In the next few weeks, we’ll go through the Hebrew names of fruit and vegetables that are mentioned in the Bible. We’ll begin with the most famous Seven Species, named in Hebrew ‘Shi•vat Ha•Mi•nim.’ The Seven Species are seven agricultural products − two grains and five fruits − that are listed in the Hebrew Bible as being special products of the Land of Israel and were given to Israel as a gift and a blessing by God upon entering the land after their long exile. For thousands of years, the Seven Species have played an important role in the food of Jews in Israel and the religious traditions of Judaism.
Many references to Seven Species can be found in the Bible. The sages noted that only first fruits of the Seven Species could be brought to the Temple in Jerusalem as offerings. Wheat fields, vineyards and olive groves are still a salient feature of the Israeli landscape today. Figs, pomegranates and dates are common ingredients on many Israeli tables.
The seven species listed are wheat, barley, grape (wine), fig, pomegranates, olive (oil), and date (honey) (Deuteronomy 8:8). The latter isn’t the bee honey, but a reference to date mesh that was called ‘honey’ in the Bible.
It is amazing to see how modern medicine and nutritional science are finally discovering the super healing attributes of these species. Among these attributes you’ll find the recent understanding of the potent antioxidants found in red grapes and red wines. Today, there likely isn’t one person on the planet who has not heard about the health advantages of moderate red wine consumption. Another player in the Seven Species that is considered to be a super healer, and that has recently received much attention in the Western world, though it has been the main component of the so-called Mediterranean diet for generations, is, of course, olive oil.
Most recent studies conducted in Israel by Prof. Michael Aviram from the Techniyon in Haifa (the Israeli equivalent to MIT), who heads the Legacy Heritage Clinical Research Institute in Rambam hospital, show surprising health benefits resulting from consuming a few dates a day (Chilauee and Majhul kinds. The Majhul type is common in the US). The research showed a decrease of 8% in cholesterol levels after four weeks of date consumption and a significant improvement in other blood tests: 200 grams of dates a day reduced by 33% the levels of oxidative stress in the blood. A Norwegian research has found that dates have four times higher the level of antioxidants than those found in bananas and eight times higher the levels than those in apples. Surprisingly, this special high-fiber super food, despite being very sweet, did not increase the levels of blood sugar, nor did it cause weight gain. Similar findings about the amazing health benefits of pomegranates are flooding current medical and nutritional publications.
Go figure how many years it took the world’s scientific community to finally understand what God meant by giving His Seven Species as a gift to Israel upon entering the Land!