We’ve waited patiently for them since last year and now the time has come: Gadi and Tamir’s excellent blueberries are here! (with raspberries following shortly!)
Over the past five years, in a small plot in Teqoa, Gadi and Tamir have been growing blueberries and raspberries, painting the desert fringe blue and purple. Gadi Afik, an agronomist specializing in blueberries, and Tamir Deutsch, an organic farmer and long-time friend, joined forces to meet the challenge of raising blueberries and raspberries in Israel.
Blueberries need special conditions to grow, including acidic soil, thus they’re grown on detached beds inside large containers. Cold weather agrees with them, and when frost gathers outside, it warms Gadi and Tamir’s hearts. To maintain an accurate level of acidity in the soil, Gadi and Tamir use (non-organic) fertilization, but throughout their growth the berries are not sprayed.
Their nutritional and health values are high: Rich in antioxidants, Vitamins C, K and other minerals, blueberries are known to prevent inflammation in the blood vessels and to lower cholesterol. They are recommended as a fruit portion for diabetics, as these berries can lower sugar levels in the blood. And we haven’t even mentioned the tantalising flavour…
19.5 NIS per 125 gram package | 72 NIS per 500 gram package
Blueberry season is short! Only 2-3 months! Add them to your boxes today via our order system.
And, speaking of the science of Life, have you got the cucumber sandwiches cut for Lady Bracknell?
Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest
But then what does one do when this science of life, i.e., cucumbers, undergoes a hard winter? At the close of this winter, all the organic farmers in the country were confronted with a major shortage in cucumbers, and I found myself thinking about this ‘science of life’ and why it is disorienting when the cucumber supply is amiss. Cucumbers are a permanent component of our boxes, thus generally taken for granted. Then, in times of shortage, we feel that something has gone wrong: where are those familial faces? Should we be worried? Has something gone terribly wrong in the world…?
This winter’s extreme temperatures (which was nonetheless blessed in many agricultural aspects) brought with it a frost that damaged our cucumber bushes. Though new cucumbers were planted, the cold temperatures persisted. Even when the cucumbers weren’t frosted over, they were greatly influenced by the cold weather, which slowed them down to the point they simply did not budge. Thus, they remained small and struggling. Luckily for us, patience is one of the cucumber’s virtues, in addition to its very impressive growth characteristics. As soon as the weather warmed up a bit, they renewed their growth spurt and quickly caught up.
Cucumbers grow in our greenhouse all winter – a single winter child of the Cucurbit family. In a short time, he will be joined by all the cousins, nieces and nephews from this very prominent family – the first to visit us in springtime. So just before he is smothered with hugs and kisses from those who missed him over winter, we’re happy to provide the cucumber with its seven minutes of solo fame:
Cucumbers originated in the heart of the Indian subcontinent. This very ancient domesticated vegetable has been raised by the human farmer for over 3,000 years. By virtue of being so ancient, today there is almost no place in the world where a wild cucumber grows. This versatile veggie spread to China, North Africa, Europe and the Middle East even before written documentation could be had. The Biblical Hebrews craved it when they went out of Egypt—their mouths watered as they “remember… the squash,” but they actually are referring to “cucumbers” and not the squash we know today. But this is not the only complicated part. The Hebrew word Melafefon derives from the Greek melopepon – meaning ‘an apple melon,’ which probably refers to squash or melon…
The cucumber is a vegetable that needs heat in order to grow and yield. Thus, in wintertime it can only be grown in a hothouse (which is warmed up by plastic walls that protect them from the cold… until it didn’t this past winter). In the open field, cucumber plants spread out in all directions, similar to their aunt squash or cousins melon and watermelon. Within the greenhouse, the cucumber is grown by trellising – i.e., climbing on strong strings which stretch upward, allowing the cucumber to curl itself around them all by itself using its tendrils (curly stems growing from the leaf’s bottom). Thus, we can grow many plants in a way that allows for cross ventilation among the stems, while the cucumber can do its growing and climbing and yielding of beautiful, bountiful elongated fruit.
The original cucumber is monoecious, meaning the male and female flowers grow on the same plant. The “traditional” summer cucumber species start by producing male flowers, which then are combined with female flowers to create bi-gender flowers, concluding with only female flowers. These cucumber species require pollination by pollinating insects that transfer the powder from the male to the female flowers. In breeding the species by crossbreeding and selection, new gynoecious hybrid cultivars were developed that produce almost all female blossoms which are parthenocarpic (virgin fruits, without fertilization or formation of “real” seeds). These varieties do not need to be fertilized, an act that might even hurt the quality of the fruit, which is why growing them in a greenhouse where they are isolated from pollinating insects is beneficial.
Greenhouse cucumbers look somewhat different from the open-field varieties: they are smoother and more uniform in appearance, and they have round edges, as compared to the little point at the ends of the open-field cucumbers. There are also open-field cucumbers grown in Israel, but those are aimed mostly towards the “industry,” i.e., pickling.
There are many varieties of cucumbers in the world, of course, other than the “Israeli” cucumber we discussed. There are also huge greenhouse cucumbers, sold in Europe and the United States, individually Saran-wrapped, called “Dutch” “British” or “European.” There are the long, thin Asian species, and tiny white cucumbers. There is even a “lemon cucumber” which grows to be round and yellow. Its seeds are big, and its taste is a bit sour.
This year we are growing a new type of cucumber of Japanese origin called Aromato, developed by the Israeli-based Hazera Company, after discovering it in a global food exhibit. The Aromato is very long and thin, compared to the Israeli cucumber. At the time, Hazera was working in tandem with the “Aroma” coffee chain on a different project, and suggested that Aroma try out the new cucumber in their salads. In a gesture of appreciation towards the “guinea pigs,” the cucumber was named Aromato after the chain, albeit with a Japanese variation. You will meet them in your boxes in the near future. Thy are solid and crunchy, and less liquid, creating a concentrated flavor in a cucumber that hardly drips liquid when sliced. We think they’re great!
A popular use for cucumbers, other than biting into them, is cutting them in circles and placing them on the eyes. What do cucumbers actually do to the eyes? They cool and freshen them. Underneath the peeling, the cucumber is seven degrees cooler than the outside world. The fresh juice of the vegetable cools down the skin, cures it and flexes it. For treatment of light sunburn, it is recommended to place cucumbers slice on the damaged area, or to gently smear cucumber juice. Cucumber strips on the forehead are a classic folk cure for headaches. So are cucumber strips on aching feet, as well as 30 minutes of rest…
People tend to peel the cucumber, but this is really unnecessary. Basically, it is recommended to eat as many fruits and vegetables with their peeling intact, which adds dietary fibers to the food and slows down the release of sugar from the food into the blood (vital for those who suffer from such sugar-related ailments as diabetes, Candida, fungus, sugar addiction, etc.). Also, leaving the peeling intact keeps the vitamins close at hand, especially the antioxidants.
The cucumber is considered a cooler in Chinese medicine: a diuretic thirst-quenching vegetable that helps cleanse the body of toxins. It is considered to be a sweet vegetable that assists the digestive organs, rich in high-quality water (because plants purify their own water), containing calcium, potassium, beta carotene C and a trace of vitamin B.
In all honesty, even vegetable fussies are usually willing to take a bite out of cucumbers, which sometimes marks the beginning of a beautiful friendship! Scour our vegetable recipe section for many interesting, innovative cucumbers delights. Totally worth a peek!
May we all enjoy a satiating, cleansing, and refreshing week, chock full of juice.
Alon, Bat Ami, Orin, Dror and the Chubeza team
WHAT’S JOINING THE CUCUMBERS IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?
Monday: Fennel/kohlrabi, carrots, coriander/dill/parsley, potatoes, beets, onions/garlic, Swiss chard/kale/New Zealand spinach, zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce.
Large box, in addition: Cabbage/sweet potatoes, parsley root/pumpkin slice, celeriac/celery stalk.
FRUIT BOXES: Pears/apples, avocados, nectarines, bananas.
Wednesday: Carrots, coriander/dill/parsley, potatoes, beets, onions, parsley root/garlic, Swiss chard/kale/New Zealand spinach, zucchini, tomatoes/cherry tomatoes/peppers, cucumbers, lettuce.
Large box, in addition: Fennel/kohlrabi, cabbage/sweet potatoes/pumpkin slice, celery.
FRUIT BOXES: Pears/apples, avocados, nectarines, bananas/clemantinot.