Rita: The Kosher Chick

Restrictions have nothing on her.

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.


6 Comments on “Freaky Fruits”

  1. 1 Mike Harmon said at 12:58 am on January 13, 2010:

    You know, I have to tell you, I really enjoy this blog and the insight from everyone who participates. I find it to be refreshing and very informative. I wish there were more blogs like it. Anyway, I felt it was about time I posted, Iíve spent most of my time here just lurking and reading, but today for some reason I just felt compelled to say this.

  2. 2 Rita said at 9:35 am on January 13, 2010:

    Thanks so much, Mike! We appreciate your readership and would love to hear more comments from you. :)

  3. 3 Joh said at 9:53 am on January 13, 2010:

    I like this Tu B’shvat thing! Planting trees and celebrating nature and all that. I only have 1 suggestion, sadly, because I’m pretty lame when it comes to branching out with fruit (heh).
    Pluots.
    It’s a plum, crossed with an apricot. I want to make jam out of them, maybe you could sample one and report back?

  4. 4 Rita said at 10:04 am on January 13, 2010:

    You know what’s funny, I hadn’t even heard of pluots until I read the Fruit Hunters book mentioned above. There’s a whole chapter on them and other cross-bred fruits. Great idea, I haven’t tried any yet. I’ll be on the lookout!

  5. 5 Alyssa said at 11:27 am on January 13, 2010:

    I have to admit I am pretty poorly informed when it comes to the less common (at least in the US) fruits. I’m going to chalk it up to my entrapment in Ohio. I LOVE fruit though, so I am super excited about this post as well as the ones to come. I might have to grab a copy of the book so I can expand my horizons

  6. 6 Bakezilla said at 9:06 am on January 21, 2010:

    I don’t have any ideas that are too brilliant here, but when it comes to odd fruits, my dad sometimes bought Ugli fruit, and we considered that very exotic. And, the little girl I babysit really likes Asian pear, which I never buy for myself… Also, the fruit guy near Ben’s place (who, is a character and a half) gave us persimmons recently, which I had never had before…

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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.