July 18th-20th 2022 – A field day for the cucurbits!

Oh, greenly and fair in the lands of the sun,
The vines of the gourd and the rich melon run,
And the rock and the tree and the cottage enfold,
With broad leaves all greenness and blossoms all gold,
Like that which o’er Nineveh’s prophet once grew,
While he waited to know that his warning was true,
And longed for the storm-cloud, and listened in vain
For the rush of the whirlwind and red fire-rain.

(from The Pumpkin by John Greenleaf Whittier)

Each year, the summer months bring a bevy of new vegetables, including a wide array of tempting varieties of Chubeza’s squash and pumpkins. This ensemble comes in green, yellow, orange or beige, dotted and striped, smooth and coarse, round, elongated, pear-shaped, pine-cone shaped, sharp, flat, small and large, and even some in extra-large sizes. A colourful parade of amazing curcurbitas (Latin for “gourds”), all so beautiful and tasty!

This year, we grew seven different squash varieties, from the huge Tripolitanian pumpkin which can definitely serve as transportation for a shoeless princess, through the middle-sized Napolitano pumpkin, oval-shaped spaghetti squash, beloved butternut squash, yummy orange Amoro squash, small green acorn squash, and our new Honeynut, a mini-butternut squash that can fit in the palm of you hand. This variety is different outside and in, varying from yellow to salmon to dark orange, and in taste – a neutral mild flavor, or nutty or sweet, and in texture: moist and juicy, dry and starchy or long and thin spaghettini-style.

Over the coming weeks, you will be inundated with delightful small pumpkins coming almost every week. To those who may feel overwhelmed by the quantities, remember – you needn’t use them right away. We’d rather send them to you now because they have so little breathing space here, crowded by the hundreds. But in your homes, on your kitchen counter or in a wicker basket on the living room table, they’ll keep beautifully while enhancing your décor.  If you keep them dry and ventilated, they’re good for another month or even two! If they start growing a thin spider-like web, just wipe it away with a dry cloth to prevent rotting.

This year’s squash-trickle began over the past few weeks:   first the butternut squash, a pair of green acorn squash, a striped spaghetti squash and a sumptuous slice of Napolitano or Tripolitanian pumpkins, aka the Big Mama that’ll remain with us all the way to winter.

The bigger and smaller pumpkins (also known as “winter squash”), as well as summer squash (including zucchini), all belong to the same botanical category and even to the same species. The differentiation between squash and pumpkins is artificial, having to do with the stage at which they are picked and how they are used by human beings. All varieties are seeded (in an open field, in their natural season) from the end of winter/beginning of springtime, and they all grow from spring to summer.

We pick the “summer squash” early, before they ripen, when their shell is thin and their seeds are not developed, sometimes as early as 40 days after seeding. Since we pick the fruit off the plant before it had time to produce fertilized seeds, the plant makes additional attempts, yielding more and more seed-bearing fruit in order to fulfill its aim in plant-life (and animal-life): to spread its genes. Thus, we are granted a long harvest season from a plant that just keeps on yielding. These squash varieties do not keep for long, which is why in the past they were only eaten during their natural seasons – spring, summer and early fall. Today, squash varieties are also grown in wintertime in hothouses, so they aren’t really seasonal.

However, pumpkins (large and small) are picked as they ripen and mature, when their shell is thick and hard and their seeds are quite large (and crackable). Since we wait till the ripening is complete, they are harvested three to five months from seeding day. Our Tripolitanian pumpkin is large, and often requires a wait of six months. Its hard shell enables it to keep nicely for several months, enabling the Tripolitanian to be eaten in wintertime as well. This trait was particularly advantageous in the pumpkin’s ancestral home of North America in those areas where it is too frigid to grow food during winter. Pumpkins were easily stored in warehouses, offering sweetness and a summery zest to the cold wintery days. Hence their name – winter squash.

Here are some family members that you have already met this season and those you are soon to encounter:

The acorn squash originates in Mexico and the U.S., where Native Americans cultivated earlier species. The dark green variety which we grow was introduced in 1913 and enthusiastically received, thanks to its excellent taste as well as its small size and thin shell, a great relief for those battling the huge, hard pumpkins. In the U.S., and especially for those dining alone, it makes a wonderful serving-for-one as well as a great stuffed vegetable.

The acorn squash’s skin is dry and it has a sweet and nutty taste, which gave it the brilliant name “acorn squash.” Due to its sweetness, the acorn squash goes very well with salty flavors – olive oil, salt, pepper and herbs, as well as sweet flavors – a gentle brush of honey or date honey. Its ridged-shell makes the acorn somewhat difficult to peel, but the good news is that you really do not have to! It’s easily eaten in its shell. And if you still need to eat this squash shell-less, remove the shell only after baking or cooking when it’s so much easier to slip off.

The acorn contains more vitamin C and calcium than other squash varieties, and less vitamin A. If you treat it kindly, it will keep for a few months, decorating your tabletop in its shell, but its flavor will eventually ebb. So let it decorate your countertops for a week or two, and then whisk it straight to the oven and onto your plates!

The butternut squash was most likely developed in the 1940s by an amateur gardener (not a farmer or scientist) named Charles A. Leggett as he experimented in species cultivation in a small quarter-acre garden near his house in Stow, Massachusetts. Eventually, Leggett took the fruit of his experiment to the nearby Waltham Field Station to show off what he’d developed. They loved it! He named his baby “butternut” because he thought it was smooth as butter and yummy as a nut. It arrived in Israel in the 1980s, and after attempting several names, the delicacy received the cutesy-catchy name “dalorit.

The butternut squash is usually fond of hot, humid tropical weather. More than her sisters, the butternut really can’t take cold weather, which is why it is the most popular of Israeli squash varieties. The first species of this type were chubby (with seed-filled bellies) with long, sometimes curved necks. Over the years, other variations were developed, some with chubby and shorter necks to provide a uniform vegetable as demanded by the market. Like zucchini, butternuts can also be picked at an earlier stage, and they’re very tasty when young (some say even more than regular squash). They’re fun to grow in a home garden, where you can pick some to be used as summer squash and allow others to ripen till they become the genuine butternut.

The butternut’s smooth rind makes it easy to peel with just a regular vegetable peeler. It is sweet and its pulp becomes soft after cooking, although there are those who claim that baking makes it better. The butternut is very rich in vitamin A, and under good conditions can be kept for six months (but how could you resist?).

Spaghetti squash, aka: vegetable marrow, golden macaroni, spaghetti marrow, and vegetable spaghetti — all names for one of the most distinctive squash varieties that we grow. Its uniqueness is expressed by the fact that after cooking, its flesh can be ferreted out with a fork, and then comes the magic: the cooked flash separates into thin “noodles,” like thin spaghettini. Its flavor is a cross between a pumpkin and a squash, less sweet than a pumpkin or butternut, but sweeter than zucchini. Its gentle flavor makes it possible to eat the “spaghetti noodles” just like you would eat pasta (preferably not a heavy Bolognese) topped by tomato sauce, olive oil and herbs, pesto, Parmesan, etc.

Spaghetti squash was one of the pioneering crops grown at Chubeza, from our very first year. For years we grew the good old yellow variety, which was common in Israel 20 years ago as well. Over the past several years, we’ve added a different variety, striped on the outside but still light on the inside, with a similar taste to the classic variety. Around ten years ago we welcomed a lively innovation: an orange spaghetti squash called “oranghetti,” developed by an Israeli seed company “Origin.” This orange-hued delight is fortified with beta carotene and a gentle sweetness.

This next girlfriend, Amoro, (whose name must have been coined by a love-struck fella or gal) is an orange, round and flat squash boasting a proud little rump. She belongs to a prominent group we already know: the Kabocha’s, or Japanese pumpkins (which some call Hokkaido).  Their defining characteristics are that they are all thick and lumpy on the outside, very hard to peel, and have relatively dry flesh.

Kabocha is Japanese for any type of squash. The origin of the name comes from the squash’s journey from Mesoamérica to Japan. After the Spanish and Portuguese arrived in America and discovered the new fruits and vegetables of the land, they began distributing them at the next stops on their sailing itinerary. The squash probably arrived in Japan in the mid-16th century via Portuguese sailors who brought it from Cambodia. It was named Cambodia abóbora, which was eventually shortened to become kabocha. And thus, every squash in Japan is a kabocha, and that is what this little group is called.

Its orange flesh color testifies to a wealth of beta carotene (vitamin A), which supplies a generous quantity of iron, vitamin C and potassium. The kabocha is similar in taste to the small green acorn squash, but hard to carve, which is why it should be softened first by steaming or baking slightly (first punch holes in the rind to allow the steam to escape). Then it can be easily cut and seeded for you to prepare it to your liking.

You know us by now…..We just love trying out new types of vegetables, and this year we welcome the honeynut, a mini-butternut developed over the past years as a result of an encounter between Dan Barber, an American chef, and Michael Mazourek, a researcher and plant breeder. The chef expressed his desire to serve a butternut dish without having to slice and squash it, measuring the size of a dinner plate. The researcher informed him that he had been working on a smaller breed of butternut, but the seed companies were set in their vision of what a butternut should look like and did not wish to develop the mini type. They thought it looked too skinny and flimsy. But our chef and breeder understood that sometimes less is more, thus embarking upon a journey to bring this cute little species to life. The chef presented the honeynut in an international cooking conference where it received much affection and interest.

This variety is more orange than the cream-coloured butternut, but resembles it in shape, to the point where you get the uncanny feeling that our familiar butternut suddenly shrunk. Its flavor is like a concentrated butternut – sweet, somewhat nutty- flavored, and when baked even sports a caramel-like flavor, as the sugar burns and caramelises.

The honeynut contains twice as much beta carotene as in the butternut squash, and its small size makes it perfect for kiddie portions.

Here she is, in all her glory. This year we planted only a small amount as an experiment. We would love to hear your opinions!

What’s green on the outside, orange on the inside, cylinder-shaped and very long with pumpkin seeds? Meet the Napolitano squash! We have grown it for some years — it’s sweet and tasty and can be sliced widthwise into thick slices, a little like a loaf of bread…

This is a good old vintage squash which has not ceased to please, despite the many years it’s been around. Napolitano is widely grown in Europe and Israel. It’s Italian in origin, as you may have already guessed (and as such can also be used as a gangster weapon should the need arise). It’s been around forever, appearing in the illustrated Vegetable Garden by Vilmorin dating back to 1856, which describes the popular vegetables of the era. Napolitano is well-loved in southern Italy where it is cooked together with spicy pepper, eggplant, tomato, pears and plums in a seasonal soup called Giambotta, or fried and served with various dressings. The seeds may be noshed upon roasted and salted.

Its shape resembles a huge butternut squash – with a wide bottom and narrower bottleneck, but sometimes it can reach one meter in length! Napolitano weighs between 7-15 kg with a texture similar to the butternut: smooth and more condensed than a regular pumpkin, and mildly sweet. Its inside resembles the butternut, with a thicket of fiber and seeds. If your slice landed up coming from the seed section, use them well, but if you received a piece of “neck,” it is seed-free. Both are super yummy!

Like the Napolitano, the Tripolitanian squash arrives in your box in a slice. I don’t know why people think the Forbidden Fruit from the Garden of Eden is an apple. I think all facts point to the pumpkin being the fruit of all fruits. To begin with, a pumpkin bush can easily seem as if it were taken from the jungle, with a thick stem sprouting roots all around, huge leaves protecting the fruit and large, beautiful yellow flowers.

Secondly, the squash is loaded with lutein, the yellow-orange pigment which is the major antioxidant of our eyes. It is no surprise then that Adam and Eve’s eyes flew open once they took a bite.

Lastly, Eve couldn’t finish the huge pumpkin all by herself and had to invite Adam over to eat….

The Tripolitanian squash is the most popular of the squashes in Israel – a huge pumpkin sporting a cream-colored shell and orange flesh. Our huge, mighty Tripolitanian squash is seeded at 2-3 meter intervals to allow it enough room to grow, since each pumpkin plant can reach a hefty 9-meter size! We seed it in March, sometimes even at the end of February and wait patiently for 4-5 months until it ripens and changes color to light cream. The pumpkins (some of which are huge!) are collected from the field to be placed in a royal storage shed built especially for them, where they enjoy a covered surface and shade. We can thus place them next to each other, allowing for more space even after being picked and contributing to their ventilation and lifespan.

The multi-varied shapes and colors of pumpkins are an example of Nature’s paintbrush. At times, human beings take it one stroke further – So for your dessert, enjoy this beautiful, crazy pumpkin statue created by Japanese pumpkin-lover artist Yayoi Kusama.

Wishing you a squash of flavor, and a hearty bon appetito from its homeland!

Alon, Bat-Ami, Dror, Orin and the entire Chubeza team

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

 The potatoes in this week’s boxes are included as freebies in your box due to our recent discovery of internal spots that have developed within the potato tubers.  This is a phenomenon of “internal browning” or “blackheart” which we’ve already encountered this winter, probably resulting from a certain stress which the plant experienced at some point during growth. It is important to understand that the dark areas are not rotten and not disease-infected, and that you can definitely use these less attractive potato parts. We still prefer to include them for the next two weeks as an “extra” item which does not count as one of the vegetables in your box. If you do not wish to receive these potatoes at all, please write to us and we will oblige.

Monday: Cherry tomatoes, scallions/leeks/parsley root, parsley/coriander/ basil/New Zealand spinach, beets/carrots, eggplant/ onions, green soy (edamame)/flat or purple beans/long Thai lubia/okra, butternut squash/mini butternut squash, tomatoes, cucumbers/fakus, melon/watermelon, lettuce. SPECIAL GIFT: Potatoes

Large box, in addition: Squash/zucchini/garlic, red long peppers, corn /slice of pumpkin.

FRUIT BOXES:  Apples, mangos, grapes, plums/peaches/nectarines.

Wednesday: Cherry tomatoes/long Thai lubia/okra, scallions/leeks/parsley root, parsley/coriander/ basil, New Zealand spinach/lettuce, beets/carrots, eggplant/garlic, green soy (edamame)/flat or purple beans, butternut squash/mini butternut squash/amoro squash/acorn squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, melon. SPECIAL GIFT: Potatoes

Large box, in addition: Squash/zucchini/slice of pumpkin, red long peppers, corn/onions.

FRUIT BOXES:  Apples, mangos, grapes, banana.