Sharon Adiv grows basil for Gaia Herbs in Israel. He grows various kinds including red basil, Thai basil, lemon basil, and organic basil. “I have 15 hectares of basil,” he says. Sharon’s basil is grown as covered cultivation, which is better for pest control.
The region where he farms is good for growing this particular product. Spring and autumn are mild. The cold winter weather also does not affect the basil too much. “This is quite an isolated area, so there are few diseases.”
Sharon and Gaia Herbs' basil.
According to Sharon, organic basil is usually much more difficult to grow. “There is a particular fungal disease called Downy Mildew. It sometimes occurs in November/December.” Since the herb is being grown organically, Sharon cannot spray against it. “Yet, we get rid of it with fans and controlling the surrounding atmosphere, without using chemicals. I do not grow too much organic basil because there is not a high demand for it.”
Some of Gaia Herbs’ clients insist on only getting Sharon’s basil. This is marketed under the Dead Sea Herbs brand. “We try to get as much supply from Sharon as possible because we know his basil is of excellent quality,” says Gaia Herbs’ Avinoam Zarfin.
“The microclimate here, more so than anywhere else in Israel, give you beautiful basil,” says Avinoam. There are low humidity and hot temperatures in the area. The soil also has a high saline content. “This combination provides something different that ensures much higher quality basil.”
Sharon agrees. “Even if I compare it to Kenya, the conditions for growing basil are much better here.” He knows some growers in that country and is even a partner of a farm there. “The water here contains more than 1,500mg fluoride per liter. The normal drinking water in Isreal does not have more than 200 or 300mg.”
“Tomatoes would grow very well here,” adds Avinoam. “They used to grow a lot of cherry tomatoes here. Sharon does not grow tomatoes. He has 25 ha of different things. Besides basil, he cultivates yellow courgettes for export and Indian okra for the local market.
He also grows dates and spinach. Sharon sells spinach per kg, and a packaging company repackages it into smaller punnets. “We have to pick it every day, so it does not grow too large,” explains Sharon. “It is a special kind of spinach. Only the leaves are harvested.”
“We have Thai workers that come for five years. We also have students that come for ten months, at a time, every year,” says Sharon. With the combination of these two groups, Sharon has enough workers.
In addition, he has a group of Israeli youngsters that help out as part of a project. “But this is only for six months.” Sharon also has the Bedouin family that has been working for him for 15 years. The Bedouin are a nomadic people from North Africa.