Another Canadian winter is upon us and with it comes varying amounts of snow and temperatures which are frequently in the – 30 c. range. In northern and western Canada temperatures can plummet into the – 50c. range.

I have often wondered how many volumes of the Talmud would have been compiled if the early Amoraim had had to shovel their way through six foot snow drifts and then walk along icy sidewalks in minus 30c temperatures to the Bet Midrash where they would have had to continuously shovel coal into a fire all day long just to keep the water in their inkwells from freezing.

However, back to Canada. One unintended benefit of our Canadian winters is the chance to try one’s hand at propagating Israeli herbs. Packages of Israeli mint, marjoram, chive and sage cuttings typically show up on our supermarket shelves at this time of year.

All one has to do is, after using most of the leaves, to place the stems in water or very moist potting soil and miraculously roots will appear after a few days. Voila, a living Israeli plant in the midst of a Canadian winter ! And this in Shemita year.

Several years ago I tried this trick using stems of Morrocan mint and for 3 years I had four lovely Morrocan mint plants that thrived in the summer sun and shrank during our grey winter months. Used in my tea, they yielded a flavour that was totally different from either the Israeli mint or that which I grew up with.

This year I was also surprised by the arrival of two more small green date palm sprouts. I plant all my date palm pits (stones) in the soil of larger plants and occasionaly one will germinate. Not all date pits are fertilised, but to date (no pun intended)  I have six healthy plants. My largest date palm plant is about five years old. It stands over 4 feet tall and has 20+ fronds. It takes almost a year for the initial hard green spike to grow to about a foot and then for the first leaf to unfold.

Though I have had many gardens over the years and grew up in the home of two avid gardening parents, the joy and wonderment at the workings of Hashem that these plants afford is indescribable. To be able to gaze at and/or touch a living piece of Eretz Israel having just read about the latest tragic events there gives one a connection to that wonderful land which goes far beyond any sentimental romanticism.