I just want to take a moment to wish a Happy Tu B'shvat to any of who are celebrating it today.
Tu B'shvat* is one of the more minor Jewish holidays and is strongly tied into to the land of Israel so it's not as widely celebrated everywhere else as it is here. I don't remember doing much for Tu B'shvat when I lived in America but in Israel most people celebrate by eating fresh and dried fruit, particularly from Israel's seven species, and school children are usually taken out to plant trees and flowers. My two-year old came home from his babysitter's house today with a small potted flower.
My husband likes to celebrate Tu B'shvat in a rather grand fashion by having a meal loosely based on the Passover seder (an idea that originated from the Kabbalists in Safed) with many different fruits and wines. Yesterday he went to the Jerusalem outdoor food market (aka the Shuk) and bought a whole bunch of fruits, nuts and olives, which we proceeded to enjoy last night, in between cups of red and white wines (and grape juice for the kids).
For some reason it has become customary to eat dried fruit on TuB'shvat and at this time of year you can find all kinds of interesting dried fruits. They are often also coated in sugar and so end up tasting more like candy than anything else. The platter below contains dates, figs, raisins, cranberries, candied cherries, peaches, sugared lemon peels, papaya and candied kumquats
My husband also brought back the pinkest looking apples that I've ever seen and which are really too pretty to eat.
I had picked up a coconut at the local market and successfully drained the water from it, using a hammer and screw driver. I passed around the liquid which we all gagged on. Nasty stuff. I don't think you are meant to drink it. Then my husband smashed the coconut in half and now I have no idea what to do with it.
And then there was this interesting looking mystery fruit that weren't sure what to do with because we don't know what it is. So we left it alone. I'll try to Google it and see if I can identify it.
And here is my beautiful daughter who is sitting with us so nicely at the table (though I don't know why she looks so sober in this picture) after her brothers ran off to play soccer in the hallway (because I was too distracted to stop them)
So that was our Tu B'shvat celebration and now I'm enjoying all the leftover fruits and nuts, particularly this delicious back of pistachios that I'm snacking on as I write this.
* From Wikipedia:
Tu Bishvat (Hebrew: ט״ו בשבט) is a minor Jewish holiday, usually occurring in late January or early February, that marks the "New Year of the Trees" (Hebrew: ראש השנה לאילנות, Rosh HaShanah La'Ilanot). Tu Bishvat is one of four "New Years" mentioned in the Mishnah. Customs include planting trees and eating dried fruits and nuts, especially figs, dates, raisins, carob, and almonds. In Israel, the flowering of the almond tree, which grows wild around the country, coincides with Tu Bishvat.