This Sunday, the Jewish people will gather around the table for the first night of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.
The feast foods are symbolic: apples and carrots dipped in honey represent the sweetness of the coming year; challah rounds honor the cycle of life; the multi-seeded pomegranate is a reminder of her many blessings; and the head of a fish, often passed on a platter, represents being at the head of a new year.
The second night, however, is for trying something new – specifically, a new fruit.
“Eating new fruit must mean fertility, blessing, new possibility, which is all Rosh Hashanah represents – the opportunity to recreate ourselves every year,” said Rabbi William Gershon of Congregation B’ nai Israel to Toms. River, New Jersey.
The fruit is traditionally one that has never been tried before, or one that has not been eaten since the previous year, something that just happens in season. But modern families have branched out and tried fruits from different cultures and countries.
“Trying new things puts you in the mindset to head into the new year and take on new challenges and new things,” said Lindsay McGrail, owner of Rochester-based catering company Green Zebra Catering. , At New York. “When I was growing up it was the nut and dried fruit trays. Now you might see tropical fruits and something more fun.”
Fresh fruit is ideal, says Gershon, “something alive, so to speak. Part of the theme of the party is creation. earth and all blessings.”
A special blessing, called shehechiyanu, is said over the fruit. It’s a blessing of thanksgiving that’s said whenever you do something for the first time, Gershon said.
“The blessing says you thank God for keeping us alive and bringing us to this important time,” he said. “You take a moment to recognize God’s role in the specific blessing you say that night.”
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Choosing a seasonal fruit for Rosh Hashanah adds another layer to the holiday’s focus on a fresh start.
“That’s how you would feel when the first tomato comes out for the summer,” McGrail said. “It’s also new for the season, things you haven’t eaten all year.”
Consider These Fruits for Your Rosh Hashanah Table
Grenade: Not as hard to find as it once was, this fruit is popular for Rosh Hashanah because it supposedly contains 613 seeds, which Gershon says represents the 613 commandments of the Torah.
Litchi: Originally from China, this small white fruit looks like a grape and has a slight taste of pear. If you can’t find fresh produce, most Asian grocers offer canned lychees.
Rambutan: Chef David Mizrahi, owner of Salt Steakhouse in Long Branch, said he ordered this tropical fruit for his holiday table this year, along with mamey sapote, which is native to Central America and Mexico. “Last year we ate longans and lychees.”
Longan fruit: Also a tropical fruit, the longan is related to lychee and rambutan. It looks like a mini kiwi with no fuzz and is juicy and sweet.
Dragon fruit: With soft spikes on the outside, this fruit – also called a pitaya – looks a bit scary. The flesh, however, has a very mild flavor.
Carambola: A little sweet and a little sour, star fruit – also called carambola – gets its name from the shape it takes when sliced. It makes a lovely addition to a holiday table.
Passion fruit: Cut this tangy fruit, native to Brazil, in half and scoop out the colored flesh and seeds, which are edible.
Khaki: You will most likely come across two varieties of persimmon. Hachiyas are ripe when they look like jelly when squeezed; cut in half and eat the flesh with a spoon. The fuyus, flat and round, are ripe when they turn dark orange. Slice them and eat them like an apple, or add them to a salad.
Quince: You’re more likely to find quince paste than fresh quince, and for the holidays, “I’ve seen people cook with pear-like and apple-like quince,” McGrail said. “I’ve seen chicken with quinces, especially (made by) people of Persian origin. (Also) candied quinces and challah.”
Asian pear: You can pick your own apple-crisp, sweet Asian pears from select orchards in New Jersey and New York.
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