The month of February is nearing its end. At the end of this week we will bill your cards for this month’s purchases and endeavor to have the billing updated by the beginning of next week.
You may view your billing history in our Internet-based order system. It’s easy. Simply click the tab “דוח הזמנות ותשלומים” where the history of your payments and purchases is clearly displayed. Please make sure the bill is correct, or let us know of any necessary revisions. At the bottom of the bill, the words סה”כ לתשלום: 0 (total due: 0) should appear. If there is any number other than zero, this means we were unable to bill your card and would appreciate your contacting us. We always have our hands full, and we depend on you to inform us. Our thanks!
Reminder: The billing is two-part: one bill for vegetables, fruits and sprouts you purchased over the past month (the produce that does not include VAT. The title of that bill is “תוצרת אורגנית”, organic produce). The second part is the bill for delivery and other purchases (This bill does include VAT. The title of the bill is “delivery and other products.”).
Purim is around the corner, and Melissa of Mipri Yadeha is offering delectable Scrolls of Esther fashioned from fruit-leather. These Purim delights come in an array of flavors and are packaged majestically.
You can add them to your order via our internet order system, at only 10 NIS per scroll.
No Wall Flower
This week, as I once again reviewed the candidates for this newsletter’s “Featured Vegetable,” there she was, just as she has been over the past few weeks, waiting modestly, quietly, almost imperceptibly. The cauliflower. For some reason, this time she caught my eye. It’s been so long since I wrote about her, and surely you agree that she deserves our attention. There’s actually so much to say about her that I’m dividing the newsletter into two. This week and next week will be dedicated to the long-overlooked, yet charming Cauliflower.
The cauliflower is the flower of the cabbage (Caulis in Latin). Apparently, the cauliflower was developed from the wild cabbage during the Roman Empire in the Mediterranean Basin (Greece/Italy/Turkey–it is unclear exactly where). From there it traveled to European countries, the Middle East, India and China. When I say “developed,” I mean developed by human beings, almost like a modern agricultural start-up, only much, much slower. Some of the most incredible changes in the field of species development didn’t occur as part of a budgeted, constructed research, but rather due to the very simple act of collecting and saving seeds from the plants favored by the farmer and preferring them over seeds from lesser-loved plants. This simple act of propagating one plant and not another had a tremendous influence on the improvement and evolution of a given specie or crop. Long before man understood the genetics of plants, his actions caused slow, small changes in the cultivars that accumulated with time, yielding genuine results.
The cauliflower and broccoli owe their lives to the farmers (or perhaps the farmers’ wives and children who were growing bored with cabbage quiche) who developed a craving for the undeveloped flower buds of the cabbage. They chose the plants that produced large blossom heads, producing seeds from these plants which they then planted the next season. And this was how cauliflower and broccoli were born, both different variations of an embryonic florescence of cabbage. The proper name of the cauliflower is var. botrytis, meaning “cluster” (broccoli, developed in Italy, received the title var. italica).
In the case of the cauliflower, like the broccoli, we eat the immature flower curd composed of densely clustered flower buds and stalks that thickened and became meaty. As the cauliflower grows, this head is surrounded by a dense circle of leaves that close themselves and cover it, similar to the cabbage. The inner leaves bend a bit inwardly, protecting the developing cauliflower and preventing sunrays from penetrating, thus blocking the production of chlorophyll and retaining its white color. This is why when we farmers select a variety of cauliflower, we give preference to choosing one whose leaves close well over the inflorescence. Sometimes, when the farmer notices that the leaves are not doing their job, he or she walks through the field and ties the outward leaves with a rubber band so that they cover the cauliflower and protect it from the sun. Unlike the broccoli, which develops additional heads on its side after the main head is harvested, the cauliflower only produces one, in the center of the plant, and does not continue to produce after this single harvest. Usually the cauliflower is picked when it reaches its maximum size, still maintaining its density and solidity (or when we notice the leaves beginning to open, threatening a cauliflower “sunburn”). If we leave it in the field, the inflorescence will begin opening and separating, preparing for the blossoming of the tiny yellow flowers, like a great big bouquet.
When I wrote about the cauliflower a few years ago, I received an email from Eitan of Tel Aviv: “I beg to differ over one thing. I have been raising cauliflowers in my plot for two years in a row. I did not pull out last year’s plants, and sure enough, they bloomed this year as well. In addition, the cauliflower produced many branches that yielded a nice crop of cauliflowers. I pick the heads but do not pull out the plant.”
Eitan’s words reminded me that I did indeed read about the cauliflower’s ability to produce two years in a row if it is not uprooted, but because I was not experienced with this (as farmers, it is not recommended to leave vegetables for the next year because this usually reduces crop size), I asked Eitan for full details on the second-year cauliflowers. This was his response: “The cauliflower is smaller in the second year, but still tastes sweet. The advantage is that in the second year, a bunch of cauliflowers emerge. Branches extend from the bottom part of the plant, looking like cauliflower transplants from the nursery, and the inflorescence starts there. Since I have a small garden, the cauliflowers were watered over summer, but did not bloom, although I covered them with a 50% shade net. In any case, there was no evident change in the cauliflower over the summer. I think whoever has enough space should leave the cauliflower and broccoli to grow a second year. These plants are bi-annuals. By the way, the broccoli, too, remained from last year, and it continues to supply me with very handsome “baby broccolis.”
So for the farmers among you, try this at home (in your garden). Keep the cauliflowers growing a second year, protect them in the summer from radiation and heat, and tell us how this works. Thank you, Eitan.
Like the rest of her Brassicaceaes family, the cauliflower consumes a great deal of nitrogen. For this reason, it’s important to grow cauliflowers in fertile soil, fortified with compost, and precede its planting with the growth of legumes or “green manure” that enrich the ground with nitrogen. Following a crop of cauliflower and other Brassicaceaes, we try to grow only cultivars that require less nitrogen and can deal well with the earth that must recover from the previous high level of nitrogen consumption. The gourd family (pumpkins) that grows in springtime and summertime, after the Brassicaceaes season, are a good example of a “crop rotation” after the Brassicaceaes.
Cauliflower grows in cool seasons. We used to plant it over two rounds, once in autumn (September- November) and then at the end of wintertime/beginning of springtime (February- April). But after some experimenting, we realized the cauliflower is happiest in our field during wintertime. The autumn and winter cauliflowers yielded beautiful plants, whereas the February harvests had a hard time growing, became too hard, were attacked by insects, got blotched with stains, and didn’t really thrive. We learned to bring up the planting to August, and over the past few years we have begun planting cauliflowers continuously from August to December. In August, we plant species that do well in the heat and from September we plant winter species.
During this season, the cauliflower (and broccoli) are contending with aphids – tiny insects that some of you may have met up with in your boxes… In the Brassicaceaes, these are usually leaf aphids, greenish or grey and mealy. The leaf aphids are nourished by marrow, that liquid within the plant cell. They suck it out via their unique proboscis. In our field they have natural enemies: parasitic wasps (that paralyze them and lay eggs within them, out of which emerge caterpillars that nourish themselves from their unwilling aphid hosts) and ladybugs (that simply eat them up). But as usual, in the first stage before their natural enemies discover that they have reason to make their home in our field due to the abundance of food, we experience a wave of aphid stings. After the carnivorous insects arrive and situate themselves, the stings will go away and the balance will be restored.
We make great efforts to keep them away from you, of course. When we harvest, we are careful to avoid bringing affected plants to the packing house, and while we assemble your boxes, we carefully examine the broccoli and cauliflowers to remove any with stings. But sometimes the tiny aphids evade our sight, especially when the broccoli and cauliflower are very dense. So if you do meet aphids in your boxes, fear not. They can easily be removed by washing the vegetable with soap and water. In any case, let us know if you encounter them.
Rejoicing together with you all over the past few wintery days and the upcoming sunny week,
Alon, Bat Ami, Maya, Dror and the Chubeza team
WHAT’S JOINING THE CAULIFLOWER IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?
Monday: Lettuce, leeks/green garlic, kale, tomatoes, celeriac/parsley root, fennel/kohlrabi/ beets, broccoli, cucumbers, thyme/parsley, carrots, cauliflower.
Large box, in addition: Long, sweet Ramiro peppers, Swiss chard/spinach, peas
Wednesday: kohlrabi/fennel/beets, leek/green garlic, kale/spinach/Swiss chard, tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, cauliflower, cucumber, broccoli/cabbage, parsley/thyme, parsley root/celeriac
Large box, in addition: scalions, peppers, mixed baby greens/peas
And there’s more! You can add to your basket a wide, delectable range of additional products from fine small producers: flour, fruits, honey, dates, almonds, garbanzo beans, crackers, probiotic foods, dried fruits and leathers, olive oil, bakery products, pomegranate juice 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!