Eight months ago, when I began maternity leave, Melissa took over client management at Chubeza. This is not an easy job. The hours are long; the responsibilities daunting. Many details must be handled, demanding endless patience along with alertness and concentration. And with it all, one tries to find some time for the green fields and to enjoy the vegetables.
Melissa steadfastly took upon these tasks with responsibility and devotion. Sometimes I would find emails she’d sent at 2:00 AM (which may have reached you, too). It wasn’t always easy, but even on days when there were delivery snafus, box confusion or forgotten vegetables, she always managed to remain positive, praising the beauty of a vegetable, admiring a newly-hatched ladybug, or effusing about a new recipe she’d tried. And never ever giving up, always aspiring to be more efficient, offering suggestions, examining every single detail till the very end, with infinite patience.
These days I am returning to this post, re-entering the shoes Melissa has worn over the past months. I’m delighted to find them nice and warm, well kept, with the addition of a decoration or a patch here and there.
Melissa, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. All of us at Chubeza send you best wishes for success, growth and interesting days in the new and creative path you are now embarking upon. And of course, we are happy that you will still be in the vicinity.
Thank you, thank you, thank you! Bat-Ami, Alon, the Chubeza staff and clientele
The (Vegetable) Roster of Chubeza’s “Permanent Residents Club”
Hard to believe— the month of May is marching in, the month of Nissan is almost over, but the skies are gray and cloudy. On Friday, I found the field wet and muddy after a sudden rain and hail storm. Some of our ground covers were actually perforated by the powerful showers, but the vegetables seemed intact and happy, perhaps smiling in wonder—For them, it is a pleasant surprise to be doused with such a fresh, penetrating shower in the beginning of their summer, when they no longer expect showers from above. For us, it is an absolute pleasure to shut off the irrigation faucets, even if only for a few days…
The field is slowly transforming from winter to summer. Usually I go into a lengthy discussion of the benefits of seasonal vegetables: talking about diversity, levels of interest and craving, about the good that comes of change and renewal. But over the past few days as I’ve walked through the vegetable beds, I’m struck by just how interesting it is to see the change on one hand, and the stability on the other. Specifically, I took a close look at the vegetables that grow here all year long.
Currently, the lettuce varieties are changing, after a short visit from the red-leaf and the iceberg, which are more sensitive and thus grow only in the mild fall and spring. Now we’re returning to our tough Romaine lettuce, to its summer species that can endure the Israeli summer heat. The difference between the young and mature lettuce beds is in their colors: a brand new lettuce bed will be earth-brown, spotted with two lines of green dots- the lettuces. In a mature bed, you will hardly see any brown hues. The earth has disappeared under the covering of fancy, crowded heads of the ready-to-eat lettuces, which have grown and expanded and are now standing, jammed against one another, waiting to be harvested.
There is a specific spot in the field from which you can see the various stages of development of the leek in four different beds: from the youngest, which was just planted, to the mature and ripe ones, whose white stems are already peeking out of the earth, their rows growing thinner from harvest to harvest as the fatter ones are harvested and make room for their neighbors to sit comfortably and thicken. The leeks look so much alike, except in size, that they sometimes remind me of a photo album: here is the smiling crawling baby, there is the child on his way to first grade, here he’s excited to be graduating high school and this is him at his 40th surprise party: resembling that baby, only a little older by now…
The beets, too, are in various phases of development. This year we are attempting to prolong the beet season. Growing beets during summertime will begin from transplants, not the seeds we use with the winter beet, because the beet (like his cousin, the spinach) does not sprout well in heat. A newly-planted beet bed is receiving VIP treatment: the earth’s moisture level is monitored daily, the bed is weeded impeccably. All this is done in order to afford the young’uns with excellent conditions for growth. But when they are mature and strong, we let go and allow nature to take its course. In our mature beet bed, we had a surprise lately: as soon as we eased up (which happened simultaneously with the weather warming up), a scented, joyful, mint herb took root and started growing among the beets. It took us a minute to remember that this was indeed last year’s mint bed. After its winter slumber, this Sleeping Beauty awoke and broke into dance.
Other friends that accompany us in the field year-round are the parsley, cilantro and dill. The latter two are annuals. In wintertime, they grow calmly, taking their time, enjoying the cold weather. In summer they are in a hurry. The light, speeded-up summery pace stimulates their concern that time is running out and they must hurry and produce seeds. Which is why in wintertime we are able to harvest them twice, sometimes three times, while during summer they are only harvested once before they nearly immediately bloom. We try to tame them and slow down their pace by spreading shade nets over them. Their sister, the parsley, is a biennial herb in no rush whatsoever- Parsley has two years to produce offspring, thus proceeds slowly and calmly. Even in summertime, parsley is able to stay cool as a cucumber, freshly growing despite the heat, and turning green as if it were winter.
The last of our “regular” tenants is the scallion. It, too, grows all year long, able to deal with the winter’s cold and summer’s scorching heat. This winter, we met his new enemy: the onion fly, which bothered him a lot, but now as the weather is warming up it seems to have flown the field. Throughout the year we grow the same species, which grows slowly in the wintertime and quickly during summer. Sometimes we physically have to chase after this gregarious vegetable to manage to pick it before it grows out of control.
These loyal, dedicated plants are in your boxes all year long. They’re your reliable routine vegetables, sometimes taking a break due to gaps in their harvests, but usually returning pretty quickly, before we even miss them. Sometimes we take them for granted, other times we find it hard to imagine living without them. Either way, they deserve respect, and a little literary psalm of praise:
I want to sing a psalm of praise to all that remains here with us and doesn’t leave, doesn’t wander off like migratory birds, will not flee to the north or the south, will not sing “In the East is my heart, and I dwell at the end of the West.” I want to sing to the trees that do not shed their leaves and that suffer the searing summer heat and the cold of winter, and to human beings who do not shed their memories and who suffer more than those who shed everything. But above all, I want to sing a psalm of praise to the lovers who stay together for joy, for sorrow and for joy. To make a home, to make babies, now and in other seasons
From Yehuda Amichai, Open Closed Open, translated from the Hebrew by Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld
Wishing you days of renewal, remembrance, resilience, and love, Alon, Melissa, Bat Ami and the Chubeza team
What’s in this Week’s Boxes?
Monday: lettuce, celery, dill, radishes, kohlrabi, scallions, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, zucchini, Swiss chard In the large box, in addition: leek, cabbage, fava beans or beets
Wednesday: lettuce, celery, dill, leek, kohlrabi, beets, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, zucchini, Swiss chard, cilantro In the large box, in addition: cabbage, scallions, parsley
And there’s more! You can add to your basket a wide, delectable range of additional products from fine small producers of these organic products: granola and cookies, flour, sprouted bread, sprouts, goat cheeses, fruits, honey, crackers. 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 to begin your delivery soon.
RECIPES FOR YEAR-ROUND VEGETABLES:
Rebbeca sent me this recipe just in time to put it in this week’s newsletter: “I thought I’d share this recipe with you, in case it is useful for someone: a tasty way to use up a variety of fresh ingredients! I realized this week that I had exactly what I needed from you to make a Russian salad called vinaigrette. The main components are beets and potatoes, but other vegetables are also typical. In my salad, I used:
2 large roasted beets, diced 3 roasted potatoes, diced a few carrots, cooked and diced fresh peas, cooked chopped green onion 3-4 dill pickles, diced. handful of dill, chopped
Vinaigrette dressing (any favorite is good) This time I used: 1/3 cup oil 1/3 cup lemon juice quite a lot of salt a pinch of sugar pinch of black pepper
Mix and serve cold; it’s great when it sits a bit.
This is a favorite in Russia. Some people omit some ingredients, or also add boiled egg or sauerkraut. Enjoy!