Aley Chubeza #33, August 23-25 2010

For Your Information:


*The dearth of cucumbers over the last few weeks has been a source of sadness and disappointment for many. Let me once again explain the situation: Although cucumbers are indeed a summer vegetable, in the Israeli summer season, the stretch from mid-summer to the end is particularly challenging for farmers such as us. The open field cucumbers have attracted the dreaded Dacus ciliatus (lesser pumpkin fly), effectively wiping out our cucumber crop this season. (see the mid-July newsletter for gory details).

With no Chubeza-homegrown cucumbers to include in your boxes, we have attempted to supplement quantities from other sources—i.e. hothouses—however, the recent heavy heat waves have caused even hothouse cucumbers to suffer. Though they appear to be a vegetable that favors heat, in reality the cucumber (ever so cool) actually prefers moderate temperatures and even some shade. (I’m sure we can all identify….)  For the past few weeks, we’ve continually tried to acquire cucumbers for you all, but to no avail. Please be patient. They’ll be back once the heat eases up. Something to look forward to!

*Maggie from Nataf, who grows the sprouts that some of you order to add to your boxes, is taking a hot-summer break. She and her excellent sprouts will return acharei ha-chagim. We’ll keep you informed.


*The holidays are upon us, and with them, changes in the Chubeza delivery schedule.

During the week of Rosh Hashana: Deliveries will take place Monday, September 6th as usual. Wednesday deliveries will be moved up to Tuesday September 7th.

The following week (between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur), deliveries will take place as usual.

The week of Sukkot: Monday, September 20th deliveries as usual. Wednesday deliveries will be moved up to Tuesday, September 21st .

Chol HaMoed: No delivery.  You will not receive boxes on 27.9  and 29.9. Those who receive deliveries every two weeks will have a longer gap between boxes over Chol HaMoed. If you wish to change your delivery dates to prevent the lapse, please let me know as soon as possible.

Those who wish to expand their boxes for the holidays, please advise ASAP



From last week, you’ve begun receiving rather odd corncobs in your boxes: They’re remarkably hard, small and bright yellow. But no, this is not a mistake, nor some terrible mutant in growth. Halt in your tracks to the garbage bin to dump this seeming corn-gone-bad. Aha—they’re not standard sweet corn, but popcorn! And in honor of this explosive little vegetable, here’s last year’s Popcorn Newsletter, with minor additions:

Back around 3500 BC in a cave in North America (somewhere west-central of today’s New Mexico), the guys were hanging out together, glued to the TV of the era, the blazing campfire. As the flames danced and brought joy to their hearts, they had to nosh on something. But for reasons that remain shrouded in mystery, they somehow did not polish off everything from their plates. Remains of that late-night-nosh were discovered over 5000 years later by archaeologists in 1948, in what became known as world’s oldest popcorn. (It still looked quite crunchy and yummy, but a tad too stale to nibble on.)

The popcorn you are now receiving in your boxes is indeed a special species of corn. They were seeded along with the first round of corn, but after the plants grew cobs, we cut off their water and allowed the cobs, smaller than the sweet corn variety, to fully mature and dry on the stalk. Two weeks ago we picked the dry, hard cobs and stored them in our warehouse for further drying and hardening. They’re now ready for you to pop—-How wonderful to munch on food that bears a history of thousands of years of noshing!

Native Americans used popcorn even before they discovered the sweet variety we know and love so well. They probably fell onto popcorn by chance, as some random kernel rolled into the fire and suddenly popped. This surely led to attempts to reenact the wonder, and later to make it an institution. In ancient times, they would roast the popcorn by heating the cobs over direct flame or in a pit in the ground filled with sand and heated to a high temperature. The cobs were placed into the pit whole, and the kernels would pop on the cob, wrapped in its sheaf and protected by the sand. Prehistoric cooks also made special utensils to roast this snack, clay pots with feet to place atop the fire.

Primeval Americans used the popcorn not only as food. They made soup and beer out of it, and it was used as a decoration in ritual ceremonies, as well as for jewelry and head ornaments. Tlaloc, the Aztec god of rain and fertility, was adorned with popcorn necklaces. As the god of water and protector of fishermen, he would receive an offering   of “hailstones” made from popcorn. Europeans, too, who arrived ashore, were welcomed with gifts of popcorn necklaces, and to this day there are those who decorate their Christmas trees with fresh, aromatic popcorn.

A modern non-conventional use of popcorn that was unsuccessfully attempted was as an ecological biodegradable substitute for Styrofoam packing material. You must admit that it is a very captivating idea, yet sadly the popcorn’s natural appeal attracted insects and other pests and organisms to the party. The popcorn completely lost its beneficial packing qualities if it got wet, and it was prone to flammability.

Popcorn is a subspecies of Zea mays averta, or flint corn. Flint corn was given its name due to its hard-as-rock shell, one of the required components for popping. The second requirement is a proper level of humidity and a high level of starch within the kernel. Due to its hard shell, when you heat the kernel, the moisture locked inside turns to steam and the pressure builds up. The starch inside the kernel gelatinizes and becomes soft and pliable. The pressure continues to mount until the breaking point of the hull is reached:  The steam forcefully explodes, exposing the soft starch. The starch expands and dries rapidly to become the dry, crispy, puffy foam we call popcorn.

Here is film that illustrates the process a very dramatic, slow motion presentation:

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Tips: – For the foam to dry quickly, place the kernels in a pot in a thin layer to create crispy popcorn that will not reabsorb the moisture from the pot. – FYI, popped popcorn kernels expand exponentially beyond their original size. Two tablespoons of raw popcorn kernels produce 2 ½ cups of the popped product! – In its natural form, popcorn is an excellent choice for a healthy snack. Air-popped popcorn is naturally high in dietary fiber, low in calories and fat, contains no sodium, and is sugar free. This of course relates to clean, fresh popcorn, minus the addition of salt, sugar and caramel that transform it from a handsome prince to a scary toad. – And, please take care of the children: do not allow popcorn to children under 4!

Storage: Popcorn kernels might look tough, but they won’t be if you don’t treat them properly. Storing popcorn in the fridge may dry it or make it too moist to allow popping. Best to keep popcorn kernels in a dry, dark cupboard away from heat, moisture and light. It is advisable to separate the kernels from cob, and store in sealed jar, ceramic container or sealed tin.

Here is a short demonstration of how to best separate the kernels from the cob. (Starring Chubeza popcorn, and the hands of Talya, our website wizard).

Making fine popcorn is an art in itself. The quality and quantity of the popping depends on the rate at which the kernels are heated. If heated too quickly, they’ll explode before the starch in the center of the kernel can fully gelatinize, leading to half-popped kernels with hard centers (what was the hull). The tip of the kernel, where it attached to the cob, is more sensitive than the rest of the hull. Heating too slowly will crack the tip and allow steam to escape, preventing the build-up of pressure and the ultimate popping.   In the past, making popcorn in a pot was a task that required training, specialization, and great skill. In today’s microwave era, everything is so much simpler, but still it’s a good idea to put aside a small part of the kernels and try the old-fashioned method of yesteryear.

Popping Instructions: In microwave: Place small quantity of kernels (approximately 2 T) into a paper bag you received in your box (make sure it’s dry and not torn), and fold the edge of bag to seal. (At last: a way to re-use those paper bags!) Set timer for 2-3 minutes, and listen carefully. After a few seconds the kernels will start popping loudly, setting the bag into a lively, throbbing dance. When 3 seconds without any popping have elapsed, remove paper bag from the microwave. Caution! It’s hot. Make a small opening for ventilation; allow steam to escape, and then cool. Add salt, and the seasoning of your choice.

In a pot: (from the website of Kibbutz Sha’ar Hagolan) The rule is 3 T of oil for each ½ – ¾ cup of popcorn. The oil should cover the bottom of the pot and “wrap every kernel.” (You can combine oil and butter, if desired.)

Timetable 1: Pour the oil and wait a bit till it warms up. (Can use one or two kernels to test.) When oil-bubbles form around kernel, it’s time to start. Question: Should we toss the kernels? A: In the beginning of the process, you can give it a little shake to arrange the kernels in one layer and for the oil to cover.

Timetable 2: Leave the kernels on medium heat. When you start hearing the first to pop, lower the flame. Babysitter: Keep an eye on them. This is no time to go set the DVD. Listen to the sound of the popping kernels. When the frequency diminishes, it’s time to turn off the flame. Do not open the pot till you hear the silence of the all-popped popcorn.

Good luck with your popping, and Shavua Tov from Bat Ami, Alon, Melissa and the Chubeza. team _____________________________________ This week’s basket includes:

Monday: popcorn, cherry tomatoes, yard long bean or cowpea, basil, butternut squash, tomatoes, lettuce, eggplants, red peppers, potatoes, corn. In the large box, in addition: okra, pumpkin, onions

Wednesday: butternut squash, lettuce, tomatoes, green onions, corn or pumpkin, yard long bean, red peppers, cherry tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, popcorn In the large box, in addition: okra or cowpea, onions, cilantro _____________________________________ Let’s season them up:

Many many ideas for popcorn flavoring

And many more