Freaky Fruits

Posted: January 13, 2010 | Author: Rita | Filed under: Rita | Tags: , , | 6 Comments »

For my next couple of posts I’ll be discussing Tu B’shvat, the upcoming, though minor, Jewish holiday. Tu B’shvat (literally, the 15th of the month of Shvat) is the new year for the trees, kind of like Arbor Day. Never mind that there is an arctic wind currently blasting through the entire eastern coast of the US right now, but I digress. This year it falls on Saturday,¬†January 30th. [Note corrected date! Sorry! - Rita]

For centuries Tu B’shvat was nothing more than a tax day, like April 15th, since everyone was required to donate a tithe of their crops to their priests then. But in the 1600s, kabbalistic rabbis in the mystical Israeli town of Tzfat decided to claim Tu B’shvat as more of a spiritual connection to the physical land and began the custom of a Tu B’shvat seder much like on Passover, with 4 cups of wine and featuring Israeli-grown fruits and nuts, all holding special symbolic meanings.

Up until last year I had no idea there even were such things as Tu B’shvat seders — I mentioned this is a minor holiday — but another way this day is celebrated is through environmental action and planting trees. Many a Jewish person will remember receiving certificates from elderly relatives that a tree has been planted in their honor in Israel, and what’s cool is that this is still being done today. Bloomberg’s MillionTreesNYC? Been there, done that!

Another custom is eating a new fruit on Tu B’shvat, something you have never eaten before, or at least not one you’ve eaten in the past year.

Personally, I love fruit and eat tons of it. I wait all year for clementines to be in season and buy them by the 3 pound bagful, enjoying them while I can. I’ve learned to distinguish subtle varieties of apple and when I visit my parents in Florida I’m overjoyed that good, fresh papaya is available to taste! Recently I read a fascinating book called The Fruit Hunters: A Story of Nature, Adventure, Commerce and Obsession, a zingy title which basically says it all. In it, I learned of fruits that sounded like they came out of fantasy novels: dragon fruit, cloudberries, jaboticabas, and many, many more. The point is that it’s so wonderful that we live in a world where such a wide variety of fruits (and trees) exist.

Dragon Fruit

Dragon Fruit

So now, what to try this year on Tu B’shvat?

I’m somewhat limited by what’s in season, available and affordable, but I’m officially soliciting suggestions: what should my Tu B’shvat fruit be this year? Maybe guava? What if I already ate guava paste this year? Hmm.

Check back next Wednesday for recipes and more indepth explanation on what’s eaten on Tu B’shvat and why!

P.S. – I already ate dragon fruit.

Johanna: The Improviser

Never quite follows the recipe. Doesn't really measure. Tastes with her fingers. Somehow, it always works.

Alyssa: The Triple Threat

Can do it all. And modest to boot.

Bakezilla: We Use Mixers Too

She likes to bake. Actually, baking is the only thing she does. It's a passion.

Rita: The Kosher Chick

Restrictions have nothing on her.