Essential Specialty Produce for the Rosh Hashanah Table: New Fruits & Beyond

September 4, 2018


Rosh Hashanah

 

Rosh Hashanah, commonly known as the Jewish New Year, is one of the most important Jewish holidays. It falls on a slightly different day each year based on the lunar month of Tishri, this year falling from sundown on September 9 to nightfall on September 11. Literally meaning “head of the year” or “first of the year,” Rosh Hashanah is a time of celebration and self-reflection. Much of these two days is spent in prayer at the synagogue, but in between are a series of festive meals full of tradition and symbolic foods. Some of these food traditions include:

 

  • Dipping bread in honey, instead of salt, to express wishes for a sweet year.
  • On the first night of Rosh Hashanah, beginning the meal with apple slices dipped in honey in hopes for renewal and a sweet year.
  • Eating parts of a fish or ram head, to express the wish that “we be a head and not a tail.”

 

Produce plays a major role at the Rosh Hashanah table. These are some of the essential specialty produce items for a bountiful Rosh Hashanah display at retail or for authentic menu specials:

 

 

Pomegranates

 

Pomegranates

 

Pomegranates are a staple fruit during the Rosh Hashanah holiday; they symbolize fertility and unlimited possibilities for the New Year. This fruit has been a part of the Jewish tradition for ages, first appearing in the Torah as one of the seven species brought to the Israelites from the Promised Land. They also say that the pomegranate has 613 seeds, the same number of commandments in the Torah (this is symbolic, not literal given that the amount of seeds in a pomegranate varies). Pomegranates are mentioned numerous times throughout the Bible and the Jewish community gives voice to the wish that “our merits be like the seeds of the pomegranate.”

 

During the Rosh Hashanah holiday, pomegranates can be eaten fresh but the arils are most often incorporated into salads, syrups, chutneys, desserts, or drinks. Because arils are so tender, we prefer whole pomegranates over arils. Arils lose flavor and break down quickly once de-seeded, so we recommend doing the work as close to the plate as possible! Don’t worry: it’s easy to de-seed a pomegranate, if you know the right tricks.

 

 

New Fruits

 

New Fruit

 

On the second night of Rosh Hashanah, after bread is broken, the Jewish community indulges in a new fruit, either one that is exotic like dragon fruit or newly in season like pears or quince. By refraining from eating unfamiliar fruits in the lead up to Rosh Hashanah, the fruit will literally taste new and sweet: an edible metaphor for a new start to a sweet year! While a pomegranate can be considered a new fruit, many people prefer to dress up the table with fun exotics:

 

  • Dragon Fruit: An attention grabber in any display. Dragon fruit has a white interior studded with small, edible black seeds. The flesh is subtly sweet with hints of peach and Asian pear, firm yet soft, and lightly crunchy from the small seeds. While it looks nicest when firm and smooth-skinned, it’s juiciest and most succulent when the skin is wrinkled and the bracts become slightly shriveled. Dragon fruit is available year-round; however, it is in peak season domestically during the late summer and early fall – perfect timing for Rosh Hashanah retail displays!

 

  • Rambutan: A wild “shell” covered in stiff, hair-like bristles (no, you don’t eat it!) contains a globe of white, juicy, translucent flesh that has a grape-like texture and surrounds a single, large central seed that should be spit out. The white flesh is sweet, floral, and refreshing. Keep them refrigerated to preserve the appearance of the bristles, but the flesh is still delicious even after the bristles turn brown and shrivel. Rambutan is available from summer into fall – the season usually lasts just long enough for the Rosh Hashanah table.

 

  • Star Fruit: Starfruit is in peak season out of Florida from mid-summer into early winter. This fruit may look new, but the flavor is approachable: like a blend of tangy apple and juicy citrus! The entire fruit is edible, skin and all (there are a few small seeds you might choose to spit out). They have a great crisp texture, and when sliced transform into adorable stars. Starfruit begins green-yellow with a very tart flavor, and will become sweeter as they ripen to bright yellow. Some people prefer them tarter, some sweeter! Browning on the ridges is completely normal and can be trimmed off if it’s an issue.

 

 

Carrots

 

Rainbow Carrots

 

In Hebrew, the word for carrot is “gezer,” which sounds like “g’zar,” meaning “decree.” Because of this, eating carrots on Rosh Hashanah symbolizes that any negative decrees against those that celebrate the holiday will be nullified. Carrots are often prepared in a traditional side dish known as carrot tzimmes, which includes honey, raisins, brown sugar, orange juice, and carrots that are cut into rounds to resemble “gold coins” as a way to ask for a wealthy and prosperous New Year. While orange carrots are the most well-known, rainbow carrots add color to the Rosh Hashanah display with shades ranging from maroon to pink to purple to yellow and even white. With each different color comes a slightly different flavor spanning from mild to sweet. And you can even get them at different ages to suit different recipes: tender and tiny or firm and full-grown!

 

 

Leeks

 

Leeks

 

Leeks are significant because the Hebrew word for “leek” is related to the word “kareyt,” meaning “to cut”. It’s believed that consuming leeks will “cut off” any known enemies for the coming year. Leeks are incorporated into a traditional dish known as leek patties. Leek patties are a blend of diced leeks and other ingredients, that are deep fried and can be made vegetarian, vegan, or with the addition of meat. Adult leeks such as the beautiful, consistent ones from Holland are preferred for these preparations, but baby leeks are a unique addition to dishes that highlight the whole plant.

 


Posted by:
Katie Babinsky


Tags:
Rosh Hashanah, New Fruits, Pomegranates, Dragon Fruit, Rambutan, Star Fruit, Carrots, Leeks, Produce, Retail


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