Aley Chubeza #47 – December 13th-15th 2010

This week we are adding an order form, listing the range of products available to add to your box every week. You may use this form to make regular orders, or occasional ones. We’d appreciate your feedback regarding the clarity and ease of using the form.


I hear leaves drinking rain; I hear rich leaves on top Giving the poor beneath Drop after drop; ‘Tis a sweet noise to hear These green leaves drinking near.

The Rain by William Henry Davies

As of Sunday night, we, south of Tel Aviv, are still awaiting rain to wet the earth and quench the vegetables’ thirst. In these hours of dust and fog as we await the raindrops to wash the air and dirt spots off the plants, I find myself pondering the fascinating process in which the plants swallow the water, and the amazing dance of the two that climaxes in the beauty of growth. I thought I’d accompany the soon-to-come music of raindrops with the tale of water and plant. There are many botanical explanations in this newsletter, which I’ve tried to simplify and clarify. I am fascinated by the story. I hope you will be too.

Let’s start at the very beginning: germination

Well, really it begins with great expectations: the seed, holding within its tiny body all that is needed to create a new plant, sits and waits for the proper timing, when three environmental conditions take place simultaneously: a generous amount of water, the right temperature and position in ventilated soil. During the months or year of its hibernation, its embryo is held dry and on-hold. Less than two percent of the seed’s weight is water, compared to 95 percent of the mature plant’s weight. This dryness protects the seed from damage caused by low temperatures, for when water freezes, it expands and could possibly tear the miniscule tissue in the seed’s cell. On the other hand, the seed cannot dry up completely, for it is liable to lose its viability, i.e., its capacity to germinate.  

When the water arrives, the seed, like a dry sponge, can absorb great amounts. The water is first absorbed in a process of imbibition – water molecules enter the spaces between the cellulose proteins and the additional substances existing in the walls of the cell and its dry tissue. As the cell’s components absorb more and more water, they soften and swell (similar to a rice grain cooking in a pot).  After they fill with water, most of the seeds will double in volume, the seed’s coat will burst open, and more water will be able to enter much faster towards the embryo and the cotyledon which encircle it, also allowing them direct access to the oxygen in the surrounding loosened earth. This oxygen will be needed soon.

Without getting into too much detail, the final stage of chemical processes taking place in the seed at this point is that large food molecules of starch, protein and fat existing in the seed break down into sugars and amino acids – smaller units which are easier to transport. These reach the embryo, assisting in the formation of new cells in the seedling’s meristems and providing energy to the growth process. When the embryo has enough food, it sends a tiny root towards earth, where it then anchors and stabilizes, drawing the minerals it needs. It receives more water through osmosis – the process in which the liquid  goes through penetrable membrane from the side where the concentration is lower to the other side, where this solution is more concentrated, till a balance is created between both sides of the membrane. In our case, it goes from the earth surrounding the plant, where much water exists, through the membranes of the plant into the cells in order to add water and dilute the material within them. We could expect it to work the other way too – the salts and other materials drizzle out from the plant cells to the surrounding earth. However, the plant is greedy and its cell membranes are selective: they allow water in, but prevent other material from leaving.

In a future newsletter we will return to the process the water undergoes within the plant, but first let’s complete the sprouting: After the plant sends out its root, it’s time for the stem to grow. The tip of the stem twists downwards in a hook-like fashion, pulling the soft leaves through the earth, while carefully guarding the apical meristem, from which the full plant will soon develop. 


 Till now the plant was totally dependent on the seed for its food supply. From the moment the sprout burst forth from the earth, from the second its tiny leaves meet the first rays of sun, it becomes an independent organism, creating its own energy and nourishment by photosynthesis. Think about it: a tiny human embryo leaving the womb is dependent upon its seed – its parents – for support and nourishment for many months, even years, while a tiny sprout starts practicing its own breathing and coping-with-life from day one! Wouldn’t you say he deserves a few drops of rain and some rays of sunshine to help him out?

In the meantime, as our little seed sprouted in this Newsletter, outside my window the thunder clashed and the lightning flashed and rain began to pour, filling the earth’s pores with water, awakening sleeping seeds from their slumber and bringing earth to life. I hope to be able to take some muddy photos from the field to smile at you in next week’s newsletter.

May we all have a good week, with less storm damages and more wet happiness,

Alon, Melissa, Bat Ami and the Chubeza team



What’s in our rainy basket?

A word about the sweet potatoes: Last week we picked the last of the sweet potato crop in order to protect it from the rain and cold. As it meant clearing more than one bed at once, we were assisted by a tractor that slices the earth with knives, extracting the bulbs. In some areas the knife did not penetrate deep enough, cutting some of the sweet potatoes in the process. We will distribute them this week (attempting to disperse them so that you don’t only receive the cut-up lot), but if you meet one, give it an understanding smile. It’s fine—just use it sooner than later.

Monday: fennel or kohlrabi, mustard greens (purple or green), arugula, turnips or kohlrabi, scallions or leeks, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, coriander, eggplants (small box only)

In the large box, in addition: radishes, broccoli or cauliflower or cabbage, peas or lubia or yard-long beans, Swiss chard

Wednesday: green or red cabbage, parsley, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, beets or fennel, Swees chard or spinach, kohlrabi, mustard greens, daikon or turnip – small box

In the large box, in addition: arugula or cilantro, lettuce, tirnip, daikon

And there’s more! You can add to your basket a wide, delectable range of additional products from fine small producers of these organic products: granola and cookies, flour, sprouted bread, sprouts, goat cheeses, fruits, honey, crackers. You can learn more about each producer on the Chubeza website (in Hebrew). The attached order form includes a detailed listing of the products and their cost. Fill it out, and send it back to us to begin your delivery soon.


R & R: Over the next few weeks, I’ll be on holiday. And the Recipe Corner is going off for a holiday with me as well. New recipes and cooking tips will reappear in the coming weeks upon our return. In the meantime, you are invited to send me your own special recipes, which I’ll be delighted to publish in future. Bon appetit!