The New Year for Trees, Sephardi-style

The ‘seven species’ of fruit and nut eaten at Tu’ Beshvat (Photo: James Poster)

 Tu Beshvat, the New Year for Trees, is traditionally a much bigger ‘deal’ among Sephardi and Mizrahi communities than Ashkenazi. As the day draws to a close, here’s an interesting article from Jewish Action and a Syrian-Jewish recipe to celebrate the festival.

In agricultural-based ancient Israel, Tu b’Shevatthe traditional new year for treeswas a meaningful occasion celebrated with singing and dancing. Sephardim, who primarily lived in warm locales near the Mediterranean, long manifested a deep devotion to this festival, which they call Las Frutas (The

On the day of Tu b’Shevat, Sephardic families customarily visit
relatives, where they are served a feast. The children, who are given
off from school for the day, are encouraged to not only partake of the
spread, but to take bolsas de frutas (bags of fruit) home with them. Among Ashkenazim,
on the other hand, Tu b’Shevat was only marginally celebrated,
primarily because it falls in the dead of winter in northern climates
and the variety of fruit trees available was far more limited.

The community of kabbalists, who made their home in sixteenth-century
Safed, maintained a profound regard for this minor holiday and
developed a new liturgy and rituals for it. An expanded version of these
prayers was collected in an eighteenth-century work appropriately
called Peri Etz Hadar (“Fruit of the Goodly Tree”), which describes the Tu b’Shevat seder
(ceremonial meal). This ceremony contains rituals such as drinking four
cups of wine—each wine a different type—and sampling at least 12 fruits
and nuts; others increase the number to 15, corresponding to the
numerical value of tu. Iraqi Jews further expanded on the concept, increasing the number to a minimum of 100 fruits, nuts, grains, and vegetables.

There is a widespread custom to eat foods containing the sheva minim,
the seven species for which the Land of Israel is praised in
Deuteronomy 8:8–wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and
dates. (”’)

Zeitoon bi Hamod er Rummaan

(Syrian Sweet-and-Sour Olives)

Yields 1½ cups; about 24 olives

Olives are a ubiquitous component of Middle Eastern mezes (appetizer tables) and many meals.

1½ cups (about 8 ounces) small to medium brine-cured green or yellow olives, rinsed, drained, and lightly crushed or scored

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup hamod er rummaan (pomegranate concentrate)

1/3 cup water

1 small onion, sliced

1 tablespoon brown sugar

10 whole black peppercorns

Combine all the ingredients in a 1-pint jar. Cover and let stand in
the refrigerator for at least 3 days and up to 3 months. Serve at room

Read article in full


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