Summer is proving to be a very creative time for our associates, who are bounding with the spirit of renewal and regeneration. When you make your orders for this outstanding range of organic products, use our updated order form (always attached as a link in your weekly newsletter) and not an old file you kept on your computer.
Here are some of the new goodies:
Helaf from Melo Hatene (organic fruits) has a bounty of delectable summer fruits ripening in his fields, as detailed in the updated order form. Note that the price of lemons has skyrocketed, but Helaf delayed raising the price, in deference to those of you with standing orders. Although this month the price did indeed go up, it should return to its regular proportions in September.
Shira and Didi from Tene Yarok, the olive oil producers, just delivered a new stock of these olive oil varieties: Barnea, Syrian, Pecual, and of course, their “house” blend from varied species. I asked them to describe these varieties:
Barnea (Israel): a gentle, fruity oil, with mild bitterness and spiciness. Somewhat flat. Good for those who like mild seasoning. It does not dominate, and is therefore suitable for frying and baking.
Syrian (Tzor-Lebanon): with a prominent fruity aroma and medium- balanced spiciness and bitterness. Its high count of oleic acid makes Syrian oil one considered to retain its flavor. Suitable for seasoning cold salads, and an excellent addition to humous and labane.
Pecual (Spain) – has very prominent fruit flavors, a unique aroma, balanced bitterness anspiciness. This oil has a high percentage of oleic acid, and is very popular thanks to its distinctive flavor. Recommended for seasoning and baking due to is high endurance.
House blend: a mixture of the above types, matching the oil’s taste to the average palate, reasonably fruity, balanced and mild, not “flat”. When one tastes fresh extra virgin olive oil, s/he will feel a spicy tang when swallowing (the level of spiciness varies according to the type). This is evidence of a high level of antioxidants. Olive oil lacking spiciness and bitterness will be less healthy, and sometimes this can indicate aging and/or oxidation. From our experience, spiciness that may seem strange to new clients soon becomes an uncompromised addiction to authentic olive oil.
The antioxidants (Polyphenols) are spicy and oxidative. Exposing the oil to air for some time will reduce the level of spiciness but hurt the quality of the oil, due to oxidation.
Shira and Didi informed me they have reduced the price of the olive oil. For more details, check out our updated order form.
For some weeks we have been harvesting our fakus beds, and as usual, the first responses I get are “this week I received two portions of zucchini and no cucumbers.” I know that one of these portions is the fakus (which we regard as a cucumber), but as someone who can tell the difference, I find it sometimes difficult explaining to others the difference between a light zucchini and the light- colored fakus. I always suggest taking a look at the texture, making note of the light-colored lines along the fakus, and still it isn’t easy to tell the difference. Tzipi from Jerusalem solved my problem (and it’s so simple, of course): the fakus’ stalk resembles that of a cucumber, not zucchini! If you received a light-colored elongated vegetable you cannot define, check out its stalk (the part where it attaches to the plant): if it is wide and star-shaped like a zucchini, well… it’s a zucchini. If it’s thin and willowy like a cucumber, then, say hi to our friend the fakus.
Who is he?
Tiberius Julius Caesar Augustus was known for his fondness for cucumbers. He would eat cucumbers every day of the year, necessitating the Roman farmers to develop artificial methods to grow the vegetable year-long. According to The Natural History of Pliny, by Pliny the Elder (Book XIX, Chapter 23), “Indeed, he [Tiberius] was never without it; for he had raised beds made in frames upon wheels, by means of which the cucumbers were moved and exposed to the full heat of the sun; while, in winter, they were withdrawn, and placed under the protection of frames glazed with mirrorstone.”
But historians doubt that Pliny was referring to our familiar garden cucumber, the Cucumis Sativus, but rather to a different kind of cucumber that has been visiting you in your boxes, disguised as a cucumber. And most of you don’t even realize that it is actually … a melon. This is the fakus, the light-colored cucumber, also coined the “snake melon.” In botanical terms, it is actually a melon, Cucumis melo var. flexuosus. Like cucumbers, the fakus comes in different varieties: light green or striped, long and curved, or small like a cucumber.
Melons and cucumbers belong to the same family, but they are two different entities, with diverse characteristics. When you look at the different leaves, you can tell that fakus leaves are rounder and less serrated, similar to their melon brothers. Its taste and appearance are closer to the cucumber, which is why it is easy to confuse them, but not really: the fakus is not thorny at all. It is covered with soft fuzz and is sweeter and crunchier than the cucumber. However, like the cucumber, it is picked in its youth, before its seeds mature, which is why it is not as soft as a melon.
At Chubeza, we usually grow two types of fakus. One, the small fakus (about the length of a cucumber), has been ready for a few weeks and has been appearing in your boxes. The second is the long and curved fakus, which looks like its English name, a snake melon. However, the fakus sometimes tends to be bitter. The explanation can be found in this newsletter. Various attempts to overcome this bitterness have proven that we must carefully choose the plant from which the seeds are to be kept for next year, making certain that we are keeping seeds from a non-bitter plant. Because most of this bitterness was discovered in the short variety, we decided to keep seeds only from the long, curving type. However, this year, after being seeded, the plants grew and began producing fruit. Imagine our surprise to discover we were growing short fakus!!!
Sherlock Holmes being previously engaged, we tried to remember where our minds were last year, in the heat of summer. But we haven’t a clue. So, we remained with the short fakus variety this year, hoping not many of them will be bitter. In any case, when you slice them up into a salad, first nibble at the point where the fakus had been attached to the plant. That’s where the bitterness begins. If you like what you taste, slice away, straight into the salad bowl. If it’s bitter, take a bite further down. Sometimes the bitterness remains contained at the end.
The fakus is praised by chefs, as part of the trend to return to local, homegrown baladi food. It does look like the cucumbers eaten here in the past, before the arrival of the garden cucumber. The nice thing about it is that other than to wash, slice, add some salt for taste and joyfully bite into it, the fakus can be preserved, just like a cucumber, producing delicious pickles, and even fried or stuffed like a zucchini. And all this while being …a melon! Confused? That’s OK, as long as you eat in good health!
Have a wonderful, summery week!
Alon, Bat Ami and the Chubeza team
WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?
Monday: Cilantro or parsley, lettuce, scallions, zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers or fakus, carrots, beets, potatoes, cabbage or cauliflower. Small boxes only: New Zealand spinach greens or Swiss chard
In the large box, in addition: green beans or melon, eggplant, thyme or lemon verbena (Louisa), onions
Wednesdy: New Zealand spinach or Swiss chard, Romaine or iceberg lettuce, cabbage or scallions or chives, tomatoes, beets, zucchini, cucumbers or facus, carrots, parsley, onions, eggplants or melons
In the large box, in addition: potatoes, lemon verbena (Louisa), yellow peppers
And there’s more! You can add to your basket a wide, delectable range of additional products from fine small producers: 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. The attached order form includes a detailed listing of the products and their cost. Fill it out, and send it back to us soon.