As apples dangle from trees, pears turn to a burnt orange and pomegranates burst at their seams with plump tiny fruits, it’s a reminder that we are in Fall harvest season. After the dramatic, solemn day of Yom Kippur, we suddenly jump into the celebratory, abundant harvest festival of Sukkot. This is the ultimate farm-to-table holiday that pre-dated the Slow Food movement by a few thousand years.
Sukkot is yet another reminder of the beautiful cyclical nature of Jewish life. From weekly cycles marked by Shabbat to agricultural cycles (the agricultural holidays of Sukkot, Pesach and Shavuot, plus the counting of the Omer), to year cycles that begin each Fall to the seven year cycles of Shmita, Jewish life is communal and circular: always expanding, growing and evolving with each cycle.
Launching Neesh Noosh in this new Jewish year of 5775, with the intention to create recipes following the seasonality of my farmers markets, has the added bonus of considering the implications of this being a Shmita year. Shmita, which means release, is a seven year cycle in Judaism that since the founding of Israel, has only practiced by ultra Orthodox Jews in the country. To briefly summarize, during a Shmita year, “debts would be forgiven, agricultural lands would lie fallow, private land holdings would become open to the commons, and staples such as food storage and perennial harvests would be freely redistributed and accessible to all.”
What I especially am excited about for this year is that Jews are having conversations about the implications of Shmita outside of Israel. As is noted in the fantastic Hazon Shmita Guide, “there are few” right answers” around how Shmita was observed historically and how we might observe it today.” It’s ours to define how we can infuse more ethical and just values into both our Jewish and secular economic and agricultural systems.
Through the lens of Shmita, we can shift institutional practices that address hunger in our communities from hand-outs to developing sustainable local food systems (Food Relief: Beyond the Cans) and change our food procurement practices at home and in our communities. And, we can work to change our political system to one that is more supportive of small farmers growing fruits and vegetables.
How can one apply the values of Shmita during Sukkot, the harvest festival? According to the Mishne Torah, Hilchot Shmita v Yovel (4:3), “the only produce of the Shmita Year of which one may partake are the harvest of fruit trees and vines, as well as wild plants that are not typically sown in a garden.” These are perennial plants; they grow in cycle with the earth every year. They return, unlike annuals that are planted each year.
Based on the ideas of Shmita, I am inspired to create Shmita-friendly dishes. I created a Sukkot recipe that uses several perennial fruit tree ingredients to create a one-pot dish that can be easily carried from one’s kitchen to sukkah. I was able to stop this morning at the Plummer Park farmers market in West Hollywood where there was an abundance of Fall fruits. I picked up organic apples (Gala, Summerfeld and Pink Lady), pears (Barlett and Asian), pomegranates, quinces and persimmons (Fuyu).
2 large apples, thickly sliced
1 large pear, thickly sliced
1/3 cup raisins
5 Medjool dates, cut into pieces
3/4 cup unsalted, raw chopped mixed nuts (I used almonds and pistachios)
1/2 pomegranate, seeded
1/2-1 tbsp pomegranate molasses (optional)
1 tbsp olive oil
tiny pinch of cardamom
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of salt
1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees
2. Wash and thickly cut fruit
3. Line baking sheet or tray with parchment paper. Add fruit and drizzle with olive oil. Add cinnamon, cardamom and salt.
3. Roast for approximately 45-60 minutes until soft, lightly browned. In the last 20 minutes, add chopped dates. In the last 5-10 minutes, add raisins
4. While fruit is roasting, toast nuts until browned. Cut and seed pomegranate.
5. Remove fruit from oven. Let sit for a couple of minutes.
6. Transfer fruit to serving platter. Fold in nuts. Add pomegranate seeds and drizzle pomegranate molasses over top. Serve warm.
PS: Leftovers? Enjoy over a bowl of oatmeal or blend into a smoothie.