It’s the end of the month again…
At the beginning of next week, we will be billing your cards for the October vegetable deliveries, including next week’s boxes. In order to do so, beginning Sunday evening, the order system will not be able to receive any additional requests for changes in the Wednesday deliveries. (For Monday deliveries, the deadline remains Sunday noon.) Please make all your changes by then.
The billing is carried out in three parts: one for the vegetables, fruits and dates (the invoice-receipt attached details all three. Of course, if you only ordered and received vegetables, you will only be billed for vegetables!) The second is for delivery (including VAT), and the third is for products from our associates.
From now on, you will be able to view your billing history in our Internet-based order system. This is a brand new application, so it’s still a tad complicated, but here is how you do it:
Enter your account, then add at the end of the browser url a backslash and the word “account.”
Here is what it should look like: http://chubeza.easyfarm.co.il/user_page/account
All going well, this should display the history of your payments and purchases.
Please make sure the bill is correct, and let us know of any necessary revisions. At the bottom of the bill, the words סה”כ לתשלום 0 (total for payment 0) should appear. If there is any number other than zero, it means we were not able to bill your card and would appreciate your contacting us.
Last week we were joined by Ya’ara, who will assist me in managing the orders and clients. Welcome, Ya’ara! We wish you a smooth, pleasant beginning in Chubeza.
Gradually, we will be bidding farewell to my two faithful assistants Yehoshua and Dror, who have been extremely helpful in sharing some of the heavy workload over these past few months. Thank you, thank you, thank you! __________________________________
Orange you glad that’s the color of the month?
As stated in the last newsletters, we are slowly taking leave of summer. The beans, the okra the peppers and the eggplants are all getting sparse, slowing down, and signaling that autumn is actually here. Our most dependable and abundant friend, firmly-rooted with us this season, is the orange representative of autumn, the sweet potato: sweet, healthy (even for diabetics), easy to digest (a wonderful first snack for your babies) and oh-so-yummy. This year, the sweet potato is bringing us even greater happiness, yielding beautifully, and consoling us for last year’s sorely-lacking crop. This week we shall sing her praises.
The sweet potato is a member of the Convolvulaceae family, related to the wild field bindweed, the Cuscuta (dodder), and sister to the lovely morning glory. Formally known as Ipomoea batatas, it is one of the only members of this large family that is edible, and definitely the only one to be widely grown for food. Like other members of her family, she tends to send out tendrils and twigs all over. If allowed, she will climb across the nearest fence, covering it with a layer of heart-shaped green leaves and beautiful light-purple flowers that open in the morning and close in the strong afternoon sun.
Prior to our June planting, we buy the sweet potato cuttings from Oded of Moshav Yesha, and receive a few bundles of damp sticks bound together with a rope. We place these bare branches into the two tall, wet mounds we’ve prepared in advance. It is such a wonder to see this plant grow every year, to watch sticks turn into a beautiful green carpet dotted with purple flowers, with delicious orange roots. Three years ago I prepared a newsletter with a photo display of how the sticks turn into sweet potatoes. Check it out.
Like other sweet potato growers in Israel, we plant the “Georgia Jet” variety, with a reddish-pink peeling and bright orange flesh. But there are many other types of sweet potatoes, varying in the color of their peeling (white, cream, brown, red, purple or yellow), their flesh (white, cream, yellow, purple or orange), their size and their shape. Here are some examples of the wide variety of sweet potatoes worldwide:
Years of careful selection of sweet potatoes by farmers and nature have made the sweet potato very strong and resistant to diseases and pests. Sometimes the plants can be carriers of various pathogens that are not actively expressed and do not prevent the plant from growing or developing. Basically, the sweet potato hardly suffers from any difficulties, and usually grows nicely over a few months’ time.
After four months, we begin digging them out. First we fumble around, digging in one of the far corners to see what’s hiding down there. Are there any orange tubers? How many? How large are they? Do they seem healthy? Then, if they’re nice and ready, we start digging them out.
When harvest time comes, there is no urgency to dig them out at once and store– they are well-protected in the earth, even during cold winters, due to the warmer temperature underground. When the sweet potatoes are removed from the earth and need to be stored for a long time in a warehouse, they should be put in storage so they don’t get too cold. When the temperature outdoors falls lower than 13 degrees, the storage drawer should be set at a temperature of 13-15 degrees so the sweet potatoes do not catch cold.
This is also the reason that sweet potatoes should not be stored in your home refrigerator. As it grows primarily in warm seasons, the sweet potato does not like cold weather, and its taste will go bad if stored in the fridge. They should be stored in a cool, ventilated place, not in a bag or a sealed container, in order to prevent the accumulation of excess moisture. They do not have to be shielded from light, because (like radishes and beets) they are roots that contain no chlorophyll, and therefore will not turn green. This is in contrast to the potato, which is a dense stem, and consequently turns green when exposed to light. High temperatures will make the sweet potato sprout or ferment, which is why warmth should be avoided (unless you wish to make liquor).
We keep our sweet potatoes in the packing house for a short time before sending them to you. Sweet potatoes that are mass-produced for industry and kept till the end of wintertime undergo a process called “curing.” They are pulled from the earth and warmed up in a room that is temperature and moisture-controlled. This process thickens their peelings and they grow scab-like skin to cover areas bruised during the digging-out process. These potatoes can be stored for longer periods of time.
Last year’s sweet potato yield was very sparse and disappointing—not just in Chubeza, but over the whole country. The bulbs were rather small, somewhat fibrous and not so sweet. The cause was unclear. All sorts of theories were tossed about: perhaps it was the relatively cool summer, or maybe the slow process of impoverished potency of the cuttings (because over the past few years, sweet potato cuttings have been derived from other sweet potatoes and not from new tissue culture, as was the rule in the past.) Either way, last year’s crop was small and ended quickly.
When the time came to buy cuttings this year, we found ourselves facing a dilemma: in terms of the objective conditions, not much has changed since last year. The sweet potato cuttings were still the kind derived from other sweet potatoes and not from new tissue culture, which means they should be carrying rather elderly genes. We were worried that all the effort invested in purchasing the cuttings and the work to prepare the earth, planting, weeding, and fertilizing will once again end in disappointment.
But for us, agriculture also has a lot to do with faith, stubbornness and naivete. (some may call it stupidity…) At the end of the day, we really could not discard this nice vegetable which has been with us in the field from Day One and always delights us with its strength and vitality. The die was cast. We bought the cuttings.
The first positive sign was received from Oded, our cutting grower, who himself is a sweet potato farmer from Moshav Yesha in the south. Oded’s crops are always a little ahead of ours, therefore they sometimes predict what we may experience. This year, Oded’s sweet potatoes yielded beautiful crops, giving us a happy spark of hope. These hopes grew as we plunged the first pitchforks into the earth to check on our little ones. Imagine our joy to pull out nice, big chubby bulbs, bright orange and crunchy! So, no, we still cannot figure out why it worked this year but not last year– the conditions are so similar, the origins of the cuttings are the same, and the farmers are the same as well. And yet…..it just gives me such pleasure to realize that I have no idea why, knowing that there are so many secrets hidden from us. And knowing that nature takes care of itself, despite our inability to solve its riddles.
So what do you do with your sweet potatoes? No need to work hard at peeling them. Many of the vitamins and dietary fibers are in the peeling, so don’t pare them—just scrub well. The sweet potato should be cooked immediately after being cut in your kitchen, as its skin will bleach and then oxidize once it comes into contact with the air. If you must wait, keep them in a bowl of water to prevent browning.
The delicious, soothing taste of the sweet potatoes is an especially great blessing in the cold of winter, when your sweet tooth cries out for attention. You can eat sweet potatoes without feeling an iota of guilt, as it is bursting with benefits for your health. The orange color assures a high quantity of beta carotene, which becomes vitamin A once consumed. Beta carotene is a multi-armed warrior for battling cancer, crucial for eyesight, strengthening your immune system, keeping your skin healthy and contributing to proper growth. Despite its sweet taste, the sweet potato is considered an “anti-diabetic” vegetable, recommended for diabetics because of its contribution to the balancing of sugar levels in the blood, and to reducing the resistance of the cell to insulin– perhaps because of its rich carotenoid content. The sweet potato also contains nice levels of vitamins C and B, potassium, magnesium, iron and dietary fiber. This team works to control blood pressure, strengthen bones and prevent osteoporosis, and allow for proper brain function and development of learning skills in children and babies.
In Chinese medicine, the sweet potato is recommended for weight loss. It strengthens the spleen, which, according to Chinese medicine, determines metabolism and our need for sweet foods and food in general. A weak spleen will create a strong need for sweets, and an inevitable weight gain. According to this approach, the body must receive naturally sweet food, i.e., there is no harm in a sweet diet, on condition that the quantity of sweets is limited, it is natural, and does not derive from processed foods like white sugar or sweets. A middle-sized sweet potato contains 150 calories (equivalent to two slices of bread), but it is very filling. Chinese medicine perceives the sweet potato to be one of the most balanced foods and therefore can be eaten by almost anyone. According to the Chinese, the orange color ties it to earth, making it a warming, strengthening food, suitable for winter.
We anxiously await the aforementioned winter, and from this Tuesday (the 7th of Cheshvan) Jews begin fervently praying for rain. May it come in peace, joy and gladness, salvation and blessing! Join us in our hopes, prayers and wishes for plentiful showers, filled with great big drops of earth-saturating rain.
Wishing you all a great week and month, and a pleasant autumn,
Alon, Bat Ami and the Chubeza team
WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?
Monday: Lettuce, short lubia (cowpeas) or long Thai lubia or okra, pumpkin, tomatoes, zucchini or sweet potatoes, coriander, cucumbers, corn, radishes, eggplant, scallions
In the large box, in addition: carrots, beets, New Zealand spinach
Wednesday: green cowpea (lubia) / okra / Thai yard long beans, New Zealand spinach or kale, a piece of pumpkin, sweet potatoes, lettuce, cilantro or parsley, cucumbers, radishes, green or red peppers, eggplants, tomatoes.
In the large box, in addition: corn or carrots, red beets, green onions or chives
And there’s more! You can add to your basket a wide, delectable range of additional products from fine small producers: eggs, 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. On our order system there’s a detailed listing of the products and their cost, you can make an order online now!