June 26th-28th 2017 – Summertime, and the livin’ ain’t so easy…

Last week, June 22, marked the formal start of summer. We were rewarded with a few days of not-so-hot weather, but this week summer has hurled its scorching heatwaves straight at us.

The livin’ ain’t that easy for the withering potato plants that stood green and erect only a few weeks ago, as summer signals us to pull up the last of them, already. It urges the corn stalks to valiantly stand upright, flying, fighting to fertilize and produce oh-so-sweet cobs. Old Sol is rapidly ripening the cucumbers and fakus, causing the tomatoes to blush furiously. Meanwhile, at the same pace the viruses are quickly spreading to our zucchini, warping the shape of the elder portion of the crop. (Not to worry: these are plant viruses, not human!)

The loquat tree near our packinghouse yielded fruit a while ago, leaving those fruits remaining on the tree to dry and become carved into the branches. The grapes covering the shed by the office are already clustered, heavy and bountiful, winking at us from above as we wait for them to become plump and soft.

The Chubeza team gets very hot by the middle of the day. Our water containers empty quickly, and we remind each other to drink. We all work with long-sleeved shirts to protect us from the relentless sun, and for some time now we have the blower in the packinghouse working heroically to suck out the hot air and slightly cool off the facility. It’s still not oppressively hot, we know, and we’re appreciative of the mild, temperate summer we’ve had till now. And yet, the body that still recalls the pleasure of the cool winter and spring must now get used to the burden of summer. This is why it’s harder for us now than during the peak of the season when were already accustomed to the heat.

This season is full of beginnings, reflected in the changing composition of your boxes. After remaining fairly constant from week to week with only minor changes, it’s time to greet the array of happy newcomers who arrived over the past few weeks. Let’s hear your applause for: The corn! The acorn squash and other squash varieties! The eggplant! The melon! And the watermelon and even the soy bean, signaling our summer makeover! In close proximity, our tomatoes are ripening nicely, along with the okra. Coming very soon: more pumpkins, peppers, yard-long beans, lubia and other happy summer vegetables.

The melons are ripening rapidly, juicy and sweet with a heavenly scent, and they have already graced your boxes. On harvest days our packinghouse is filled with the fragrance of melons. This year we are growing the elliptical pineapple melon, with light orange-tinted flesh.

 

The first watermelons have ripened as well. How do we know? We watch the blackbirds. These intelligent birds are the first to identify good, sweet watermelons. They never touch one that’s not ripe, but they adore plunging their beaks into the sweet ones. For this reason we’ve rushed to cover the watermelon bed with netting to keep out the birds and call off the big watermelon bash they were planning. Stay tuned, coming soon to your boxes! (the watermelons, not the birds…)

The eggplants, too, are ripening slowly, as is their wont. This year we planted our first eggplant bed at the end of March, when winter was still there in full blast. These brave summery fellas are placed in the earth and try to grow and flourish despite the low temperature. Since then, the weather has become warm and summery, and the eggplants have shown their appreciation by turning plump and soft. What a pleasure to harvest summer eggplants again, which absorbed the sunny warmth into their soft skin and show their thanks with their shiny black-purple mane and an absolutely delectable summer savor in your plates. Welcome Mr. Eggplant!

Our tomatoes have begun ripening quickly, and more and more tomato crates are piling up in our packing house. Our first cherry tomatoes were harvested today. They’re still rather large compared to other varieties, but they’re super sweet and taste great! Summer helps them ripen easily. We pick our summer tomatoes red and ripe so they reach maximum sweetness, which is why they are sometimes softer than the winter tomatoes you are used to. Don’t let that bother you – just dig in!

This year we planted six varieties of winter squash and pumpkins, now ripening according to their sizes, with the small acorn squash coming in first. Next in line are the bright orange Amoro pumpkins and the creamy butternut squash. Some of the Provence pumpkins have already turned color and are ready to be harvested, along with a new type we’re trying out this year – round, cute orange pumpkins with edible green seeds (but most of them still need some more time in their royal beds). You’ll get the full pumpkin/squash story in the very near future.

This week we harvest a brand new interesting squash – the squash mashed potato (how cute and tempting is that name?). It’s very white, inside and out, and has a very delicate not-too-sweet taste that combines smoothly with salty fare, and a very unique texture – one that is truly reminiscent of mashed potatoes! This is what it looks like:

Our big Tripolitania pumpkins still aren’t ready, so we’re giving them all the time they need (till midnight, of course, when they turn into royal coaches…).

This year we are adding the green soy, aka edamame, to the beginning-of-summer vegetable collection. Usually we grow it in the throes of summer for a very short period. This year, we are experimenting by seeding it early, at the beginning of May. The first seeds enjoyed the spring weather, not the usual summery heat it is used to, and over time it yielded pods that filled up with chubby peas. Last week we began harvesting bunches of those yummy green pods. We seeded more rounds, testing its ability to deal with various stages of the season. At the end of the season we will be able to report on our results. As a summer tenant, soy beans will be with us all the way to autumn.

And the happiest, most joyful beginning: a brand new beautiful Chubeza baby girl born to Yochai, our loyal Jerusalem delivery person, and his wife Oryn. Some of you will remember Yochai and Oryn from the first welcoming phone call you received as new Chubeza members. We are now overjoyed to greet tiny Yaela with a warm embrace. Much love to Yochai, Oryn, Lavie and Yaela!

These days of beginning are also days of endings – Last week the high school students completed their schoolyear and this week marks the end of the schoolyear for the elementary and kindergarten set. Wishing all the hardworking students a well-earned break and a happy, relaxing summer vacation full of fun.

Shavua Tov from all of us – Alon, Bat Ami, Dror, Yochai and the entire Chubeza team

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Parsley/coriander, acorn squash/yellow beans, lettuce, fakus/cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, edamame, eggplant, potatoes, melon/water melon, corn.

Large box, in addition: Parsley root, butternut squash/Amoro pumpkin, beets.

Wednesday: Parsley/coriander, acorn squash/white winter squash, lettuce, fakus/cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant/green beans, potatoes, melon/water melon, corn. Small box only: New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard.

Large box, in addition: Cherry tomatoes/edamame, parsley root, Amoro pumpkin, beets.

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!