Yesterday we discussed the Seven Species, named in Hebrew: ‘Shiv•at 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 its long exile.
‘A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of olive oil, and honey.’
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. For example, it is traditional to decorate the Sukkah (a temporary hut constructed for use during the week-long Jewish festival of Sukkot) with the Seven Species. It is also traditional to eat the Seven Species during the ‘Tu Bishvat’ holiday. This name means “the 15th of the month of Shvat, on which day Jews celebrate the ‘New Year of the Trees.’”
In the next few weeks we’ll go through the Hebrew names of fruit and vegetables that are mentioned in the Bible. We begin today with the first of the Seven Species, ‘chi•ta’, wheat.
The Hebrew sound that is transliterated as ‘ch’ does not exist in English and does not sound like the ‘ch’ in ‘chill’ or ‘child.’ It is closer to the guttural, throaty ‘h’. Please listen to the sound of this important grain now.
The wheat that we use today is the second most widespread grain in the world, following corn and preceding rice. Botanically, It is called Triticum and it has been genetically modified and engineered at least twice before it reached its current unnatural form. The wheat we use today, ‘chi•ta ka•sha’, Triticum durum, (hard wheat) cannot survive naturally without men involvement in its reproduction since it grain is too heavy to be carried by the wind. The prototype of the ancient wheat (called em hachita, the mother wheat) was first found in 1906 by Aaron Aharonson in Rosh Pina, north east Israel. American and Israeli researchers have found in it a gene that is missing from today’s wheat. This gene made the ancient wheat richer in protein zinc and iron.