July 3rd-5th 2017 – KING CORN – part I

One last dance before we say goodbye…

After a fruitful collaboration (sometimes a pun is just – well – perfect…) of several years, in two weeks we will bid farewell to Helaf and Melo Hatene fruit boxes. The last fruit boxes will be delivered Wednesday, July 12th.

You will still be able to purchase Melo Hatene tahini and coffee via our order system.

We wish to thank Helaf, the very devoted head of Melo Hatene, for years of partnership. Melo Hatene is still active, and you are more than welcome to visit and enjoy all its abundance and unique beauty. The diverse farm hosts a fruit orchard, olive press, apiary, as well as locally ground sesame and coffee. A great place to visit and enjoy.

Take a look

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cornsky

For two weeks now, your boxes have proudly contained the king of summer, his royal highness the corn. Every year it accompanies us from June to November, joins us as we bid the schoolyear farewell, enjoys our summer vacation and then goes back to school with us, come fall. In essence, the corn crop begins to ripen when the weather turns warm but still has an occasional breezy day, moves headlong into the intolerable heat of July-August and the heatwaves of September, breathes a sigh of relief in October, makes certain that moderate weather has returned, and only then says goodbye in November. Now that’s what I call a king!

This week, American citizens celebrated the independence of their homeland, the Birthplace of Corn, so in everyone’s honor, we shall sing a song of praise to the sweet, yellow cob!

Corn is probably one of the first crops the Americans learned to grow. Approximately 7,000 years ago, some gleaners (probably Mayan women, or women of a neighboring tribe in Central America) noticed a spontaneous mutant among the weeds, a teosinte, with a cob that was longer and filled with seeds that were larger than your average ancient weed. Something sparked their intuition, and they tasted it – to their great delight. They also discovered that seeds which fell to the ground sprouted and became a mature plant that yielded more cobs. After some time, they learned that if they kept the better seeds and planted them, the next crop would be even more improved!

At the next stage, they (no longer gleaners, but now also farmers) discovered that if they grow corn, beans and squash, they could actually make a decent basic diet out of them. The plants also grew well together: the corn acted as a supporting pole for the bean to climb upon, and the squash grew on the earth as live mulch, preventing weeds and keeping moisture in. This proved to be so time-efficient that it gave the people enough spare moments to build houses, weave rugs and baskets, develop astronomy and math, and of course – party…

To your left is the olden corn, and to your right is its current cultured form:

Today, corn is one of the only plants which cannot reproduce without a human helping hand, as it requires the planting of separate seeds in order for the plant to sprout.

In various languages, corn was granted venerable names. The first to bring corn to Europe were the Spanish, and they gave it a name from the native Taino: mahis in Taino, maize in Spanish. The meaning in Taino is “the seed that gives life.” The Latin name continued this theme, calling it Zea (life giver) mays.

Only when the wonder vegetable emigrated to Europe did it receive its dull, listless name “corn” that was a generic name for grains (even salt grains, hence “corned beef”), and the derogatory titles “Turkey wheat,” “Turkey/Egyptian corn,” or “Indian corn.” Apparently they were not referring to the origins of the grain, but rather making a social comment that this was an uncultivated, wild, barbaric grain, as compared to “polite” cultured European grains. The Hebrew name tiras was given based on the English “Turkey corn,” or the Yiddish equivalent Tirkishe Veitzen. In an old nature book, The Genesis of Learning, Baruch Linda describes “Turkey wheat” (חטי טורקיא) as “a grain with yellowish round seeds… each plant containing three towers, each tower or stalk containing two hundred and forty adhered seeds.”

So how did the Hebrew tiras derive from the Turkey? The word tiras is mentioned in the Bible in the books of Genesis and Chronicles. Tiras was Jefeth’s seventh son (Noah’s grandson). Scholars identified Tiras as the father of the Turkish nation (Tractate Yoma), which is why the “Turkish” grain was granted this name.

Naomi Shapiro of Kvutzat Kineret described an agricultural summer festival in a letter from 1912: “We left from Sejera in six carts with Hebrew and Turkish flags at five am. Nature was impeccably beautiful and thus we arrived in Kineret within two hours, singing and clapping our hands… all sorts of vegetables were displayed from the various farms and moshavot, beans and peas and beets, tiras wheat, pumpkins, squashes, bandoras, cucumbers, grains and wheat – all neatly arranged…” Over the years, the “wheat” was dropped, leaving only the tiras.

Its lackluster name certainly does not reflect the sweet, positive nature of this wonderful grain, upon which the world of South American natives was once so dependent. And perhaps the come-down of the name from “life giving” to “wild grain” somewhat reflects the devaluation of this outstanding plant in the Western world.

American natives used corn in various manners: eating it fresh or cooked, drying the cob and grinding it into flour, pounding the fresh grains to produce polenta, a wet corn porridge; decorating the house with colorful strings of corn, fashioning cornhusk dolls, popping it for popcorn, feeding animals the cobs, etc. All parts of the corn had advantages and uses: corn stalks were used in building, fishing, etc.; the corn “beard” was used as a medicinal herb to cure kidney ailments, and the cornhusks were used to weave mats and baskets and create masks, moccasins and dolls.

Today, too, we are dependent upon corn in every realm, especially food: Almost every processed food contains corn, but corn of a very limited genetically-engineered variety that appears in its processed, worn and abused form, totally bereft of nutritional value, and of course, a product which demands an excessive exertion of energy.

We use corn starch for thickening and gluing, and corn syrup for sweetening. Expansion materials, emulsifiers, food coloring, and citric acid are all are derived from corn, as well as most of the animal fodder in the meat industry. Corn also serves a role in the production of plastic and oil. (If you wish to learn more about corn and food in our world, I highly recommend Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma.)

But for all its many uses, there is nothing like simply sinking your teeth into a fresh ear of corn. There are those who do not trust the Kashrut of corn. They fear that tiny insects lying within the corn silk will find their way into the kernels, becoming impossible to detect and remove.  Dror, one of our loyal deliverymen, recently told me that he heard from a “Sunfrost” mashgiach (kashruth supervisor) how to deal with this matter. According to him, the bugs run towards the cob when they are exposed to light, as the corn is peeled and its silk removed. The solution is simple and creative: peel the corn in the dark! This way, the bugs remain in the silk and get tossed to the compost. You are more than welcome to try this out at home…

Wishing us all a great week,

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

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WHAT’S COMING ALONG WITH “THE KING” IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Parsley, Amoro pumpkin, beets/edamame (green soybeans)/yard-long beans, fakus/cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, corn, eggplant, potatoes, melon/water melon. Small boxes only:  Parsley root.

Large box, in addition: New Zealand spinach/ lettuce, leeks/garlic, acorn squash/white squash, cherry tomatoes

Wednesday: Parsley, Amoro pumpkin, yard-long beans/cherry tomatoes/okra/acorn squash, fakus/cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, corn, eggplant, potatoes, mini watermelon, leeks/parsley root.

Large box in addition: Beets, white squash/slice of Provence pumpkin, New Zealand spinach/lettuce.

And there’s more! You can add to your basket a wide, delectable range of additional products from fine small producers: flour, 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!