The Fruitful Bounty of Shavuot and Springtime

is a holiday often easily overlooked- many of us may not even realize that it has already passed!  Shavuot commonly falls after the Hebrew School year has ended, and many of us associate it only with Confirmation ceremonies.  In the most basic sense, Shavuot is the holiday that commemorates God giving the Torah to the Israelites.  However, Shavuot is also ripe (pun intended) with significance for today on many other levels.

After the Land of Israel was conquered and divided, the nations of Israel established an agricultural society.  In order to show gratitude to God, they were commanded to bring the first fruits of their harvest to the Temple as a sacrifice on Shavuot. Each family brought a basket of the seven species described in the Torah: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates.  In fact, one of the many names for Shavuot is hag ha bikkurim, The Festival of the First Fruits.

As the weather gets warmer and camp gets closer, farmers markets will likely start to pop up in your community.  Depending on where in the country you live, the first fruits of your local harvest will be different.  However, as a general rule, asparagus, strawberries, lettuces and peas are commonly among the first things to pop out of the soil in most of the Northeast.  Consider using the concept of the first fruits of the festival of Shavuot as an inspiration for your own first fruits celebration.  Make a trip to the farmers market with your kids before camp and plan a menu based on the first fruits you find in the market.  Speak with one another about the benefits of local produce (hint: it’s fresher, more nutritious and better for the environment) and talk about how we can connect to our local agriculture just as the Israelites did thousands of years ago.

Here’s one recipe to get you started, but don’t feel limited- let the market speak to you and enjoy the kitchen creations that result!

Whole Wheat Linguini with Mint Pesto and 3 types of peas
Serves 6

Posted on May 21, 2013

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