June 24-26, 2024 – Stop and Smell the Summer


From the feel of things, summer is definitely here, having made its official entry at the end of last week. No doubt about it! Although this summer rolled in relatively slowly, not bashing us over the head, the humidity has already struck hard, temperatures are high, and there’s no more occasional respites of cooler days. At Chubeza, we toil in the stifling heat, day after day. 

Summer exudes the aroma of the ocean, the pool, and sunscreen, and of ripe fruit – melon, figs, grapes, and overripe peaches. In our packing house, summer carries the heady aroma of basil. When the basil-laden boxes stand in the packing house, it’s hard to ignore the heady scent in the air that spurs the taste buds to fantasize on pesto. After some years of growing basil and being burned by vicious leaf diseases that attacked and destroyed every green leaf in the vicinity, we took a break for several years, returned to growing again, and failed repeatedly. But—this year we decided to plant a new disease-resistant basil variety (so they say). At the start, we cautiously seeded it in smaller beds, which is why its been an infrequent guest in your boxes. Later, we expanded the planting. And now (drum roll), we proudly declare Basil as the aromatic star of this week’s Newsletter!


Basil is a plant that just loves the heat. In wintertime, it shivers and  wilts from the cold. Sometimes it can survive the winter if it happens to be a protected indoor plant (in a sunny corner). Basil is quite common in such world hot spots as Asia, Africa, Southern Europe, and California. It belongs to the prominent Labiatae family, but unlike some of its local celebrity cousins like hyssop, lavender, sage, thyme, mint and others, basil does not grow wild in Israel. It is very common as a cultured plant in gardens and pots, where it grows easily so long as it receives at least six hours of sun daily.

Although it is a celebrated insect repellent (more on that to come), growing basil is not an easy task due to its vulnerability to leaf diseases, specifically the Peronospora which attacks the leaves and causes them to blacken and wilt. Which is why most of our past attempts at growing basil ended with a very small yield, and major disappointment. Several years ago,  we were informed of a new variety called “Prospera,” developed in Israel by researchers from Bar Ilan University and the Israeli seed company Genesis,  which has enabled us to return to growing summer basil and to that heady fragrance to Chubeza’s summer boxes.

There are various hypotheses as to the origin of the name basil (basilicum). Possibly it was named for the basilica, an elongated church structure where basil was grown in its nurseries. Perhaps it derives from the word Basilus, Greek for “king,” a title perhaps earned by its status as a respected medicinal plant. In Hebrew and Arabic, it is Rechan, to signify its intense fragrance (“re-ach”). The wordRechan appears in Midrash Konen (Brayta d’Maase B’reshit): The third temple is constructed of silver and gold and all sorts of precious gems and jewels, and it is very large, and all the blessings of heaven and earth are there. And all varieties of herbs and varieties of fragrances (rechan) are planted there.

Legend has it that the name basil derives from a menacing dragon named Basilia. Anyone who set eyes on this creature died a strange death, prevented only by a magic basil potion. To this day, basil is known as a proven remedy against annoying pests (a tad smaller than dragons), which is why in Italy and France it is grown on windowsills as a handy pest repellent. Folk medicine champions applying a basil leaf compress to poisonous insect bites in order to draw the venom. Even in an integrated vegetable garden, basil is effective in attracting beneficial insects and repelling flies and mosquitoes. Planting basil alongside tomatoes and asparagus actually improves their flavor!

Basil also acts as a secret partner in romance. When a Sicilian woman removes the basil plant from her windowsill, this is a sign to her lover that he may climb right up to her room. But it also assists Cupid in other ways: in Southern Italy, girls would don a garland of basil in their hair to signify their innocence and attract beaus. There, basil is actually called Bacia Nicola (Nicholas’ kisses). A Romantic Italian man wishing to display his love would wear a sprig of basil in his lapel. In India, it is a talisman warding off evil spirits from threatening a couple’s fertility, which is why Indian women cultivate basil around their homes and temples.

Jews of Morocco, Yemen, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya use (usually purple) basil for their fragrance in the blessing over spices at the Havdala ceremony at Sabbath’s end. Basil’s wide range of varieties include colors from deep green to deep purple, leaves both serrated and smooth, round or long leaves, and a variety of flavors. The one trait all basil types share is its unmistakable, one-of-a-kind fragrance.

Basil Collection

In folk medicine, basil tea is used to treat stomach ailments, and basil abstract is beneficial for skin diseases. A blend of various herbs and basil is prescribed for insomnia sufferers, and eating basil seeds along with the leaves helps strengthen the heart. The essential oil found in basil leaves boasts many antibacterial, antiseptic and antifungal properties. It contains linalool, methyl chavicol, and eugenol which encourage sweating and healthy abdominal function, alleviating respiratory diseases and encouraging lactation for nursing mothers. Basil also contains vitamins A and C.

Basil tea (8 leaves to one cup of boiling water) eases a cough, soothes gassy intestines, relieves sore gums and menstrual cramps, and maintains balanced blood pressure. It also lulls to bed those who seek a good night’s sleep.

And lastly – how to store basil fresh:

As mentioned, basil loves warmth and suffers in the cold, which is why keeping it in the refrigerator under 12 degrees will make it turn black and rot. But since it is a delicate green leaf, it will wilt if simply left on your counter.

So–to extend the valuable basil’s life, cut off the ends of the stems just as you would a flower bouquet, and place the basil bouquet in a jar or glass of water (3-5 cm). Place the jar in a well-lit place and cover the leaves in a plastic bag with holes for the first 24 hours. Within a few days, the leaves will grow roots which will provide your basil with vitality and keep it fresh for a week or more.

So together with our lovely basil, we wish you all wonderful, fragrant, quiet summer days. May summer bring the precious news of the return of the hostages to their homes!

Alon, Bat Ami, Dror, Einat and all of us at Chubeza



Monday:  Amoro pumpkin/acorn squash/butternut squash, melon/watermelon, lettuce,  cherry tomatoes, zucchini/squash/red bell peppers, potatoes, corn/beets, parsley/coriander, tomatoes, cucumbers/fakus, eggplant/leeks/onions. FREE GIFT FOR ALL: spinach/nana.      

Large box, in addition: Basil/Swiss chard/kale, slice of pumpkin, beans/lubia/edamame/okra.   

FRUIT BOXES:  Grapes/plums, pears/bananas/avocados, nectarines/apples. Large box: Larger quantities of the above, plus mangoes.

Wednesday:  Amoro pumpkin/acorn squash/butternut squash, melon/watermelon, lettuce,  cherry tomatoes, zucchini/squash/red bell peppers, potatoes, corn/beets, parsley/coriander, tomatoes, cucumbers/fakus, eggplant/leeks/onions. FREE GIFT FOR ALL: spinach/nana.      

Large box, in addition: Basil/kale, slice of pumpkin, beans/lubia/edamame/okra.   

FRUIT BOXES:  Grapes/plums, pears/bananas/avocados, nectarines/apples. Large box: Larger quantities of the above, plus mangoes.