummy!

Happy birthday trees of Israel!

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…and then the sun came out for a minute and a rainbow just stood there, and I remembered returning once from weeding the vineyard, my hands spongy and heavy with black mud.

I said, “Mom, look at this filth.”

I was a kid, you know, and that’s how kids talk.

And she looked at me with her unsleeping eyes and said: “Mud is not filth.”

Yehonatan Geffen

It’s been raining almost nonstop over the past two weeks in a steady sheet of little raindrops, not too heavy or rowdy, just calm, happy rain. There were times when the showers took a one or two-hour break, with an occasional visit by sunrays through the clouds that washed the field with light. But other than these interludes, it’s been wet, wet, wet.

We try to schedule our work according to the rain forecast, and many times we pick most of the vegetables a day before the predicted rain. Still, there’s usually no recourse from picking in the rain, even in heavy showers. We try to dress accordingly: high boots, rainproof pants, storm jackets and umbrella hats, in a hearty attempt to somewhat protect ourselves from the raindrops that keep falling on our heads.

Working in the rain, or a day or two or even three after the rain, means rolling in the mud–and when I say rolling, picture boots loaded halfway with sticky, brown, wonderful, heavy mud. And when I say heavy, picture us walking only by contorting every muscle from hip to toe to be able to lift each foot to take baby steps towards the next garden-bed. On the way back to the packing house, we try to shed as much mud as possible by jumping around, dancing (tap-like), rubbing against flora on the road, and trying to leave as much of the brownness around us. Removing the boot at the end of such a workday is like growing wings. You lose your sense of gravity and get ready to fly…

The entry to our packing house is protected by an awning on top and a concrete-covered pathway, thus some of the mud that used to accompany us into the packing house now remains in clusters at the doorstep. That is also the spot where we pack the boxes into our delivery cars which we cover in cardboard on rainy days. And yet, as we load the vehicles, our delivery people get their share of muddy boots as well…

The carrots, beets, daikons, radishes, fennels and onions come straight from the earth all brown and muddy. Some are eligible for long baths: we soak these vegetables in a tub for an hour or so and then wash them off and let the water drain in netted plastic containers. However, we do not wash off the onions and fennel. Their layered composition makes these vegetables vulnerable to excess water which can penetrate their skin, accumulate, and cause damage. Hence, you receive them covered in mud. The solution is to allow the mud to dry up, after which it crumbles off easily. Whatever’s left, you can safely wash off.

Yet while there is no getting out of thoroughly washing the vegetables, there is an added bonus. Chana, who volunteered here a few winters ago, taught me that mud is a great grease remover. Just as sand is used for cleansing, the muddy globs can rub off stubborn stains, especially from metal utensils. So if you have a pot with black, hard-to-remove stains inside, try this: place the muddy vegetables you receive in your box (carrot, beets, kohlrabi, radishes, celeriac, parsley root, etc.) in the stained pot and cover with water. Now prepare yourself a cup of tea and relax while you choose the recipes on your menu, and let the water do its work, softening the mud and separating it from the vegetables. After some time (a couple of hours or so), go back to your muddy vegetables, remove from pot, and wash under running water. Allow vegetables to dry thoroughly on a towel, then place in air-tight containers and refrigerate (or drop them straight into your caldron bubbling away on the stove). Meanwhile, back to the stained pot: Carefully pour out the water. We promise there will be a lot of mud accumulated on the bottom, but don’t spill it out. Use it to rub the sooty parts of the pot and then rinse out. The result will be a surprisingly brilliant one.

This week’s temperatures were rather low, in the 15-16°C range, but the break in rain that is supposed to last from now till the weekend will allow the field to breathe, absorb its newly-received moisture slowly and moderately, and store it in reservoirs under the roots stretching out their shoots to drink the water and its nutrients. Sunny-after-the-rain days are so much cleaner and better. Everything is shiny, and you get the feeling you can actually enjoy the bright weather, as the field has already quenched its thirst.

And it is during these post-rain sunny days we bid farewell from the month of Tevet (Tebitu in Akkadian, meaning “sink in water“) and happily welcome the month of Shvat (Shabatu, “hit, strike”) that received its name from the end of winter rains that strike and hit the earth as they fall.

Hoping for a month of good strikes filled with gentle, dousing taps of raindrops,

Alon, Bat Ami, Dror, Orin, Yochai and the entire Chubeza team in their muddy attire

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Swiss chard/totsoi/New Zealand spinach/kale, baby radishes, broccoli, scallions/onions/leeks, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, parsley/mizuna/arugula, lettuce, cauliflower. Small boxes only: Jerusalem artichokes/peas/green fava beans.

Large box, in addition: Kohlrabi/fennel, daikon/turnips, red cabbage/beets, celery/celeriac

FRUIT BOXES: Pomelot, bananas, kiwi, clementinot

Wednesday: Swiss chard/New Zealand spinach/kale, broccoli, scallions/onions/leeks, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, parsley/mizuna/arugula, lettuce, cauliflower/potatoes, celery/celeriac. Small boxes only: Jerusalem artichokes/peas/green fava beans.

Large box, in addition: Kohlrabi/fennel, daikon/baby radishes, cabbage/totsoi, beets.

FRUIT BOXES: Pomelot/avocado, bananas, kiwi, clementinot/oranges