First Fruits: Savoring Shavuot’s Symbolic Foods



"I remember when the only produce available all winter were onions, potatoes, and cabbage," my grandmother once said. "We couldn't wait until summer when lettuce and tomatoes showed up."

She was not talking about the Old Country but upstate New York, where she lived until 1974.

Unwittingly she was a locavore, someone who consumed locally grown food, instead of fruits and vegetables moved long distances to market.

But today we inhabit a different world, one that has shrunk in some sense. We purchase blueberries and strawberries all winter. We adore kiwis and Jerusalem artichokes, which my grandmother never heard of. Thanks to Florida, California, South America and Israel, we eat everything at any time of year.

With this limitless cornucopia constantly available, many people have forgotten how strange this is. The impact of seasons on food has almost disappeared.

That is why we need Shavuot, a holiday celebrating the bounty of late spring.

An early form of sustainability, Shavuot began as an agricultural festival in ancient Israel, where people traveled to Jerusalem to make an offering at the Temple in thanks for the late spring harvest.

The holiday marked the end of the barley harvest and the beginning of wheat season.

During Shavuot, the Israelites glorified the season by bringing samples of the first fruits of the seven species to the Temple: figs, dates, pomegranates, grapes, olives, and of course, barley and wheat, the crops that Israel is famous for.

Fast forward to America, where Shavuot celebrations often entail a bagels and lox brunch featuring blintzes, too. Why not shake things up a bit by sprinkling a few of Shavuot's first fruits into your favorite comfort foods?

Filled with fiber, these recipes complement the typical Shavuot brunch.




Pomegranate Spritzer

(Parve and Nonalcoholic)

6 oz. pomegranate juice, chilled 
3 oz. seltzer, chilled 
1 thin slice of lemon 
3-4 ice cubes

Pour the pomegranate juice and seltzer into a 13-ounce highball glass.

Gently squeeze some of the juice from the lemon slice into the glass. Add the ice cubes. Float the lemon slice on top of the spritzer and serve immediately.

Serves one.


Pomegranate Mimosa

(Parve with Alcohol)

3/4 cup Prosecco, chilled 
1/4 cup pomegranate juice, chilled

Pour Prosecco into a champagne flute, then add the pomegranate juice. Serve immediately.

Serves one.


Frisee With Tuna, Oranges and Olives


1/3 cup pecans 
1 head of frisee lettuce 
3 clementines 
20 black olives, pitted and cut in half 
2 cans (5 oz.) solid white Albacore tuna in water, drained 
1-2 kirby cucumbers, diced 
2 celery stalks, cleaned and diced 
1 tsp. fresh or dried basil, minced 
kosher salt to taste (but go lightly because the olives and canned tuna are salty) 
1 tsp. red wine vinegar 
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice 
4 tsps. olive oil

Spread pecans on a cookie sheet and bake in a preheated 350° oven for about 2 minutes, until fragrant. Watch carefully so pecans don't burn. Cool to room temperature.

Slice off and discard the white ends of the frisee. Rinse under cold water and dry in a salad spinner or in paper towels.

Peel and discard skin from clementines. Break into sections and remove the pith.

Place all ingredients in a large salad bowl and toss gently until thoroughly combined. Serve immediately.

Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish.


Fig and Olive Salad


2 cans (14.4 oz.) of hearts of palm, drained and cut into 1/4-inch slices 
1 avocado, diced 
10 dried figs, stems removed and diced 
1 tomato, diced 
20 black olives, pitted and cut in half 
2 tsps. red wine vinegar 
4 tsps. olive oil 
1/4 tsp. garlic powder

Place all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl and gently toss to combine. Transfer to an attractive bowl and serve immediately.

Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish.


Grapes, Dates and Strawberry Salad


Vinaigrette Ingredients:

To Prepare Dressing: Place all ingredients in a bottle. Seal the top and shake until ingredients are combined. Shake again before sprinkling on the salad below.

To Prepare Salad: Break lettuce into bite-sized pieces and spin dry in a salad spinner or pat dry with paper towels. Place in a salad bowl.

Remove strawberry stems. Hull strawberries and cut in half. Add to the salad bowl, along with the dates and grapes.

Drizzle on lemon vinaigrette. Gently toss and serve immediately.

Serves 6 to 8 as a side dish.


Fig and Date Compote in Pomegranate Syrup


12 dried figs, stems and bottoms removed and cut in half 
16 pitted dates, cut in half 
1 baking apple (such as Fugi, Gala, or Cortland) peeled, cored, and diced 
8 strawberries, diced 
2 cups pomegranate juice 
2 Tbsps. honey

Place all the ingredients in a saucepan and stir to combine. Cover the saucepan and simmer on a medium flame for 30 minutes, until the pomegranate juice thickens to a syrupy consistency.

Cool to warm and serve, or refrigerate and serve cold.

Makes 2 to 2 and 1/2 cups.

Linda Morel is a writer based in New York City. Email her at: [email protected]



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