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 [email protected] 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
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:
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.
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
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!