May 21st-23rd 2018 – Land of wheat

Fresh, new stock!

Tamir’s delectable honey is back after a short break, and Tomer and Hamutal’s amazing apple cider has been replenished!

Add these products to your box via our order system.

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Well, here we are at the other end of Shavuot, continuing with the intriguing story of wheat.

In the previous episode, we discussed the “mother of ancient wheat” discovered by Aharon Aharonson, and wheat domestication by farmers via selection and the process of trial and error. This change was crucial for humankind to grow wheat, but s/he created what is known in science as a “bottleneck,” for only the species which carried the characteristics suitable for agriculture were chosen, decreasing the biological variety. Thus, In the process of wheat domestication, some important properties were lost, like its durability in the face of disease and dryness, as well as a higher nutritional value of the wheat grains.

When Aharonson discovered the wild wheat, he predicted research would be important not only for the historical value to understand human cultural and agricultural development, or that of botanic and wild plants, but also because he understood the notion of bottleneck, and foresaw a future when we would need the features lost in the process of wheat domestication that exist in wild wheat. And thus he wrote: “In the process of separation and crossbreeding, we will be able to extract (from this new wild grain, the mother of wheat) species which will survive in dry land, as well as in places that are high and cold […] This research will not only serve history and botany, but will carry an economic advantage, perhaps even a social one. The aim is to enable the production of more bread at lower cost in places which bread production remains expensive and difficult, allowing the manufacture of bread in places which to date have been impossible.” (Aharon Aharonson, agricultural and botanical research in Palestine, 1910.) From his agricultural research center in Atlit, Aharonson was probably the first scientist in the world attempting to crossbreed cultured plants with their wild forefathers to improve them.

Despite the bottleneck it encountered, wheat turned out to be a very flexible and adaptive crop, and in the thousands of years since it was domesticated, it has spread to almost every part of the world, managing to adapt itself to various territories and climates. Traditional farmers across the globe grew wheat in different places, sometimes with wheat species unique to the different villages along with culture, tradition, ceremonies and holidays connected to it. And of course, it brought along a magnificent food culture.

 
      

But we will let go of “the agricultural revolution” and the cultivation of wheat, which took place some 10,000 years ago, and jump to the 20th century and “the green revolution.” These are the years following two world wars, when the world was piecing itself together and trying to recover. Traumatic years of hunger and deprivation, as well as gloomy prophecies of population growth and world hunger were of great concern and the future seemed bleak. Ammunition factories still had lots of ammonia, the raw material used to create ammo, and also… synthetic agricultural fertilizer which can speed up the yield. It seemed like the perfect solution, and thus, the ammunition factories underwent a “career change” and moved to produce synthetic fertilizers for advanced agriculture.

In the wheat fields, this synthetic fertilizing caused the growth of heavy-grained stalks. The traditional species were tall and the stalks were unable to carry the weight, leading to a phenomenon of stalks lying on the ground. This, in turn, created diseases and rotting, and harvesting became more difficult. Science was enlisted to solve the problems and – by crossbreeding miniature wheat species found in Japan with disease-resistant species – they succeeded in developing a partially miniature species which could stand erect and carry the weight of the stalk in addition to producing a large amount of seeds (less energy in the plant was wasted on the stalk and leaves, enabling it to produce more seeds). The scientist most identified with this revolution is an American agronomist named Norman Borlaug who worked in Mexico, India, Pakistan and other developing countries, winning the Nobel Prize for Peace for his contribution to the prevention of world hunger. Yet again, it seemed like a win-win solution and the Western world basked in years of barley nutrition security.

Right? hmmm…. Not quite. Remember that first bottleneck? Well, now a second one was created, narrower than its predecessor. Traditional wheat growing was replaced by industrial methods, and within half a century almost all the wheat in the world was virtually identical, with a very narrow genetic diversity, resulting in the wheat being far more vulnerable to pests, diseases or extreme climate change. If one thing destroys the popular species, it will quickly spread and destroy everything without the ability to protect them with other species carrying different characteristics. The Great Famine in Ireland  – a terrible agricultural trauma when the entire country’s potato yield crashed due to the blight – is a reminder of the dangers of such genetic uniformity.

Unfortunately, a similar thing happened in our very own country. At the beginning of the last century there was almost only traditional agriculture. Most of the wheat growing here was Durum Wheat (T. Durum), for pitta baking – the local bread at the time. Hundreds of different wheat species grew in the Arab villages, each village or area sporting its own local flour grinder, baking culture, and agricultural traditions unique to their microclimate and distinctive soil. Regretfully, the Jewish settlers, who had studied agriculture and science, treated the traditional Arab farming with contempt, believing they knew better and strived for progressive modernity. Thus, improved species of bread wheat were imported to the country, producing softer wheat and a taller yield. In the seventies, the half-miniature species were brought over, and the local heritage species were abandoned. The imported species were given Hebrew names and within a few decades only we seemed to lose the very precious and early agricultural tradition.

And yet, over the years, there were singular exceptions who realized the importance of collecting and saving the traditional species. They did it on their own accord, without any support or institution to back them up, under unsuitable conditions. These were Professor Moshe (Musik) Feldman of the Weizmann Institute, Professor Mordechai Kislev of Bar Ilan University, and Dr. Yakov Matityah from the Volcani Institute. Over the 70’s and 80’s, these individuals carefully collected dozens of heritage wheat samplings. They were driven by ideology, but without any organizational body. The species were not professionally preserved and not sprouted every few years to maintain their vitality. Over the last year, a unique redeeming project was established, Eretz HaChita (Land of Wheat), led by Bizi Goldberg, who independently researches the wheat, along with researchers Avi Levi of the Weizmann Institute, Dr. Roy Ben David of the Volcani Institute and Dr. Einav Meizlish Getti, director of the National Gene Bank at the Volcani Institute. The project has succeeded in assembling, categorizing and identifying the species collected in the country, as well as other wheat species from Israel which somehow made their way to various seed banks worldwide. The specie remnants grow in research hothouses in the Volcani Institute and the Weizmann Institute, aimed at producing fresh vital seeds. At the same time, research is conducted to examine the genetic and morphologic features of the traditional species.

Remember Aharonson? Now, the aim is not only to preserve tradition, but also to produce a fundamental and vital assembly of some hundred heritage species which will serve as an anchor for future research and the cultivation of species.

Here is a fascinating article about this topic written by Ronit Vered for Ha’aretz about a year ago. (Hebrew)

One example of such research is the wheat genetic charting taking place in agricultural and botanic research over the past years. The wild wheat grains carry a higher level of nutrition than the cultured wheat. This is a result of a natural process taking place at the end of growth season, when the plant dies and the nutrients accumulated in the leaves and stalks transport themselves to the grains in order to promise continuity for a coming generation. This process, which takes place efficiently and quickly in the wild wheat, allows for a higher quantity of protein and mineral in its grains.

Nearly a decade ago, a crew of Israeli and Californian scientists discovered the gene that is responsible for the efficiency and speed of this process, and scientists hope that deciphering the genetic continuum will allow additional enhancements of the wheat by genetic engineering and making it compatible to other realms of growth.

Perhaps it is no surprise that the wheat tale engulfs tradition and progress, heritage and modernity, running ahead and taking a step back. It bears the circular movement so prevalent in our lives, where we encounter the familiar at every turn we make, except that the angle is different. It encompasses diverse and inclusive community, intense land-working and the aspiration to live a modest though reasonable life. And it is a reminder that the key is diversity and natural increase, and that denying the past or “the other,” ignoring the achievements of those who preceded us or abandoning the wisdom of others leads to reduction, a thin, restricting and dangerous bottleneck.

This movement is evident, too, in the biblical ceremony of the first fruits (bikkurim), when the farmer bringshis first fruit of the year, and at that moment is required to remember his forefather Abraham, the exodus to Egypt, the exile and arrival in the Promised Land. And at this point in the past, the blessing rounds it up to the present: “And now, behold, I have brought the first fruits of the land, which thou, O Lord, hast given me.” And upon delivering the gift of the first fruits to God, he joins in a community celebrating in which everyone participates: “And thou shalt rejoice in every good thing which the Lord thy God hath given unto thee, and unto thine house, thou, and the Levite, and the stranger that is among you.”

May we enjoy a post-first-fruit week, and a season of abundance and generosity.

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

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Carrots, acorn squash, lettuce, cucumbers/fakkus, beets, tomatoes, potatoes, Swiss chard/kale, zucchini, garlic, cilantro/parsley.   

Large box, in addition: Onions, melon/cabbage, bell peppers/string beans.

Wednesday: Carrots, butternut or acorn squash, lettuce, cucumbers, beets, tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini, garlic, cilantro/parsley, string beans.

Large box, in addition: Onions, Swiss chard/kale, melon/bell peppers/fakkus. 

May 14th-16th 2018

Next week, post-Shavuot, Monday and Wednesday deliveries are as scheduled. However, in order for us to prepare for Monday deliveries before we embark upon the holiday, the order system will close for changes this Thursday, May 17th at 8:00 PM (only for the Monday 21.5.18 deliveries). Please keep this deadline in mind.

Thanks for your cooperation!

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Gal of Kfar Bin Nun has joined our staff, and after Packing Day last week she sent us this cute little comic strip. Enjoy!

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A stalk in the field bows in the breeze
The grains heavy in its fold
In the hilly distance, the day is ablaze
The sun a stain of gold.
Come round and liven up, children of the valley,
Grains have ripened to no tally
Wave the scythe, reap away
Harvest has commenced

The field of barley wears a wreath of joy
A wealth of blessed yield.
As it greets the gleaners timid and coy
Awaiting the sheaf is the field.
Come and dance along the lea
The grain rejoices its decree
As harvest has commenced… 

(Shiboleth Ba’Sadeh, by Mattityahu Shalem in honor of the harvest festival at his kibbutz, Ramat Yochanan. Loosely translated by Aliza Raz-Melzer)

wheat field

In honor of Shavuot, we were requested to bring a festive fruit basket to my daughter’s nursery. Devoted mother that I am, I started preparing it immediately. I remembered we had golden stalks of grain growing wild at the edge of our backyard, and I’d eyed them all winter with the thought of using them for Shavuot. I went out to the yard and found golden, though blighted, stalks, and when I tried to pick them I discovered why: every little movement of the ripe stalk made it fall apart and disintegrate. Try as I may, I was left time and again with a golden stem and empty stalk. Although the devoted mother in me was greatly disappointed remembering the strong, beautiful stalks that decorated the kibbutz dining hall of my childhood, I had to admire the wisdom of the wild wheat in my backyard, as well as the patience and devotion of the first farmers who domesticated it over 10,000 years ago.

Farming is a relatively new phenomenon in the history of human culture, commencing some 10,000 years ago, when man switched from hunting and gathering his food in the wild to becoming a deliberate grower of plants and animals he chose from nature. This era is considered to be an important turning point in the progress of humankind, leading to permanent settlement, the development of writing, and to a political structure. Without exaggeration, it is probably the cradle of our culture.

Wheat is one of the first things man learned to grow. He selected the wheat from the wild and turned it into an agricultural growth, to a domesticated plant. Wild wheat, the “mother wheat,” is the origin of all domesticated wheat grown today, and is still common in wide areas of the Land of Israel and its environs. We know many of the domesticated plants grown by man that still exist in their wild form. Just as there is a wild plum and domesticated plum, or wild and domesticated carrots, or wild and domesticated fennel, there is also wild and domesticated wheat. The wheat grows wild in the upper and lower Galilee, in the Carmel, the Gilboa, Judea and Samaria. It is dispersed from the north of Israel and Lebanon all the way to western Iran and Iraq.

The “mother wheat” was discovered by Aharon Aaronsohn, of the famous Aaronsohn family from Zikhron Ya’akov, who was an agronomist, botanist and geologist. In 1906, Aharon went on a journey in search of wild wheat. He embarked on this search because of one dried plant that was picked at the slope of Mount Hermon and had been preserved in a university in Germany for over 50 years, with no information as to its origins. After a long search, he found the first stalk of wild wheat on a mountainside in Rosh Pina. Afterwards, he found it growing in other places in Israel as well.

Aaronsohn was surprised to learn that the wild wheat is very similar to domesticated wheat, and thus wrote in his journal, “My doubts arose especially when I saw the fine development of the stalks and grains. I never imagined that the wheat prototype would so closely resemble our domesticated wheat, bearing grains that would satisfy any modern farmer. But actually, if it weren’t so, prehistoric man would never have noticed this wheat, and probably wouldn’t have attributed so much importance to it.”

Here is a picture of both: the wild wheat is on the right, the domesticated to the left. You be the judge:

wheat wild and domestic

But if the wild wheat is so satisfactory, why domesticate it? Why not just gather it wild in the field? The wild wheat is very similar to the domesticated, but there are still critical differences between them. The wild wheat which grows in the field has properties beneficial for the plant, but disadvantageous for man and farmer: after the grains of the wild wheat fill and ripen, the axle of the stalk (the stem in its center) breaks, and it disintegrates into small units. For the wild plant, this is an advantage: the small units are scattered in the area, and some, at least, survive over summer to grow during the next rainy season. But just imagine the frustration of past collectors (or present devoted mothers) who picked sheaths of wheat and took them home–and by the time they reached the door, the stalks had broken and fallen apart, leaving only a dry and grain-less stem to grasp. Another property that differentiates wild wheat from the domesticated version is that its grains are wrapped in a rigid shell-like skin and other wrappings, and are very hard to hull and separate. Thus, the grains are protected from heat and dryness, as well as pests and animals. But the reapers had to work extra hard to separate the wheat from the chaff, or to grind them without separating them and try to eat them this way.

Wo/Man wished to develop wheat that was suitable for his/her needs, therefore s/he selected and sowed only seeds from the stalks whose seeds stayed in place for long. Over thousands of years of sorting and sowing, the farmer achieved a new species that could only be separated from the plant by movement, beating and knocking, or what we call today “threshing.” In the process of threshing, the grains are also hulled from the chaff with ease. Wheat’s scientific name is Triticum from the word Tritum, Latin for “to rub, wear out.” Thus, wo/man turned wild weeds to domesticated wheat.

Domesticated wheat has additional agricultural advantages as well, which have made it a fundamental component of human nutrition. Wild wheat is popular in limited places in the Near East, which fortunately for us include Israel. Domesticated wheat, however, can grow in extended areas throughout all the continents: Europe, Asia, North America, South America and Australia. There is also a great difference between the volume of yield of domesticated and wild wheat: domesticated wheat produces a large yield of produce, because each stalk consists of many large grains.

If the domesticated “bread wheat” grew wild in nature, it would never survive: the stalks would fall on the ground without disintegrating, and the seeds would not scatter and hide among the clods of earth. In such a situation, it is most likely that animals (mice, ants and other wheat-destroyers) would find the stalks easily and consume the grains. The domesticated wheat is able to survive only because wo/man grows it in cultivated fields, waters and fertilizes the earth, eliminates pests, harvests and threshes it.

The process of wheat domestication was the first step. Next week I will write more about the “green revolution” and disclose more tales of the wheat as it evolved from wild wheat to the one we know and love today. In the meantime, we will conclude with hopes for good yields, abundance and tranquility.

In a beautiful and insightful article, Nissim Krispil writes about that the “stalk in the field bow[ing] in the breeze” which for modern humankind symbolizes peace and quiet, was considered in medieval times to harbor fears and evil spirits. The wheat harvest expressed a battle against this evil spirit. The last sheaf harvested was the crux of many rituals in various cultures. In some of the falach villages in Israel, it is customary to weave the stalks of the last sheath with colorful threads of wool, to be called Birkhat El Khasida (the blessing of harvest.) It is also customary to hang this creation in the wheat silo or on the walls of a house as a folk amulet against the evil eye.”

  

Wishing you all a joyous Shavuot harvest festival, and hoping, wishing and praying for tranquility and growth in our part of the world,

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

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

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

Large box, in addition: Leeks/garlic, parsley root, acorn squash

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

Large box, in addition: Carrot , melon, acorn squash.

 

May 31st – June 1st – Happy Shavuot!

This Thursday (today) is Open Day at Chubeza!

At long last, after being postponed on Pesach. And now we literally cannot wait to see you!

Come visit us on Thursday, June 1, Isru Chag of Shavuoth, between 3-7pm

In the spirit of the holiday, we’ll have arts and crafts with stalks of grain, we’ll make pita bread on the saj, we’ll have a buffet of veggies, salads and other delicacies to nosh on while you schmooze, and you’re welcome to purchase vegetables, fruits and other products from our packing house.

Every hour we will hold a tour of the turning-summer field, and of course, we will host our favorite Hazel Hill Band who will strum their special happy music for us between 5:30-6:30 pm.

All of us at Chubeza look forward to seeing you!

For detailed driving instructions to the Open Day and produce market, check this link.

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If you can’t come to the Open Day, and you happen to be in Jerusalem on Thursday, you’re welcome to join a “seed trade” meet, at the Nature Museum in Jerusalem. Here are the details.

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Those who lived near [Jerusalem] would bring fresh figs and grapes,

while those who lived far away would bring dried figs and raisins. 

An ox would lead them, his horns bedecked with gold and with an olive-crown on its head.

The flute would play before them until they would draw close to Jerusalem.

When they drew close to Jerusalem they would send messengers in advance, and they would adorn their bikkurim

The governors and chiefs and treasurers [of the Temple] would go out to greet them, and according to the rank of the entrants they would go forth.

All the skilled artisans of Jerusalem would arise before them and greet them saying, “Our brothers, men of such and such a place, we welcome you in peace.”

Mishnah Bikurim, 3,3

Usually, when one thinks of the bikurim festivals, we imagine the bearers of the first fruits walking calmly amongst the rows of trees or plants, harvesting a little bit of this, a little bit of that, tying them nicely in a wicker basket and joining the festive bikurim procession. Well, it was definitely a grand ceremonial event, very impressive, but that is probably the main reason why it was not at all close in time to the harvest.

Those who arrived from nearby were certainly happy at the festive event, but for the distant pilgrims, those who came from the periphery, this was an especially thrilling occasion and a great effort to walk the route to Jerusalem with the fruits of their gardens in hand. In order to respect those coming from afar, to make them feel no-less – perhaps even more – important, the offering of the first fruits was received with gratitude if the fruits were fresh (that is, if one lived close enough), but the dry fruits were also joyously accepted.

So since there was no rush to get to Jerusalem, the pilgrims could take time to adorn the procession making its way to the Holy City. With an ox, a flute and an olive-crown they made their way under the scorching sun (remember, this was between Sukkot and Shavuot), carrying baskets in which dry figs, raisins, dates, high-quality olive oil and pomegranates peacefully rested.

In honor of the Festival of First Fruits, which places fresh produce at the forefront while holding preservation and storage of products in equally high regard, and in honor of the approaching summer, we would like to draw your attention once again to the guide to storing vegetables we prepared for you. It’s right here, and also in our recipe section, soon to be placed in a much more convenient location in our new website (which Talia and I are working on with vigor).

And, while we’re at it, here is a very informative explanation I received from Hillel of Ein Harod, who grows olives and makes olive oil. Hillel explains how to maintain the quality of olive oil. Enjoy!

A few words about the quality of olive oil, and that of the organic olive oil of Ein Harod in particular: to this day, the main parameter of quality is the level of “acidity” which denotes the percentage of free radical fatty acids within the oil, a measure easily gauged by chemical tests. The upper limit of acidity for “extra virgin” oil is .8%. Acidity in the oil varies and rises with time, but a great deal depends on the preservation of the oil. To properly preserve oil: do not allow any contact with air to prevent oxygenation; avoid contact with light and maintain a temperature of up to 20°C. In addition, it is recommended to separate the oil from all remaining residue upon refining the olive oil, as they are in fact solid particles of the olive.

In order to maintain the highest quality of organic olive oil, we take the following measures:

  • The olives are sent to the olive press on the very day they were harveste, and the oil is extracted that same night.
  • After we get the oil back from the press, we let it sit for two to three weeks, allowing the residue to sink. Only then do we transfer the very clear oil to special tanks.
  • The oil is kept in vats which are “always full”, i.e. containing an inner lid which floats atop the oil to seal it from air penetration.
  • These vats are stored in an air-conditioned room at the desirable temperature.
  • Bottling the oil is carried out in a scrupulously clean process.
  • It is important to understand that when our label reads: “acidity at less than .8%” this means that the oil is at the standard of “extra virgin.” We do not produce labels frequently, which is why the labels do not change according to the current level of acidity, although it usually lower. For example, over the past two years our oil acidity has been approximately .3%, though the label still read “acidity lower than .8%” I know there are producers who claim their acidity level is less than .5% while tests proved this to be fraudulent. A new law was enforced this year for the supervision of olive oil which demands an organoleptic test examining the quality of olive oil with the help of professional tasters. The criteria are very explicit, and the professional tasters are aware that for the olive oil to be categorized as “extra virgin,” it must be declared free of any deficiencies. In tests conducted this year, even before the law was instated, some 60% of the oils tested were found deficient in ways that would have prevented them from being branded “extra virgin.” Our organic olive oil from Ein Harod was found to meet the superior “extra virgin” standard. The law will be instated at the beginning of next year in order to allow the producers to become accustomed to the new standards. Being a small company producing organic olive oil, we wish to maintain our credibility and contact with our customers, and we are happy to share the results of our tests. If you believe it is important to know the level of acidity in your olive oil – please contact me.
  • Another clause in the new law requires the producers and marketers to indicate the origins of the oil on the bottle, in order for buyers to know if the olive oil is local or imported and merely packaged locally. Our olive oil is proudly made from organic olives we grew ourselves in Ein Harod.

Happy Festival of the New Fruits!

Hillel Prag, Ein Harod

v-prag@einharodm.org.il

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We join Hillel in his Shavuoth wishes. Come visit us at our Open Day this Thursday. The weather is predicted to be good to us this time…

The month of Ramadan begins this week, and we wish Mohammed, Ali and Majdi and good month and easy fast in compliant weather…

May there be good days for us all!   

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

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The holiday of new fruits comes right on time, as the season renews and the much- longed for summer vegetables return. Enjoy the newcomers in our boxes – the fakkus, melon, acorn squash, green beans, parsley root (a remnant of winter, happily greeted) and our very own potatoes and tomatoes from the first harvest of the end of spring. Chag Sameach!

A little storage tip: sometimes the cucumbers arrive with the dried flower still clinging  to its tip. Best to remove it from the bag or box where you store your cucumbers, lest it rot and ruin the rest of the cucumbers.  

WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S HOLIDAY BOXES?

Monday: Parsley/mint, New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard, lettuce, cucumbers + fakus, zucchini, tomatoes/cherry tomatoes, onions, potatoes, carrots, beets. Small boxes only: garlic.

Large box, in addition: Green beans/parsley root, leeks, melon, cabbage/acorn squash.

Wednesday: Parsley, lettuce, cucumbers + fakus, zucchini, tomatoes/cherry tomatoes, onions, potatoes, carrots, beets. Small boxes only: garlic, New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard

Large box, in addition: Green beans, parsley root, leeks, melon/acorn squash/butternut squash, cilantro/mint.

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

Aley Chubeza #201, June 2nd-5th, Happy Shavuot

 Due to the holiday, Wednesday’s deliveries will be moved to Thursday, June 5th.

Bread lovers, please note: As rye bread preparation takes two days, there will be no bread delivery this Thursday.

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What to do with all the bountiful yield of the fields? Eliezer of Shorshei Tzion invites you to fascinating workshops where you can learn to preserve food in the ancient, healing method of fermentation. The workshops will take place in Tel Aviv over the next month. This is a great opportunity to learn from experienced and talented professionals about the advantages of live ferments, various methods, tools, materials and tips. For more information, see attached document. Highly recommended!

Wishing you a joyous Festival of First Fruits!

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This year we can now definitely discuss spring. As the scorching heat waves of the Mideastern summer are preparing to make their grand entrance, we are enjoying beautiful sunny, albeit breezy days. The vegetables are loving the generous amounts of light, yet not groaning under the burden of heat. The entire field is dancing joyfully, blooming and ripening in green and blossoms. What a great time to celebrate the Festival of the First Fruits!

The vegetables, enjoying moderate days and gentle evenings, are ripening at a satisfactory tempo, yielding new vegetables almost weekly. Take a look at the list of vegetables you got last month, and you will realize that the in-between-season is behind us, and the transformation is complete. The field has renewed, and the new fruits are officially here.

In the greens department, we have begun harvesting mint, New Zealand spinach (not at all related to the Chenopodiaceae family, to which the spinach belongs, but rather a very tasty green that flourishes in the Israeli heat and is used as a friendly spinach replacement), and scallions. Very soon you will also be receiving sage and thyme.

The fakkus in the open field and the cucumbers in the net house are ripening rapidly, as evident in the large quantities you have been receiving. This week, large boxes will receive cucumbers and fakkus. If you cannot make do with such large quantities in salads or Tzatziki, we suggest you pickle them in brine. They’re ready in a week, and irresistibly so.

Squash and potatoes, the first fruits of spring, are still with us. They started a couple of months ago in a slow trickle, first one variety–light squashes and yellow potatoes—that were later joined by the green striped zucchini. The red potatoes are ripening and will be arriving shortly.

The eggplants have commenced earlier than usual (as they were planted earlier this year), due to their coping with the cold weather in the beginning. First they ripened midsize and in small quantities, but we kept noticing more and more fruits on the bushes that are simply taking their time in this moderate springy spring and ripening at their own pace. Last week they had a sudden growth spurt, and the eggplants have reached their summer size. They will be with us, like the rest of their family (the sun- loving Solanaceae‘s) throughout the summer till autumn.

The green bean seemed at first hesitant, waiting, debating, until she too decided to go for it, and basking in the warm sun, yielded good-sized quantities. We also enjoyed the yellow bean, which also grows on bushes in the open field. Soon, the flat bean (Hilda), climbing tall in the growth-house, will ripen, juicy and delicious. Try the beans raw or lightly boiled. They are at their prime, and we can’t help nibbling away as we harvest and pack…

And among the summer fruits, our melons have begun ripening, juicy and dripping sweetness, emitting intoxicating scents in the packing house and delivery cars, and probably in your refrigerators as well (if you manage to keep them there over a day.) Most of our melons this year are of the “orange pineapple” type, an elongated melon with orange, soft and juicy fruit. The first melons were planted at the end of February, and since then we have planted two new rounds, alternating between those that are more suitable for early spring and the later-spring-early-summer types.

We try to harvest the melons at their maximum ripeness, when they detach easily from the bush. Melons should not be picked too early, but if you wait too long it’s not too good either. Melons are tricky: if they’re left even a little too long in the field, they can go rotten at their ends. We happily harvest them for immediate use – i.e., Chubeza lunches.

And last but not least, our new fruit of the new fruits- the artichoke! This is our first year of growing artichokes, bringing us a little something to add to our repertoire… thorns. This charming little plant is actually a thorny guy, and you are eating its thorny flower. It is a perennial plant, and we will be able to harvest artichokes from the same plot for a few years now. I promise to discuss him more when the quantities grow and more boxes can enjoy it. In the meantime, our artichokes are yielding larger and larger quantities. Welcome, newcomer!

And before we say goodbye, welcome sweet little Na’ama, daughter to Boaz and Tzippi, who breathed new life into the recipe tab in our website and is also my very own sister, and to Na’ama’s big brother Yotam. We wish you joy and happiness as you greet your very own ceremonious basket of new fruits.

Wishing you all a happy Festival of First Fruits, full of gratitude and love. May you be granted bountiful blessings, celebrate happily with friends and loved ones, and enjoy the holiday break!

Chag Sameach from all of us at Chubeza!

WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S SHAVUOT BOXES?

Monday: Nana (mint)/coriander, potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes, eggplant, beets, beans/artichoke, fakus, parsley, melon, zucchini.

Large box, in addition: Swiss chard, leeks/scallions/chives, cucumbers.

Thursday:  Nana (mint)/coriander, potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes, eggplant, beets, beans/artichoke, parsley, melon/acorn squash, zucchini, small boxes: cucumbers/fakus.

Large box, in addition: Swiss chard, leeks/scallions/chives, cucumbers and fakus.

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

Aley Chubeza 113 – May 28th-30th 2012

First and foremost, let me brag just a bit… Remember when I wrote last week about the CSA movement in Israel and how it is growing? Well, for Shavuot, Ronit Vered wrote a nice article in the Ha’aretz newspaper (Hebrew) about the wonderful weekly box that she receives from Danny, Nati and Eyal, “Chava Bakfar” people from Kfar HaNagid. What a great honor and joy to be a part of this greater endeavor. My salute to the “Chava BaKfar” members for the well-deserved compliments.

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Esther Lachman of Arugot Habosem tells me that a course in natural pharmaceuticals will begin this week, under her direction. This is the third such course, and it will be held  at the Center for Women’s Arts “B’Chefetz Kapeha” in Ein Kerem, Jerusalem, Wednesdays 9:30-12:00.

The course is comprised of seven sessions to instruct on a full range of homemade pharmaceuticals in the realms of organic cosmetics and detergents. There is no need for previous experience. Participants leave each session with two or three products and a broad base of theoretical and practical knowledge for use at home.

Cost of the natural pharmaceuticals course: 1,400 NIS.

For further information, Arugot HaBosem, www.habosem.com 050-2249600

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This week we will be charging your credit cards for May vegetables. Here is a reminder of our complicated yet amiable way of operation (hopefully a change for the better will occur soon):

  • Fruits and vegetables are billed together, accompanied by an invoice/receipt (no VAT). Deliveries are billed separately with an invoice/receipt that does include VAT. Additional products are billed separately as well.
  • At the beginning of next month, a detailed bill containing everything that was bought, charged, and the status of your account will be sent. This requires your updated email address. If you have not been receiving our invoices and messages to your current email account, please contact us and let us know. We are at csa@chubeza.com
  • As always, I would greatly appreciate your reviewing your bill to make sure it’s correct. Your feedback will help us discover any mistakes and improve the system.

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The Dates are Back!!

To our delight, Mirit from Samar decided to spend the holiday with friends in the Galilee, and on her way north brought us a whole new supply of Barhi dates, thus we are rewarded with another batch of both species: the soft and oh-so-sweet barhi, and the drier Dekel Nur, with their milder, subtle sweetness.

Those of you who have been requesting dates lately are more than welcome to resume your orders. We have more than enough!

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And one last comment:

On Sunday night, my email and voicemail held a dozen messages requesting changes for the next-day deliveries, all of which were sent after Friday afternoon. In order to update our lists for Monday deliveries, I would have had to work over the weekend or holiday. Again, I request: notify us of any changes, special orders or requests at least one (business) day before the scheduled delivery date. Please take my request seriously. I simply cannot respond to late messages.
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Pondering Shavuot, Foreigners and Self-Identity

Over the last few days, my mind has been trying to synthesize between the agricultural rhythm of the season—with wheat fields on the verge of harvest or within its course, and summer crops claiming more and more space in your boxes— together with the rhythm of Israeli current affairs, specifically relating to the foreign workers in Israel. As someone who works every day with migrant laborers and other foreigners, relying on them and being assisted by them in a manner that is crucial to our farming, this topic is close to home. I am extremely distressed by what I hear in the news, even though our workers are not those Africans specifically under current discussion.

These two clashing rhythms in my brain were connected by a thought-provoking article Rabbi Adin Steinzaltz wrote about Shavuot. Here are some of his words:

“Shavuot is somewhat of a complement to Passover, when seven weeks after Passover we celebrate Shavuot… Regarding the content of these holidays, they are both holidays of the beginning of crops, when after an agricultural year of labor and hazards, we can finally enjoy this year’s crops. On Passover it is the new barley, while Shavuot marks the moment of newly-harvested wheat…

Both holidays are essentially one that begins at Passover and ends at Shavuot. There is even an ascending line drawn between them. In the spring holiday, Passover, when we celebrate the first barley fruits, the happiness is not yet complete, for truthfully, the barley isn’t yet good enough for human beings to consume… Even when the barley grew beautifully, one still has to wait seven weeks, weeks that are laden with still more concern until the first crop ripens- the wheat crop. Only then can the happiness be complete.

Together with their natural-earthly significance, these two holidays also have a general and historical meaning… And also in this context they are holidays of beginnings, holidays that express the beginning of a Jewish nation. Passover is the time of exodus, a definition of a People almost solely in a negative form, as a negation of assimilation, of the Egyptian exile, of the definition of Jews as Egyptians. However, on Shavuot, when the People of Israel received the Torah, this is the positive definition of the Jewish People, determining its own essence, its aim and direction…
The exodus from Egypt and the concept of liberty are only the first tidings. They are the spring of the era. It is a holiday of “barley offering.” Woe to a nation that is forced to remain in a situation of food meant for animal fodder. Woe to liberty that is driven only by escape, one that exists by negating others, devoid of its own content.”

I thought of all the refugees and migrant workers in our own culture: the sons of Jacob, migrant laborers/refugees in Egypt, who go there in search of food (like their great- grandfather Abraham before them, like their father Jacob, who fled his brother to Haran in Turkey), about Moses, the refugee from Egypt who found work and a local wife in Midian (Jordan), about Ruth the Moabite (Jordan), who blessed the Jewish nation with King David. And this is, of course, only a partial list. It’s incredible to see how the roots of the Jewish People stem from the encounter with other cultures.

And how astute and accurate are the words of Rabbi Steinzaltz in regard to our situation today, when we are a liberated nation in its own country, but somehow unable to proceed to the next level, to set the target and direction to which we shall turn. The seething xenophobia is the continuation of our self-definition as “not” instead of saying what it is we are. The inability to make a clear statement about the foreigners in our land is also part of this not-taking-responsibility. As long as the foreign workers are out of sight (in the Arava) or in separate or hidden places growing our food and fancy agricultural exports, building our houses, tending to our elderly and sick, that was fine. But now they have “increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land [is] filled with them,” and action must be taken. “Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and it happen, in the event of war, that they also join our enemies and fight against us, and so go up out of the land.” (Exodus 1, 7-10)

It is so sad and upsetting. And of course, it’s a real problem that should be addressed. But the path we’re being dragged down now is terrible and cruel, and it is frightening to see how a nation that suffered so from xenophobia and from rejection for being different and persecuted and weak, is not able to be generous and merciful towards anyone else in their situation. I fervently hope that we will find a way to ascend, to change and pursue the path to a different policy, a different behavior– to adopt the behavior of Jethro the Midianite, Moses’ father- in-law, or the Egyptian king who respectfully received Abraham and then his huge tribe of great-grandchildren. They are the reason our nation exists, the nation in whose Torah these words are inscribed: “Also you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 23, 9)

May we all have a great week!

Alon, Bat Ami and the Chubeza team

 

WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Basil or white savory, lettuce, sweet red peppers, onions or scallions, zucchini,  tomatoes, cucumbers or fakus, carrots, beets, potatoes, small boxes only: cabbage or broccoli

In the large box, in addition: Parsley, Swiss chard, broccoli or cauliflower, cabbage

Wednesday: cabbage, lettuce, green onions, tomatoes, beets, zucchini, cucumbers or fakus, carrots, parsley or cilantro, red peppers or green beans, potatoes

In the large box, in addition: Swiss chard, basil or white savory or lemon verbena, cauliflower or broccoli

And there’s more! You can add to your basket a wide, delectable range of additional products from fine small producers: granola and cookies, flour, sprouts, goat dairies, fruits, honey, crackers, probiotic foods, dried fruits and leathers and organic olive oil too! You can learn more about each producer on the Chubeza website. The attached order form includes a detailed listing of the products and their cost. Fill it out, and send it back to us soon.

Note: in the near future there will be many updates from Chubeza’s associate vendors. We will be updating our order form according to what we have in stock, so be sure to open the form through the link for the very latest version.