Plant a Tree for Tu BiShvat: How the “New Year of the Trees” is Celebrated

close up of two men planting a tree

Every year on the 15th day of Shevat, Jewish people all over the world celebrate Tu BiShvat. This day is commonly known as both Rosh HaShanah La’Ilanot (“New Year of The Trees”) as well as Israeli Arbor Day because of its heavy emphasis on environmental preservation. Let’s go over the significance of this holiday in Jewish culture and all the unique ways to commemorate it, including the preparation of delicious Tu BiShvat dishes.

The History of Tu BiShvat

While this holiday is not mentioned in the Torah, there have been records of Tu BiShvat observances dating back to the Middle Ages. The holiday was created to celebrate when the trees in Israel entered full bloom, producing fresh fruit for farmers to harvest. During the 16th century, Kabbalists celebrated Tu BiShvat with a ritual called the Feast of the Fruits. Participants would eat the freshest fruits of the season and drink four kinds of wine. It was believed that, when these drinks were consumed in a specific order, this practice would promote spiritual perfection throughout the world. 

Ways to Celebrate Tu BiShvat

Nowadays, Jews around the world still host their modern versions of the Feast of Fruits with their families. During a typical Tu BiShvat seder, you’ll set out a spread of fresh nuts and fruits. Sometimes a blessing will be read before or after the food is consumed. These blessings can be from the Torah, or you can find other writings that detail the ecological impact of trees and why they’re so important. 

Throughout the years, Tu BiShvat traditions have expanded to include:

Planting Trees

Planting a new tree symbolizes the birth of new life and the hopeful promise that it will grow to bear ripe fruit. Many local Jewish communities hold tree-planting festivals during the holiday. 

However, unless you live in a climate that’s warm throughout the entire year, it can be difficult to plant a tree during the colder months. That’s why many Jews will opt to send money to a tree foundation in Israel instead. Organizations like the Jewish National Fund have planted more than 250 million trees on behalf of people all over the world. With more trees comes better air quality, plentiful homes for local wildlife, and the improvement of Israel’s water supply. 

Taking a Nature Walk

Trees typically can live for hundreds of years, so you probably already have plenty of them to appreciate at your local park. See how many species you can spot and take some time to learn about all of them. If possible, you can also collect leaves as a memory of the occasion. 

Picking Fruit

Regularly taking fresh fruit off trees keeps them safe from pests and the diseases that those critters carry. Ripened fruits will also have the fullest flavor profile possible and more antioxidants compared to unripe fruits. You can use some of the fresh fruits that you collect to prepare meals for Tu BiShvat, as long as each one is sufficiently cleaned. 

Starting an Indoor Garden

Indoor gardening is a great way to show appreciation for plant life, and those plants will generate fresh oxygen in your home year-round. You’ll be able to grow a variety of fresh fruits and veggies in a temperature-controlled environment away from the insects outside. There are also several houseplants, like rubber plants and ferns, that you can keep healthy with very little maintenance. 

Collecting Litter

Soil pollution, which often leads to the sickness and decay of plant life, is often caused by too much litter. You can do your part to keep your neighborhood’s local trees healthy simply by picking up all the litter you can find. Doing so creates an ideal environment for existing trees and the new ones that are just waiting to sprout from the seeds you may have planted for Tu BiShvat.

The Best Foods to Eat For Tu BiShvat

During Tu BiShvat seders, it’s common practice to dine on nuts and fruits that are native to Israel. The seven main species include:

  • Barley
  • Wheat
  • Dates
  • Olives
  • Figs
  • Grapes
  • Pomegranates

You can consume most of these ingredients individually or use them to prepare flavorful dishes like:

Fresh Salad

Tu BiShvat salad dishes are made with all of Israel’s native nuts and fruits as well as crunchy lettuce leaves. You can top your salad with olive oil or a creamy pomegranate dressing. Make your own croutons by cutting wheat bread into chunks, letting them harden, and dashing them with olive oil for a rich taste. 

Stuffed Figs

All you need to make this appetizer are some large figs, almonds, and a heaping helping of goat cheese. After removing the stems from the figs, stuff them with goat cheese and almonds. Bake the figs until brown and douse them with date honey afterward. You can swap out the goat cheese for brie, cream cheese, or any other kind of cheese that you prefer. 

Pomegranate Chicken

For this dish, you’ll cover your chicken with a delicious marinade created with pomegranate juice (or molasses) and olive oil. Enhance the chicken’s flavor further by adding balsamic vinegar and honey to your sauce. After the chicken has been cooked, you can garnish it with pomegranate seeds for added texture.

Sticky Toffee Date Cake

To create this Tu BiShvat dessert, boil a pound of dates and add baking soda until the mixture begins to bubble. You’ll combine this mixture with batter made from sugar, butter, vanilla extract, and a large egg. Pour the batter into a cake pan and place it inside your oven for about a half-hour. Top your completed cake with a sweet caramel sauce. 

Pick Up All Your Tu BiShvat Cooking Ingredients at Sarah’s Tent 

Next year, Tu BiShvat falls on the evening of January 24. Sarah’s Tent carries all the fresh produce and grains you’ll need for your holiday sedar, as well as plenty of other pre prepared meals in both fresh and frozen varieties. Our all-kosher grocery store also has plenty of sweet candies and cookies to enjoy. Browse our selection of foods and schedule a pickup order online now.

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