Aley Chubeza #36 – September 20-21 2010

New Year Messages:

Holiday deliveries and changes:

This week, Sukkot, Monday deliveries (September 20th) are as usual. Wednesday delivery will be moved up to Tuesday, September 21st

No deliveries will take place over Chol Hamoed Sukkot, so you will not be receiving boxes next week, September 27th and 29th. Vegetables may be purchased on our Open Day (see details below).

Those who receive boxes every two weeks will now have a three-week hiatus. If you wish to change your deliveries in order to prevent this gap, please let us know ASAP.

Those who wish to receive a larger box before the holiday, please contact us ASAP!

Open Farm Day:

Once again, we are pleased to invite our clientele and friends to take part in a Chubeza Sukkot tradition, a personal “pilgrimage” to our Open Day in the field. This year the festivities are scheduled to take place on Monday, September 27, the 19 of Tishrei (fourth day of Chol Hamoed), between 11:00 AM -4:00 PM. To those of you who haven’t yet attended, the Open Day provides a chance to meet, tour the fields, and nosh on vegetables and other delicacies. We have special activities for the children, including tours designed for little feet and curious minds, arts and crafts, exercises and a wide-open space to run free. Please see updated directions to the farm.

Best wishes for a Chag Sameach and a blessed New Year, from all of us to all of you. We look forward to welcoming you to Chubeza and greeting you in person!


Farmers’ Introspection— Marking Seven Years!

Seven years ago, during the month of Tishrei, a sudden heat wave hit the country. I can certainly attest to it, as I spent Sukkot of year 5764 in a thorny, tangled field, trailing the tractor that plowed the thorns, sweating buckets, pulling irrigation hoses out of the thicket. That was my first day of work in Chubeza. A new year, new field, new trail.

It became apparent that some Heavenly force had decreed that I learn fast what life was all about for an Israeli farmer, even in October (so called autumn). Here I had my first feel of the rivers of sweat that would soon be pouring forth from me and the rest of the staff, and perhaps a sneak preview of August 2010… But on that memorable day, as I wiped away the blinding sweat, quaffing deep gulps of water, I stole a glance at this great, expansive field harboring so much potential, and couldn’t help but become excited. Here I was, embarking on what I’d dreamt about for some years in far-distant California: I was actually touching the earth where our vegetables would one day grow, cleaning the field, “nesting” before the arrival of what would be my first baby: The Chubeza Field.

Even this past August, as we were mopping buckets of sweat, the field still made us happy: a wide, heartwarming variety of vegetables were seeded and planted, with some produce dotting the landscape in red, yellow, purple, orange… little circles of cherry tomatoes, long snakes of Thai beans, chubby croissants of peppers and graceful long-nailed fingers of okra, presided over by the upright corn plants, each plot at a different level of growth, promising sweet freshness. So yes, we sweat, but hell, (or heck, if you’d prefer)—sweat not, want not.

As we do each year, during the season of Jewish introspection, Alon and I evaluate the past year in Chubeza. We are celebrating our seventh birthday, and together with the plants, so has our knowledge and experience grown as young farmers. Yet, each year and again we rediscover the dynamism and movement and discovery that pervade this ancient world of farming, happy to discover all that we still have to learn. From our vantage point, we now look upon the past year as one characterized by major changes.

* (Note: like most introspections, the deliberations became rather lengthy, so we’ll share just part of them today, and more after Sukkot.)

This year, we parted from the first Chubeza field and started cultivating a new one situated within the Moshav, adjacent to our packinghouse. The proximity to the packing house is quite advantageous—it’s within easy walking distance, no need for transportation from the field, and if called for, one can easily pick three more bunches of parsley to add to a box…The new field, measuring some 25 dunams, has been divided into six plots, each with its own faucet to facilitate irrigation. This first year in the new field is one of slow acquaintanceship: gradually we are discovering the more fertile plots in the field, as well as the more problematic patches.

Plots three and six, the two southeastern plots, were left empty most of the winter. We only started seeding there at the end of the winter. This was a season of torrential rains, with full days of precipitation that led to serious erosion in plot three, which is higher up, to plot six, which is lower down. The onion seeds were blown from the field and never germinated. In the lower plot, we found a problem with the drainage. Perhaps this originated from the roots of the trees that once grew there, or perhaps because the plot was empty and “clean” of plants whose roots stabilize the earth on the one hand, and ventilate and open it on the other. Either way, we will have to resolve this problem before next year.

Other than the new big field, we are continuing to cultivate some smaller adjacent plots. Drainage problems plague us in various parts of other fields as well. Our solution is to offer carefully monitored watering throughout the summer. But towards wintertime, as we pray for generous, abundant showers from the skies, we will need to find a more substantial solution, which we intend to do with the help of a tool called a “chisel plow.” It looks more or less like this:

The chisel plow manages to open the earth to depths of almost half a meter, without turning over the layers of earth and mixing them. This is important because in the upper layers (the top 30 centimeters), there is a very complex ecosystem, a result of an intricate relationship between plants, germs, fungus, various unicellular organisms, tiny insects and small mammals, etc. It is the most fertile part of the earth, and it is important not to upset its order. On the other hand, in intensive agriculture system, the earth constricts and must be opened and ventilated. This is why instead of a big “traditional” plow that turns over the layers of earth, we use the chisel plow whose thin teeth open and ventilate the earth without disturbing it.

The great challenge of working with this tool is its enormous, heavy mass. We would need a big tractor in order to pull it and cultivate the earth. Scheduling a big tractor for cultivating is problematic when we only have small plots to cultivate (because not all of the field is free for simultaneous cultivation). Thus we found ourselves postponing the ultimatum from one season to another. Lately, Gabi, our neighbor and loyal consultant, offered to make us a tailor-made chisel plough, small and capable of being placed on the little tractor that cultivates our field. After research and calculations, we decided that this is a good solution for us, and we ordered the tool. We expect it any day now, and we look forward to finally being able to cultivate vacated beds towards winter planting. Hopefully this will improve the problem of drainage.

One especially successful effort this year, coming on the heels of an experiment last year, is the mulching of the field in summertime with a biodegradable material made from corn. During last year’s trials, we encountered problems during the hot summer days, as it tore while being spread. This year we learned from experience, and spread the covers in the summertime only in the early hours of the morning. So far, so good. This cover is great, for it breaks down by the end of the growing season, sparing us the time and energy under the blazing sun to pull it from the field. And of course, we are saving on waste and contamination of the environment. The challenge and difficulty here is that the importer is never sure of the viability of importing the cover rolls, even though they’ve always been snatched up, no matter what the quantity. One of our lessons from last year is that we must buy a large quantity to last for the whole season, which we did this year. We hope we will be able to continue buying this mulch in the future.

More introspection follows in the next newsletter.

And before we part, in the mix of beginnings and endings that life holds in store, we remember with love Rachel Dagan, our landlady, who died the night before Rosh HaShana, after a period of harsh illness and torment. Rachel, the wife of Moshe, is the reason that we are hosted within the plots of the Dagan family. It was she who convinced Moshe to let us use their old chicken coop and to become our partners, so that we could stay in Kfar Bin Nun. Rachel was a little woman with a huge heart, she was gentle, good, and modest, as well as being decisive and sharp. We will miss her and hope her body and soul found respite from the pain and suffering she experienced in her final days. We extend a warm embrace and wish much strength to her family.

Hoping to see you on our Open Day, next Monday, September 27th, the 19th of Tishrei,

Alon, Melissa, Bat Ami and the Chubeza team


This week’s basket includes:

Monday: pumpkin, cherry tomatoes, carrots, okra or cowpea (lubia), corn, tomatoes, cilantro, lettuce, red peppers, potatoes

In the large box, in addition: yard long beans, Swiss chard, eggplant or butternut squash

Wednesday: pumpkin, lettuce, tomatoes, cilantro, carrots, yard long bean or okra or cowpea (lubia), red peppers, potatoes, cherry tomatoes or corn- small boxes, Swiss charrd or basil – small boxes

In the large box, in addition: green onions, corn, sweet potatoes, cherry tomatoes, dill or basil



For Avraham: Eggplant

Because the modern Hebrew word for eggplant, “chatzil,” was the brainchild of Avraham Luntz, and because our father Avraham, of Iraqi origin, would certainly enjoy some good sabich any day…

Below are some out-of-the-ordinary uses for eggplant—jam, soufflé, and pickled.

Eggplant jam

From Einat’s cookbook, The Vegetarian Soul Food Cookbook by Angela Shelf Medearis Eggplant Soufflé

Ingredients – For 6 servings: 2 T. fresh butter 2 T. olive oil 2 celery stalks, chopped 1 large onion, peeled and chopped 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped thin 6 sprigs parsley, chopped 4 fresh basil leaves, torn 1 T. flour 1 T. dried thyme 1 t. salt 1 t. freshly ground back pepper Pinch of cayenne pepper ¾ cup natural soymilk 1 large eggplant (~700 grams), peeled and chopped 2 cups (225 grams) grated yellow cheese ½ cup breadcrumbs, fresh or dry 3 eggs, separated ½ t. cream of tarter

Preparation: -Preheat oven to 180 C. Grease a 1 ½ liter baking pan. -Heat butter and olive oil in large skillet over medium-high flame. Add celery, onion and garlic. Sauté for around 10 minutes or till vegetables become soft. Sprinkle in the parley, basil, flour, thyme, black pepper and cayenne pepper. Stir till mixture is uniform. Add soymilk and eggplant, and mix. Lower flame, cook for around 10 minutes or until eggplant is soft, stirring occasionally. -Remove the mixture to a large bowl. Add the cheese, breadcrumbs, and egg yolks. Mix well. -Place egg whites and cream of tarter in a stainless steel or glass bowl. Beat egg whites with mixer or electric beaters at high speed until stiff and peaks form. Fold in egg whites, several spoons at a time, to the eggplant mixture. Pour mixture into prepared baking pan. `Bake for 40-45 minutes, or till soufflé rises and becomes golden brown. Let the soufflé set for around 5 minutes before serving.

Pickled eggplant

For Ya’akov: Thai Beans or Lubia

As you’ll recall, Ya’akov purchased his birthright for some lentil stew. He’d surely be delighted to dine from a dish belonging to the same esteemed family.

Yard long bean thoran (a dish from Kerala in south India)

Fresh lubia salad with bulgur (scroll down)

Kuku lubia – some thing like lubia omelet

For David, the Redhead: Pumpkin

Pumpkin cake

Pumpkin and butternut squash carpaccio