Hillel of Kibbutz Neot Smadar recently paid us a visit. After several years of working together, it was great to finally meet face to face. The visit also resulted in some good news for you: a bigger and better assortment of Neot Smadar products for Chubeza clients!
Kibbutz Neot Smadar, located in the southern Negev mountains, maintains a large, varied organic farm with fruits, vegetables and herbs, a goat farm and a vineyard. In addition, the kibbutz members run a winery, an olive press, a fruit cultivation homestead and a dairy where they produce a variety of homegrown organic products.
Neot Smadar’s uniqueness is in their excellent quality and simplicity: fruit only, with no additives or preservatives whatsoever. Many of their products contain no added sugar. So what can you now add to your boxes? Excellent organic date honey, a great assortment of fruit health bars, grape juice, grapefruit juice, peach and plum nectar, and beginning this week: medjhoul dates and a variety of olive types.
Make your order via our order system today!
“Not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”
On a hot summer day this week, I started thinking about summer. With so many folks out gallivanting the globe, the thought struck me that there are so many components of your summer boxes which started out around the globe as well, unbeknownst to the west before the discoveries of Africa and American in the 15th century. Tomatoes, squash, pumpkins, corn, potatoes, peppers and sweet potatoes, for example – not one of these tasty vegetables appeared in the European vegetable garden or the Israeli one before the discovery of America. Okra, garlic and watermelon were born in Africa and immigrated here many years ago. The thought of a life bereft of the redness of tomatoes, the green of corn sheaves, the orange of pumpkins and sweet potatoes or the juiciness of watermelon brings to mind black and white TV. These days, when I walk around feeling that attempts are being made to paint our world in a monotonous, uniform color, ignoring the variety and differences among people, focusing only on one color/nation/inclination/religion/weltanschauung, I am offered a lesson of modesty from the vegetable patch (usually a good idea): to enjoy the wealth of a colorful, bountiful summer season and to understand a few things about the wonder of difference and varieties, and the great profit and joy to be gained by allowing this variety to develop and reproduce.
Check out this very interesting article from Masa Acher (Hebrew) about the global culinary migration.
One of these migrants from the American continent is the pepper, which takes a starring role in your boxes these days. We’ve missed him and he must have felt it, for he has now come for a long visit, scheduled to stay all the way till autumn.
The pepper we know and eat in its sweet or spicy varieties, in red, yellow, green or orange (also available in purple, black and brown…) actually received its name by mistake. The word “pepper” originally referred to the pepper spice, and only later was it lent to the chili and green pepper vegetables.
The black pepper spice (a member of the Piperaceae family, whose black, green or pink seeds—at various stages in the maturation—produce the savory black and white ground pepper condiment) originated in India, and its name is derived from the Sanskrit “Pipali.” Europe was already well-acquainted with pepper, as well as with its relative the Piper longum, which was also used as a very piquant spice. The name was translated via commerce into the Latin “Piper,” from there to the old English “Pipor,” German “Pfeffer,” French “poivre,” Dutch “peper,” and other languages. At the same time, the word was translated from Sanskrit to Persian to Aramaic, becoming known by the ancient Jewish sages as “Pilpelin” or “pilpelet.” Its spicy flavor became synonymous with a quick tongue and a sharp brain (thus, in Hebrew, a Talmudic – or other – discourse is termed hitpalpalut).
When Christopher Columbus attempted to discover a shortcut to the Indian spice route, he was unwilling be confounded by the fact that he found something totally different. He bestowed the spicy vegetable he met in the Caribbean (from the Solanaceae family) the same name as the fiery Indian spice he had met, thus confusing the world forever after. There is absolutely no botanical connection between the two plants. Yet the American pepper was as spicy as the Indian one, and Columbus was a merchant and sophisticated marketing man who was hoping to sell it for a pretty penny in his mother continent, so he gave them the same name. In his journal, Columbus noted that “the pepper which the local Indians used as spice is more abundant and more valuable than either black or melegueta pepper.” His enthusiasm helped the spicy vegetable travel via Spanish and Portuguese maritime routes to Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia and India, and of course, to Hungary, where the ground dried pepper became the national spice, aka paprika.
Soon enough, it was discovered that this spicy vegetable has a little sibling which tastes sweet (actually a bunch of sweet siblings), but the name was already given and would not be changed. So these were coined “sweet peppers.”
In Central America, the vegetable has a long and ancient history. Petrified peppers have been found in archeological digs in Central America dating back over 2000 years, and they appear in Peruvian embroidery relics from the first century. The Olmecs, Toltecins and Aztecs were only some of the cultures known to raise peppers and use them in culinary endeavors. Together with the spicy pepper types, the sweet varieties were brought to Europe. By the beginning of the 17th century, the Europeans discovered the rich variety of the peppers we know today, all raised and grown over the years by habitants of Central America.
Today there are hundreds of pepper varieties which span the taste bud gamut from sweet, bittersweet, spicy to sweet-and-spicy, etc. There are also a host of shapes: large and elongated, like our Ohad variety; square and bell-shaped, hence the name “bell pepper;” small, long and heart-shaped like the Spanish pimiento pepper; long and yellow like a banana, or tiny, like those used for pickling. And, of course, there are the spicy ones, long and narrow, small and triangular, thin as a shoelace, and more. The colors also vary: they come in green, the original pepper shade, and then range in hue from light to dark green, but not only. When I worked in California, we grew a pepper that started out purple on the outside and green on the inside! As it ripens, the pepper changes shades, similar to the process the tomato undergoes where the level of sugar (or spiciness) is raised and it turns a warmer hue. The most popular peppers are the yellow, orange, and of course, red, but they also come in black and maroon! The sweet pepper and the spicy peppers are harvested at different stages of their growth – from the green to red stage, thus we get to enjoy a wide range of flavors and color.
Planting peppers was actually the first time Alon and I worked together, when he joined me as a worker in spring 2004. We planted them in a totally open field, but today they are well-groomed in the pampering planting tunnel, with mesh net walls surrounding them for protection, a shade net above and trellising strings that help them stay erect to climb up and away. And like well-pampered, beloved children, they produce great yields totally worth all the trouble of raising them. This year we are growing three types: the Maccabi (which has been with us from Day One,) Tolmeo and Romanetta.
In the past, we began harvesting the peppers when they were still young and green. The pepper harvest is in fact a harvest and thinning out at the same time. As we harvest the green peppers, we pick from the denser parts of the bush to allow breathing space and growing room for the remaining vegetables. Upon ripening, the green peppers start turning red, first one cheek, then the other, and slowly become completely blanketed under a cover of red. This process takes about three weeks. Now when we harvest peppers, we choose only the ones that are almost entirely red. At the end of the harvest there are still green and half-red peppers awaiting full blush, preparing for harvest.
Over the past few years, as we learn to grow vegetables in hothouses, we try to reduce some of the plant’s burden in its first stages of growth. To allow for it to invest in its growth (to help it grow taller and yield vegetables over a longer period of time), we thin out the plant at the flowering stage, similar to the period of thinning when growing fruit on trees, allowing those that remain on the plant to develop in a thinner, more spacious environment. Thus, our first harvests are usually red peppers, which ripened on the plant for a longer period of uncrowded time.
All peppers are very rich in Vitamin C, making them natural anti-aging agents. Peppers are vital for immune system function, and they improve intestinal iron absorption. Peppers also contain Vitamin A, an anti-oxidant which protects the body and cell tissues from oxidation, helps prevent cancer and heart and blood vessel diseases, and also contains the anti-aging component. Vitamin A promotes night vision and is vital for the proper functioning of the immune system, cells, tissue, mucoid and skin.
To cook the pepper or not to cook? Like the tomato, the process of cooking reduces the level of vitamin C, but doubles the amount of lycopene in the red peppers, another very important anti-oxidant. Bottom line: both are fine.
Hoping for a quiet week, with only summer excitement and the joy of family fun,
Alon, Bat Ami, Dror, Yochai and the Chubeza team
WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?
Monday: Bell peppers, slice of pumpkin/butternut squash, Thai yard-long beans/okra/zucchini, cucumbers, eggplant, tomatoes, corn, cherry tomatoes, Amoro pumpkin/acorn squash, lettuce. Small boxes only: melon.
Large box, in addition: Onions/garlic/scallions, parsley, New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard, potatoes.
FRUIT BOXES: Melon, pears, grapes, mango.
Wednesday: Bell peppers/zucchini, slice of pumpkin, Thai yard-long beans/okra, cucumbers, tomatoes, corn, cherry tomatoes, Amoro pumpkin/acorn squash/butternut squash, lettuce, melon/potatoes, parsley.
Large box, in addition: Onions/garlic, eggplant, New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard/scallions.
FRUIT BOXES: Pears, grapes, mango. Small boxes: bananas, Large boxes: figs.